When You Have A Party & Nobody Shows

When I was pre-published I thought book signings must be glamorous things, with those twisty line corral things like they have at amusement parks, people peering over one another and snapping shots while the author signed the 100th book that had been put in front of her. Yeah, maybe I watched a little too much Castle.

Post-publisehd I’ve learned this is a myth. Even those of us who are somewhat well known can do a signing with only two or three people showing up – and some of those just happened to hear you tapping on the mic at the bookstore and wandered over to see what was going on. And in a lot of ways this is actually nice because we can give very personal attention to the handful of people that are in front of us.

Much like bad reviews, you build up a callous over the “ouch” factor when your latest signing fell flat. A lot of us travel in packs because of this. It’s much easier to laugh off a bad turnout when you go out for drinks afterwards with a couple of writer friends.

I’m three years into published life, and have had some success. I’m happy with my sales, have contracts into 2018, and have a signing or event somewhere or other on most weekends. Do I feel famous?

Um… no.

I recently had the experience of exactly zero people showing up to my presentation and signing.

If this had happened at the beginning of my career I probably would’ve cried and crawled into a hole. But after three years of speaking to small groups I knew that eventually the day would come when I had my laptop hooked up, a screen pulled down, chairs set up, a display of my books for sale… and no one would be there to see it.

Did it kind of suck? Yeah. It kind of sucked. But at the same time I now have that low as a benchmark. Every signing from here on out will be better than that, or at the worst, match it. It’s impossible for negative people to show up to a signing.

So I’ve hit my low. From here on out, the only place I can go is up.

7 thoughts on “When You Have A Party & Nobody Shows

  1. Oh, I'm sorry! I'm not published (yet!) but I've scared myself with thinking of this exact scenario. I'm going to save this post for future reference, as you've definitely taken and put a positive spin on something that would make any author cringe (or cry). Good for you!!

  2. I'm sorry to hear about the low turnout! I so would have been there if I was nearby and heard about it!

    My first signing was at Book Con this weekend, and since it was the end of the day (and few people know of me, I'm sure), it wasn't as big of a turnout as I hoped. Glad to know it's not just me!

  3. Thanks guys… it happens 🙂 And the truth is, it will probably happen again! You learn to roll with it. I know of an author who had traveled across the country to do a signing, was sitting at a card table and sold zero books that day… and got a phone call that she'd made NYT that week.

    So – the amount of people at your signing is indicative of exactly nothing 🙂

  4. Hey agency sibling,

    Ouch, that's a bummer. I'm glad you're able to look at it objectively.

    I wonder if there's anything else you learned from it. Did it have to do with the actual place of the event? The city or town it was in? Lack of getting the word out?

    I remember reading an author's post somewhere that was similar to your experience. She had some funny ideas on what to do if that happens. I'll see if I can find it.

  5. I think you should take it as a compliment and I'll tell you why: as a bookseller I can tell you that, in general, the well written books spend a long time collecting dust before they're sold while the poorly written books fly off the shelves.

    Eighty percent of the time I'm working for only five people: James Patterson, Nora Roberts, Danielle Steel, E.L. James and “Doctor” Phil–every one of them terrible writers and very likely among the most annoying personalities ever born. For discerning readers, best-selling authors couldn't compose an inspiring phrase with a gun pointed to their head.

    In your position I would be thankful to spend an entire career as far off that list as possible. I think you should see a zero turnout as proof that you're doing something right, at least to people who have taste. If someday a huge crowd does show up at one of your future signings I'd be worried that you'd perhaps written an awful book, though I believe you incapable of such an offense.

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