Book Signing After-Action Report

I approached my first-ever book signing last evening with a mixture of excitement (optimism) and resignation (reality check). I’d spent a good bit of time drafting my remarks, practiced them multiple times, trimmed the duration to a target of ten minutes, and then did something I probably should have done a few days ago: check out the other authors.

Speaking of other authors at a signing, the first question that came to mind was whether I’d rather do a solo event. I didn’t have that choice at BookPeople, but it’s a valid consideration due to curiosity alone.

I’m glad it wasn’t an option, because I’d have been speaking to a “crowd” of about 11 folks, loyal to the end, who so graciously showed up to support me. (Note: one of them drove with me to the event and helped carry food, two posters, and copies of my just-published Book One of Wings On My Words, tales from the Writer’s Desk, which I chose to bundle as a giveaway with each book sold. Thank you, darling.)

The point, of course, is that for all but celebrity authors, the audience at a book signing will consist of folks who have already purchased your book, plan to, or were forced into attending by a nagging sense of duty.

A group signing, on the other hand, at the very least puts you in front of folks who support another author. They aren’t there for you, but who cares? It’s an opportunity to showcase the result of all the pain and suffering you’ve invested in getting the book out there. A real book, one you can hold in your hands.

I assumed (always a risky thing to do) that the other authors would be talking about their novels, in spite of the fact that the non-fiction market is many times the size of fiction. In addition, I interpreted four names on the roster for the evening as meaning four books. Wrong again.

A few hours prior to the event, I discovered that two of the author names were listed for one non-fiction book, although neither person had written it. The third author was signing a book with no description, that could have been either fiction or non-fiction, and at this point I’m wondering what I’d gotten myself into.

The concern was that my initial assumption had led my remarks astray. I knew that most of the folks supporting me were writers, and concluded that the same would be true for the other authors. Triple wrong, and now my writer-oriented remarks had been called into question with no time to adjust. Okay, stick with the script or wing it. I’m a pilot, after all, and I should be able to do that.

One of the issues was the speaking order. We had e-mail agreed in advance that we’d figure that out at the time. I arrived first. The BookPeople staff approached me to talk about it and indicated that they would put me first at the podium. I suggested that we wait for the other authors, who arrived a bit later and came up with an order on their own. They were very polite about offering me the opportunity to change it, which I declined.

That put me in the middle, between the two speakers (not authors, remember) for the first book and the single author of the last one. Okay, so here’s the situation as it occurred.

The seating area didn’t fill completely, and some of the audience elected to remain standing. I’m not sure how many people were there, who showed up intentionally, or who just happened to be drawn by the activity. Or maybe by the wine, chips and salsa, cookies and loaf cake. Like an army, a book signing may run on its stomach.

We began the readings with a book described thusly: “The Avatar Path: The Way We Came. On the surface, this is a book of words that conveys a pleasant melody. But underneath the stories, chords of consciousness are being strummed that will transform the way you think. A story of an awakening that has become a worldwide movement. Reading this book will change your life.”

Then I presented my writer-dominated-audience remarks to a group consisting of only a small percentage of authors. I think I did a pretty good job, but as always, I’d like do do it over to improve this or that.

Following my remarks, the author presented Tales of Travis County. No other description had been provided, so I had no clue what to expect. I mean, with that title, it could be a collection of short stories or personal experiences. I had to wait to find out.

Up stands a 58-year-old guy who looks like he’s much younger and in terrific shape. An impressive dude, let me tell you, especially when he informs us (those who weren’t there because of his book) that it’s a collection of experiences gleaned from 25 years as a Travis County Deputy Sheriff, including an extensive assignment on a Special Weapons and Tactics team.

He’s also president of the Central Texas Mountaineers, and that explained why so many of the folks in the audience looked like he did, lean and ready for anything. Maybe the constant threat of falling off a mountain does that. I jest, of course.

So, one key point of this after-action report is that I never expected to be sandwiched between a book about personal growth and enlightenment and an MP-5 and body armor. By any standard, to place pilot error in that mix created an unusual but very interesting evening. To anyone who didn’t make it, you might have thought it worthwhile.

And from this writer’s desk, I know of at least two copies of Pilot Error and Book One of Wings On My Words that ended up in the hands of mountain climbers. One of them had been a skydive instructor. A friend of his is an airline pilot, so it was preordained that we would joke about how most pilots feel about skydiving:

How can anyone jump out of a perfectly good airplane?

To that I added from my own experience the reaction within a fighter squadron when a new guy would show up with a set of military jump wings pinned below his aviator’s wings:

If this guy is that foolish, I do not want to fly with him on my wing!




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