A Book Signing to Remember

As husband Larry and I drove from Santa Rosa Beach to my book signing at the BAM store in Destin, Florida, I had a flashback.

I remembered a story Robert Crais told years ago. Crais is an award winning novelist of detective fiction. At one time, he wrote television scripts for shows like Hill Street Blues, Cagney & Lacey, Quincy, Miami Vice and L.A. Law.

Many readers would be honored to buy his books and have him autograph them, I thought. But apparently that wasn’t the case at a Walmart store, according to what Crais told a group at Sleuthfest, where he was the keynote speaker.

He aggressively hawked his books and tried to engage customers, he said. He’s say stuff like, “Do you like detective fiction. Do you like mysteries?”

One man replied, “No,” and then asked Crais to help him find the fishing gear, he said.

I pushed that memory out of my head and told myself, my book signing would be successful. I was determined. I believed in my book, my baby, and I wanted everyone to read A Message in the Roses.

Larry and I arrived about 30 minutes early. I placed six blue pens on the table beside a stack of my books. I was determined not to run out of ink.

We put the bookmarks and an address book on the table and placed my poster on an easel. Luckily, the store positioned me near the front door. Before long, a potential customer walked in.

Larry went into action. He sounded like a carnival barker, “This is your lucky day,” he shouted. “Author Sandy Semerad is autographing her critically acclaimed book, A Message in the Roses.”

As he led this unsuspecting and somewhat stunned woman toward me, I asked her, “Do you like romantic thrillers?”

“I prefer nonfiction,” she said.

“Well, then, you might enjoy A Message in the Roses,” I said, motioning, in Vanna White fashion, toward the stack of books. “It’s loosely based on a murder trial I covered as a newspaper reporter in Atlanta.”

I handed her a bookmark. She glanced at it and then picked up one of my books.

We began a conversation. I asked her to sign my address book and said, “I’d be happy to autograph a copy of my book for you.”

And so it went.

With other signings, I’d learned to autograph on the title page, and I knew I darn sure needed to ask each person how to spell his or her name.

I’d also learned to ask, “How should I autograph this?”

Most people respond with, “Write whatever you want.” But I think it’s important to write something personal, and it’s easier to do that if you’ve shared conversation.

I’ve been told it’s best to have a person write out instructions to the author on what to say. I’m sure that’s good advice, but I didn’t do that.

After I signed the books, Larry snapped our photos. That is, if they agreed to have their picture taken. If they did, I later e-mailed the photos to them, and tagged their names after posting on Facebook.

Everyone at BAM was supportive. One of the employees, with the voice of a broadcaster, kept announcing, “Author Sandy Semerad is in our store signing her latest book A Message in the Roses.” She added blurbs about my book to entice customers. I complimented her later.

Should I have written my own announcement? Perhaps, but luckily, she did a superb job.

After the signing, I got the store’s approval to autograph the remaining copies that didn’t sell. I’m hoping they’ll display them, prominently, with the bookmarks I left behind. Maybe they’ll place an “autographed copy” sticker on them. Did I mention I’m a hopeful optimist?

I thanked the BAM employees and a couple of days later, I called to thank them again. As an afterthought, I sent a photo taken with the staff to the BAM marketing site with a brief e-mail about the signing.

Maybe I should send a snail mail letter to the store and include more bookmarks. I want them to remember my books and keep promoting them.

Weeks before I started trying to arrange book signings, I asked Michelle Lee to design my bookmarks. These were helpful in getting the signings in the first place, I think. (I gave a copy of the bookmark with a press release and a list of distributors to the managers of two book stores and asked them to order my books.)

I downloaded the bookmark to Printing for Less. I should have ordered more than 500. I’m almost out. I’ve been distributing them like crazy.

For the signing, I knew I’d need a poster. So PFL created one on foam board, not cheap, but sturdy. It looked sharp on the easel, I thought. The poster has my book covers and a promo blurb under each and my photo.

The poster arrived in time, but not the postcards, I’d ordered. I should have ordered them a month before. They came the week of my signing, and I was working out of town. My poor husband distributed them as best he could.

Two weeks prior, after I checked to make sure the BAM store had the books, I e-mailed a press release to local newspapers. I also created an event on Facebook and other sites and invited everyone.

There were a few things I wish I’d done.

I should have placed a copy of my book with bookmarks at the cash registers. I should have asked Larry to hand out book marks and a copy of my book to customers we didn’t catch at the door. I was too busy hustling those who came in to do that myself.

And maybe I should have placed a bowl of chocolate candy on my table or held a drawing to win a gift, perhaps a free book. I’m thinking I might do these things at my next one, which is Saturday, Sept. 27, at the Destin, Florida Barnes and Noble.

A lady from B&N has already called to say my books are in. Wish me luck. I wish you could come by and spread the love. #booksigning #AMessageintheRoses