I experienced an author’s rite of passage recently: my first book signing. It took place at Fireside Book Shop in Chagrin Falls, an idyllic oasis in Northeast Ohio which calls to mind whispers of Stars Hollow (for anyone that’s familiar with Gilmore Girls). The store sits right on the town square, where residents and tourists alike can enjoy shopping at carefully curated boutiques, dining at one of the adorable restaurants, or simply walking around and taking in the sights of the Chagrin River or the beautiful historic architecture.
Do I sound like a tour guide? Probably. But seriously, this place felt like a moment trapped in time. When I arrived, they were just pulling down the remnants of the Sunday farmers market (which I can only assume is a weekly occurrence during the summer), and while the signing was going on a theatrical production of A Midsummer Night’s Dream popped up in the square.
Now for a confession: I’m not really comfortable doing events. As a performer, I get to be on a stage with some distance between me and the audience. If I am feeling socially awkward, I can duck out afterwards and no one minds. As the author at a book signing, I’m right there, out in the open, expected to sell my book to passersby.
I’ve worked in sales. I am the worst at it.
This is not to say that I didn’t enjoy the experience – I did. Friends and family made the drive out, and I got to see a friend that I had not seen in 25 (!) years. Plus, my husband was there, and he can talk to anyone. He has, as they say, the gift of gab. Me? Not so much. I prefer my nose in a book 😉
For me, this is one of the difficult parts of being an author: self-promotion. I’m not good at it, never have been, probably never will be. It’s one of those hidden aspects of a career that you don’t necessarily think about until the time comes to do it. Unless you’re a huge seller for your publishing house, there’s a lot of hustle that goes into getting your book seen. Online? I’m great. Instagram, TikTok, Facebook, you name it, I can do it. In person? I feel like I just learned how to talk and it’s my first day out. My agent says that at book signings, you should be going up to people, making conversation, telling them about your work. Basically, the introvert’s nightmare.
All-in-all, the signing was a success – I even sold a few books to people who didn’t know me or my work, which was gratifying and exciting. I met another author who had had a signing the day before, and I love meeting other authors.
I wish I could flip a switch that would make me good at small talk. Until then, I will clumsily power through, so if you see me and I look uncomfortable, please know that it’s just my natural state of being. Maybe time and practice will help.