What Authors Never Say At Book Signings

Being an author on a book tour can be a wonderful experience, until things go wrong: missed flights, poor turnouts, noisy and uncomfortable hotels, cab drivers taking you to the wrong book store in the wrong part of town, hotel WiFi crapping out–and a host of other problems that can work your last nerve.

So sometimes your charm can wear very thin, and you start to feel that the same kinds of remarks or questions you’ve heard before feel like swings people are taking at a piñata.

The stress can leave you most vulnerable when you’re marooned at a table waiting for people to come over and get a book to be signed.  This isn’t after a reading, but when all the bookstore wants you to do is just sit and sign.  You end up feeling like you’re not much more than somebody’s desperate grandmother at a weekend yard sale trying to unload worthless junk rather than an artist selling a book you’ve slaved over.

Here are some moments many authors have experienced, and what some of them might have been thinking in their weary, frazzled, tortured little hearts.

Scene: Customer rifles through a book for five or more minutes while the author sits at the bookstore table grinning stupidly and helpfully, imagining alternative realities that would have kept her home: a stalled car or a civil insurrection or just a plain old flu.

Customer puts book down and mutters, “I’ll get it on Amazon.”  Customer trundles off.

Author would love to say: “I won’t sign it on friggin’ Amazon!”

Or Customer asks, “Will I like it?”

Author would love to say, “You will adore it.  It’s gonna improve your sex life, give you a green thumb, help you lose weight (and seriously, honey, it’s time because have you seen yourself from behind?), get your kids into their first choice colleges, and make your dog stop peeing on the couch.”

Customer says out of the blue, after inspecting as if it might have bed bugs, “I don’t read much.”

Author would love to say, “I could tell from the vacant look in your eyes.”

Customer sighs after putting the book back upside down and face down, “I have so many books at home that I have to read first.”

Author would love to say, “This is way better than the trash you’re used to.”

Customer bustles up to you and scolds you at length for some plot point in your last book and says you better not have repeated the same mistake in the new one.

Author would love to say, “I’m so grateful!  That was amazing advice! Nobody’s ever pointed that out to me before!  I’m dedicating my next book to you!  Here, take a free book!  No, take two!”

Friend_hugLev Raphael is the author of The Edith Wharton Murders and 24 other books in many genres.

18 thoughts on “What Authors Never Say At Book Signings”

  1. This is very funny. I laughed out loud at “when you’re marooned at a table waiting for people to come over and get a book to be signed. You’re feeling like you’re not much more than somebody’s desperate grandmother at a weekend yard sale trying to unload worthless junk…” Been there, felt that!

    • Thanks! Sorry you’ve been there, but I’m glad you could laugh about it! Book signings can be hell when they’re set up like this. I only sign after a reading.

    • Why are you sitting marooned at the table? Why aren’t you walking around, engaging people in conversation, asking if they like to read mysteries, telling them about yourself and your book? Don’t just sit there. Do something.

      • You’ve missed the point of the blog entirely. And if an author came up and did what you suggested to me, I would not only not buy the book, I’d spread the word about the intrusive behavior.

  2. Love this, Lev. I remember once I went to a signing and the woman in from of me just laid into he author about her issues with his last book, then didn’t even buy anything and left. Most of her points were basically that the author had shewed element of the genre, which were all things I enjoyed in his books.

  3. I too have been amazed to hear people make these remarks to authors and wondered how they had the gall to. Says such things to a perfect stranger just because they have written a book. Must feel like selling a piece of your soul.

  4. Wish they listed etiquette for customers at book signings the way they do at theatres for patrons, but they would probably be ignored just as often. To tell the author at the bookstore that they will purchase it on Amazon is doubly rude, first to the author, then to the bookstore who arranged the signing. People don’t think.

    • Ouch. I guess the only thing worse than that would be if you know Stephen King. But that’s something that seems like a specialty of cab drivers for some reason….

  5. Where’s the restroom? Always a good idea to know because you will be asked. I much prefer giving some kind of presentation rather than a just sit at the table booksigning for all of the above experiences.

    • I haven’t done a sit-and-sign since the 1990s. I speak at libraries, colleges & universities, museums, book fairs, conferences, synagogues and many other venues were there’s an audience that wants to be there. I do a talk, reading, and then I sign. And I get expenses (if travel’s involved) and an honorarium so that even if not that many books sell, I come out ahead.

  6. Your replies to those people with the inane comments are much too polite. I assure I don’t have any of those thoughts. Mine are much more hostile, not to say deadly. A woman in a pricey outfit came by and all I could think of to say was, “Is that raw silk? Is that a piece of gum stuck on the back?” Think of this as homeopathic medicine–treating like with like.

    • Well, they’re not “mine”–but things people have shared with me, and general satire. I like your approach–I hope you do a blog of your own!


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