What it’s like: My first book signings

This past weekend I had my first two book signings. “Book signing” is a bit of an overstatement in regards to my signature, so let’s call it “book defacing.”

The first was in Greenville, Ohio, one of the small towns I refer to as my hometown. When you grow up in the country you really don’t have a hometown, you have 10 acres surrounded by fields and neighbors a mile or so away. My travel column “Travelin’ Light” once regularly appeared in the local paper, and I still get people who come up to me today and say, “Aren’t you that boy who was always traveling?” Between that, and my family’s deep roots in the area I was busy the whole time.

I think I did more hugging than signing. High school English teacher – hug. Piano teacher – hug. Middle school science teacher – hug. Babysitter – hug. And so on.

Overall, 43 of the 50 books the store bought for the signing walked out the door with my name scrawled in them. I’ve heard that selling one book makes for a successful signing, so I was off to a good start.

Book signing #2 took place on Sunday in my new hometown – Muncie, Indiana. The temperature was hovering around zero, but that didn’t stop the holiday shoppers.

The store had me setup facing the main thoroughfare of the mall. I started out standing behind the table occasionally giving someone a “hello” as they walked into the store. After three or four times being approached by customers who thought I was a store employee and telling them that I wasn’t, I decided to start helping them. In the first hour I sold two books, none of which were mine.

I came up with a (what I thought to be) clever tag line, “I wrote this one,” I’d say pointing to my book, “but I’ll sign any of them,” motioning to the rest of the books in the store.

This was painful. The possibility of selling 0 books on the day was looking greater with each passing minute.

I thought I would get a decent showing. The Muncie paper did a feature on me and a review of the book the week before. (Although, there was some confusion as to what Sunday the signing was.) The local NPR station was even going to make an announcement or two. Still, 0 books sold. Ouch.

Finally, I decided to sit. Hey, if you aren’t selling any books, might as well take a load off and not sell any books.

I stared outside the store at a grown man operating a remote control car that defied gravity and drove on the wall. I saw a slight hurdle in the selling of his product: Mom wouldn’t let me drive my matchboxes on the walls, what mother will allow their sons to do so with remote cars?

I watched as he sold one car and then got back to driving on the 4’ X 4’ piece of plywood propped up against his island store. I wondered if he gets bored, and then I started to speculate the pattern he was driving. “Is it just me, or is he tracing words with his car,” I thought and then speculated what he was writing: Perhaps “Kill Me!” or “Shoot Me!” or “Someday I will rule the world with an army of mini cars with mini nukes strapped beneath them. Then all of you smiling, happy mall-goers will bow before me when I crush your remotes and reveal that tiny little alien-men drive the cars and they hate you.”

I saw people I knew. I’m-a-friend-of-your-dad’s didn’t buy a book, neither did I’m-delivering-your-first-child.

People talked to me. There was the fella who lost his job at GM. The folks who were “very interested in this book” put it down and slunk away when someone else approached and began talking. I lost count of the number of people I talked with for 10 minutes or more. They were good conversations, too, but didn’t result in the first sale.

Finally, an older woman who was once employed as a garment worker bought one, although I think she reconsidered for a moment when I picked her up, gave her a bear hug, spun her around, and told her that I loved her. Still, she bought it.

I think sitting behind the table was key. Standing behind it I looked like an employee or a shifty shoplifter.

Total, I ended up selling 10 books in four hours, or about 9 more than the fella selling the mini remote control cars. I caught him staring at me a time or two, jealous.

I wonder what he was spelling then?

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Larry Olson says:


Congratulations on your first two (of many) signings. Soon enough, people will be lining up with your second and third book in tow. Whether they buy or just chat — folks in a bookstore is always a good thing — and some of the finest people you’ll ever meet. And congratulations on your outstanding book once again. I loved it.

Merry Christmas, Happy New Year and be sure to post pics of the new arrival!


Kelsey says:

Larry, Thanks! The signings were pretty fun. I talked with a former garment worker, someone from Thailand, a father whose daughter was studying to be a fashion designer and struggling with the industry’s ethics. I really hope that it’s the first of many signings, and I can’t wait to be sitting there with book two and three.

Merry Christmas and Happy New Year.

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