Most of the big-time writers I’ve met have been extremely nice people. Writers like Janet Evanovich, Alex Berenson, Ann Rule, Barbara Parker, P.J. Parrish, Leslie Kagen, Chris Bohjalian, they’re all lovely people. No big egos, no self-aggrandizing, no preening or posturing. The only time I’ve seen that has been in new writers who are overly full of themselves just because they got published. That egotism won’t last. I can be positive of that because between the first book published and the big time are a lot of book signings.
Book signings are God’s way of reminding writers that they are, in the universal scheme of things, a good bit less important than fireplace tools in the middle of summer.
Here’s how a book signing goes: You are positioned at a table near the front door of a friendly book store. Your books are nicely arranged in front of you, with a poster announcing that you, the author, are there to sign copies of your latest book. Sometimes a poster is in the front window, with a cluster of books around it. It’s all very important looking, and your heart beats a bit faster when you see it. You sit at the table, nice people from the store bring you water or coffee or tea. You lay your materials out, your bookmarks, your flyers giving details of your books, any little gizmos you’re using to promote your book, like my little bags of catnip. And you wait.
Streams of people pass by. Some of them smile at you, most avoid eye contact altogether.
Sometimes one will stop, leaf through a book, smile at you, and put the book down. Sometimes one will stop and chat with you, then wander off without asking for a book. Sometimes people stop and ask you for directions to the bathroom or for information about some other author, because they think you’re a store employee. Your smile begins to be strained. You become aware of how hard the chair is. You feel extremely foolish. You vow never to agree to another book signing as long as you live.
If you are extremely lucky, a kind person will come to tell you they actually came to the store specifically because they had read in the paper that you would be there and they wanted to meet you. Chances are, they will tell you they got your book from the library, so they aren’t there to get a signed copy, they just want to meet you. You are grateful.
When the time alloted for signing has mercifully passed, you are so demoralized that you’re grateful if you have signed any books at all. The booksellers always apologize. They tell you it has been an unusually slow day, but that your books are selling quite well. You are grateful.
You gather up your pens and your pamphlets and your bookmarks and go home. And you are humbled in a way that nobody except another writer can ever understand. You hope that the next time will be more exciting, but you know it probably won’t be.