Thursday, January 27, 2011

The Worst Experience at a Book Signing

One of the tried and true methods of marketing our books is the book signing, and some years ago a writer friend shared her successes with venues other than the bookstores. She did lots of small-town festivals, coffee-shops, and even senior centers. 

I thought that was a good idea and had a mini-tour planned for the upper Midwest that year. I made arrangements to speak at the senior center where my mother lived, as well as the nursing home where my mother-in-law lived.

The talk at the senior center went well. About 20 folks who had gathered in the community room for lunch all stayed to meet Evelyn's daughter who had written a book.

Two days later I was scheduled to talk at the nursing home. When I had called to see if this was something the residents would enjoy, the activities director had assured me that there were lots of avid readers among the residents and they would love to meet an author. I was scheduled to follow the late-afternoon Bingo game when folks would already be assembled and willing to stay since dinner would immediately follow the talk.

I knew I was starting to lose them when a gentleman sitting up front asked if I was ever going to get the glass of water he’d asked for an hour ago. Then three women got up and left, muttering loudly that they must be in the wrong place since dinner wasn’t coming yet and it was past time.

In an effort to salvage something – anything – I abandoned my prepared speech and tried to engage the rest of the audience on a more personal level. I asked if they liked to read. One woman said she couldn’t read but she liked to sing. I told her that was nice, and she asked if I’d like to hear something. Before I could respond, she launched into a lusty version of You Are My Sunshine.

The other residents cheered when she was finished, so I took the hint. We spent the rest of the hour in a sing-along.


Maryann Miller is an author and freelance editor. Her latest book is Open Season, which has gotten rave reviews from Library Journal and Publisher's Weekly.  Visit her Web site for information about her books and her editing services. If you have a good book, she can help you make it better. When she is not working, Maryann loves to play "farmer" on her little ranch in the beautiful Piney Woods of East Texas. 

Bookmark and Share


  1. That's a great story and well told! Expect the unexpected, haha!

  2. Wow, that was a wingdinger. I gave a class at a senior center's writing group once and they really didn't want to learn anything or buy books--they just liked to share their own writing with one another. Not knocking seniors since I'm one too.


  3. This reminds me of a saying I once heard: "If you go away and everything goes right you have a vacation. If everything goes wrong, you have a story"! And this is a great one, Maryann!

  4. Good for you to go with the flow! And get a nice story and some atmosphere for a later one...

  5. I almost fell out of my chair laughing. It's true, Maryann, today You Are Our Sunshine. Okay, everybody! Sing it loud on the count of three... one, two, three!


  6. Glad you all enjoyed the story. Kathryn, I had not heard that old saying before, but I like it. So true.

    Dani,I'm signing. Do you hear me?

  7. My immediate response was to chuckle and think, Maryann, you are a beautiful person. It was wonderful that you did the singalong. You probably made their day. (And you learned something in the process - avoid signings at nursing home and learn some "old" songs.)

  8. Hilarious. I've had some bad booksignings, but this one should get some sort of prize. You obviously handled it with grace and compassion.

  9. Lol, oh wow. That will make for a memorable experience! You handled it very well, it sounds like!!

  10. Thanks for the kind words, Helen, but I'm not sure how wonderful I am. I was desperate and just punted. Plus, it helps that I do like to sing.

  11. You made a good impression on those folks, I'm sure. It may not be the kind of impression you were intending to begin with, but you made it enjoyable for them! I've had a similar experience, and when I go there now to share poems from my books with them, I also play the piano and let them sing some!

  12. Sometimes you have to go with the flow!

    Morgan Mandel

  13. Connie, that is so nice that you are doing music for the folk at the nursing home. I know that music touches people deeply, young and old, and is very therapeutic.

  14. Probably still beats the rainy day when I was scheduled to do a library program and nobody braved the elements.

    Terry's Place
    Romance with a Twist--of Mystery

  15. A local signing I did was an utter disaster. It came on a Tuesday morning after a whole week of known-author signings and events (their stuff crowded the shop window - mine was in a small corner), the official publicity sheet had the wrong day and the wrong book title, my novels were not mentioned. It poured with rain and hardly anyone came to our small town, never mind into the small bookshop. To get the signing known, I had made colourful posters which were placed in a few shop windows or on their glass doors. People I knew saw me taking them round and wished me luck, some said they would get if they could. I did get a few bookmarks taken and sweets eaten, a couple chatted but I think they had come inside out of the rain. I kept a cheerful smile on my face but inside I felt utterly humiliated and depressed. I have suffered a lot of rejection in my lifetime, more serious than a mere disappointment but this seemed 'a straw' too many. Then something wonderful happened. I heard the shop door open and looked up. Someone dressed for the weather stood looking at me. Then in a gentle voice, he spoke my name. Daft I know, but I had a flash picture of the Garden of Gethsemane and sorrowing Mary hearing her name spoken! I suddenly realised, with joy and wonder, that this newcomer was a friend who had come many miles on a train just for my book signing. It was hard to hide my threatening tears. He, being an author himself, exchanged books with me! Then he came to our house and lunched with us.

  16. Great story, Gladys. I think we always have to look for some positive out of a very disappointing experience.


The Blood-Red Pencil is a blog focusing on editing and writing advice. Some of our contributors are editors, some are authors, and some are writing sheep. Yes, sheep.


Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...