It never fails. No matter how many book signings I attend or where they are located, I inevitably meet the same five people. Well, not the exact same person, but the same characteristics and behaviors. Is it me or what?
1) The person who is interested in every author, except you. This affable and chatty person will go on and on for great lengths of time extolling the attributes of their favorite authors and not once stopping to ask about your books or your writing. In is, in fact, as if all the books you have on display are invisible to them. They are unable to take visual and/or verbal cues from you and monopolize your attention so that it is very difficult for you to interact with other readers who stop by. Short of being rude, which I refuse to do, the only solution is to wait it out. Or . . . point them in the direction of another unsuspecting author.
2) The person who has always dreamed of writing a book. This person will tell you that he/she has always wanted to write a book but for circumstances beyond their control, they have not done so yet. Then, they proceed to tell you in great detail those circumstances. Here are just a few that I’ve managed to remember: Daughter’s unemployed boyfriend moved into the house and makes too much noise, elderly pet’s gastrointestinal problems, need to find the perfect location to write a book but cannot afford to move to the Caribbean, and (my personal favorite) wanted an advance from a publishing company before they commit to writing the book. These gregarious folks will monopolize your time if you’re not careful. I always suggest joining a writer’s group or taking a course from a local college or adult learning program. Sometimes that works. Most of the time it doesn’t and I wind up exhausted from listening.
3) The person who has written a book and doesn’t know what to do next. For those burgeoning authors who approach me in earnest, I take the time to give them as much information and support as possible. I’ve even gone as far as writing down helpful websites for them, including how to query agents and publishers or how to find options for self-publishing. From time to time I get authors whose “completed manuscripts” are handwritten in notebooks or, worse yet, on 5 x 7 file cards. Really! These are folks who never learned how to type and the nearest they have gotten to a computer is when their grandchild comes to visit with his/her laptop or tablet. Again, I try to provide them with information since many agencies and companies will do the typing for you. I stress the following – The more technical skills you have, the more cost effective this process will be. And conversely, the less you know, the more it will cost you!
4) The person who tells you they don’t read. Unbelievable, huh? I’m astonished myself when people step up to my booth or display and proceed to tell me that they don’t read. I’ve always wanted to ask them, “Then why the heck are you at a book event?” but I’ve never gotten up the nerve. My husband thought he had it figured out at our last event when he overheard someone on the phone and it went sort of like this:
“Yeah, we’re near the big tent. What? The free popcorn and soda are all the way back at the little tents? And they’re giving away candy and balloons? I’ll be right there!”
So much for literary. It can’t compete with candy and balloons.
5) The person who is genuinely interested in your writing. This is the moment every author yearns for – having someone approach them who is really curious about your writing and interested in what you have to say. I relish my interaction with readers who want to know more about my books, ideas, and literary endeavors. This is how every author grows readership and it’s vital to our survival. Promoting a book is one thing, making valued connections is quite another. These readers make everything possible for us and I’m extremely grateful.