When I was a teenager living in Baton Rouge, I sometimes went to a Books-a-Million--my mom would drop me off there and go to the K-Mart down the road. One fine, hot Saturday afternoon, I was there in the Books-a-Million, walking around, browsing.
Whenever I passed through the center aisle of the store, I'd see this man sitting there by himself behind a desk. I passed him probably five or six times before I looked at the little plaque in front of him: he was an author, there to sign his books. Once I realized that, I kept far away from him, because I didn't have any money to buy his book and could not stand to see his wistful face one more time.
That non-encounter left a powerful impression on me: Most authors are not celebrities, and do not have fans clamoring for their autographs. And as a member of Most Authors, I would suffer the same fate were I so foolish as to have a book signing where people have to pay to buy my books, as opposed to the fabulous publisher-hosted signings at RWA which draw crowds because the books are free.
Well, somehow I got talked into having a book signing, at a romance-friendly local B. Dalton's. I did not dread it in a sick-to-the-stomach way, but I did not relish the thought of it either. The bookstore is located in a mall, and I would be put on a table right at the front of the store, naked to the passing traffic.
Well, I needn't have feared. My friends from the local chapter of the RWA were there from the very beginning. They chatted with me, so I wouldn't be all by myself. They bought multiple copies for moms and moms-in-law. They brought kids and husbands and sisters. Some drove in from Bastrop and Fort Hood.
By the time my beloved sis-in-law showed up to my squeeing surprise and delight--she drove in from Dallas--I knew it was going to be a great time. Hubby arrived--looking very cute--with the senior kidlet and the camera that I always, always, without exception, forget.
It turned into a party. So much so that I was completely bowled over when strangers bought my books to be signed. One very lovely reader, who has 800 books at home and loves historical fiction, took the book on faith. A trio of gorgeous college students came to get a copy of PA signed for their roommate, who wanted to come but had to be in Dallas that weekend.
When Sybil and Lawson from The Good, the Bad, the Unread strode onto the scene, they triple-frosted my cake. Part of me still can't believe that they took the trouble, driving in from San Antonio. Really, I didn't deserve it. I didn't deserve a whole lot of this support and warmth and just wonderful consideration from everyone who came. It was the loveliest feeling to be so grateful to all the good people in my life and to the world for just spinning.
After the book signing, I took Sybil, Lawson, and my friend Catherine to Viva Chocolato, a rather scrumptious little local establishment. Lawson and Catherine were carded when they ordered wine, and Sybil and I demanded to be carded too, even though we were only having gelato shake and Italian soda, respectively. We also demolished a little chocolate fondue.
(And Sybil told me on our way out that she'd harassed the bookseller at a nearby Borders to re-order my book--I need to be more like that woman.)
I went back home and started to clean house--and it was great to do so, to be once again just another anonymous suburbanite. But my signing for the day wasn't over yet. My mom--who'd looked after junior kidlet when everyone else was at the signing--had bought a few of my books, and she wanted me to sign them for her so she could give them to her colleagues.
I show up at her house and almost fell backward. There was a very tall stack of my books on her kitchen table and she'd drawn up a long list of not only her colleagues, but her friends and neighbors to whom she wanted to give my book. This was the best moment in an already incredible day.
We are close, Mom and I. But Mom, for the longest time, didn't understand why I was wasting my time on a seemingly hopeless endeavor--we came from a family of scientists and engineers, solid professionals who did not sit home and doodle. So it meant a lot that she was out there buying all the copies of PA from two different Wal-Marts and a Target.
I love you too, Mom.
So has my opinion of book signings changed? Well, no. I just lucked out. And I already wonder why I agreed to hold a book signing for Delicious--it's only 4 months away, too soon to trouble everyone to come out again. But for now, I bask in the afterglow of it all.
Some people will always have Paris. Me, I'll always have that Saturday afternoon.