Recently after a disappointing presentation (as least as far as attendance numbers goes), I sat down to write a blog about what to do if you had a book signing and no one came?” Writers by the very nature of their lives have to reach out–to publishers, readers, reviewers. As authors, we put ourselves in line for disappointment and rejection. Disappointment when the book we sweated tears to create wasn’t accepted, or the royalty check that was smaller than hoped. And the ultimate fear, the talk where nobody came. Rejection won’t be covered here. Some thoughts on the topic were presented at the Champagne Books blog.
Unless you are an absolutely fearless, totally self-confident person, no matter how many events you’ve hosted or spoken at, there is one question that refuses to be quashed, “What if nobody comes?” What follows is a fictional (that is my story and I’m sticking to it) account of one such event.
Thirty Minutes To Go — You’re greeted by the event contact. No worries.
Fifteen Minutes To Go — No one has show up so you sit and try to counter the rising stress. If you’re lucky and the muse comes under stress, maybe you start to flesh out a scene that had been eluding you. However, the first signs of concern flicker. Your gaze shifts to the door each time you hear a footfall or a shadow crosses the entrance. Movement. Hope rises to fall when it is not an excited, early attendee, but the librarian come to make sure everything is in readiness.
Five Minutes To Go — You rise and shrug into suit jacket and talk persona–that happy, engaging creature based on the passion for your work that you harness to hide your real shyness. The urge to run–to flee–increases until it threatens to overwhelm. But you gave your word, you stand tall and proud. With fingers crossed behind your back.
Zero Time — One person hesitantly stops at the head of the stairs leading to the meeting room and peeks in. You gesture with a broad smile. Two minutes later another person. Encouragement whispers maybe this won’t be too bad. Disappointment smashes encouragement in the mouth and steps forward. At zero plus one minute, the only other person to join the “crowd” is the librarian who’ll do the introduction.
The nightmare is real. A talk where nobody came.
You make a comment about the benefits of a small, intimate group, add a heartfelt thank you to the couple who stare at you from the front row, and start your talk. The size makes engaging the people who did show easier. Questions are directed to them, not to an amorphous person in the back. The talk goes well until the ending when books are to be sold. The three attendees (a latecomer had inserted himself into the crowd) gathered around the table. In turn they went from book to book to book, picking them up, examining the cover, and then–oh no–putting them back down. Insult is added to injury–no sales. At least it is a local venue, you console yourself.
Later that night, or the next day, questions rise which can’t be ignored. What happened? Is it ME?
Or is the problem elsewhere? Did the library or venue promote the program? If the answer is only a flyer on their checkout counter or their website (buried so deep in a social network it can’t be found), next time offer to take charge of contacting local media or at the least provide them with a press release that has worked in the past.
You tell yourself that the last presentation was an anomaly. The one before that had 30 people in attendance. A memory surfaces. At a large regional library (not the small local one you’re at) a supposedly well-known, famous author had only six people come to a signing. And there was massive publicity.
With a deep sigh, you realize you are not alone. Reassured, pitches for more programs were sent out.
A few weeks, or months later, another event. You’ve done everything you could think of. Promoted on social media, and luckily it was your town’s week to be featured in the local papers. Books are packed, handouts copied, candy and literature put into bags. You’re ready.
Thirty Minutes To Go — You’re greeted by the event contact. No worries?
You are now returned to the real world. The above was a fictional account in the night of one author. Wishes to all, that you never have a talk where nobody comes. Helen
Postscript — Everyone handles disappointment and rejection different. Joan Y. Edward put forth some tips with her post “Twelve Ways to Get Over Disappointment.” The main point is not to give up. Today’s empty room might be tomorrow’s full one. And while you may stagger home to loving put the armful of books back on the shelf, it doesn’t mean sales are not happening in the virtual world. If that isn’t enough encouragement, you don’t know who those two people in the room know. One of them might be an agent who will give you the perfect break or the head of a readers’ group which generates a hundred-book sale.
About the Author:
A published author, feature-story writer and correspondent, Helen Henderson has also written fiction as long as she could remember. Her heritage reflects the contrasts of her Gemini sign. She is a descendent of a Pennsylvania German/Scot and a Czech–a coal-miner’s daughter and an aviation flight engineer. This dichotomy shows in her writing which crosses genres from historical adventures and westerns to science fiction and fantasy. In the realm of fantasy, she is the author of the Windmaster series.
Join her on journeys through the stars, back to the past, or among fantasy worlds of the imagination. The trip begins at helenhenderson-author.webs.com or is.gd/helenhenderson_blog. First stop Dragon Destiny and Windmaster Legacy.
Dragon Destiny – For hundreds of years, dragshi lord Branin and his dragon soul twin Llewlyn searched for their intended mates. Broch vowed to marry the dragon lord, with or without his willing cooperation. Everything changed the day a wistful thought touched Branin’s. Ebook from Burst Books / Amazon / OmniLit / DriveThru Fiction.
Windmaster Legacy – As archmage, Dal might be able to survive killing the future of magic. But as a man, could he live with the knowledge he caused the death of a loved one? Ebook from BurstBooks.ca / OmniLit / Amazon.com / DriveThru Fiction.