Web diary: 'One Author's Life'


Advice on Book Signings for Debut Authors

July 16, 2013

I've done book signings at Native American powwows, and I've done them at venues such as Borders Park Avenue in Manhattan. I've had great book signings and disastrous ones (like the time that a Borders in North Carolina forgot I was coming). Not all book signings are created equal. Much rests on the store (or other venue) that is hosting the event. If the organizers fail to let their customers know, or forget to send out a press release, the author is in a terrible position. Unfortunately, you don't always find out until it's too late, no matter how pro-active you are. You arrive and discover all is not well. In twenty years as an author, I have concluded that the best approach is to be open-minded and keep my expectations in check. Sometimes, events are spectacular; sometimes they're not. My philosophy is to go and make the best of it. I will be gracious regardless of being upstaged by a goat (yes, this happened to me). Sometimes, the book signings that seem the least promising are the ones that turn out the best. About five years ago, for example, I agreed to a book signing in a tiny, historic town in New Jersey on the Delaware Bay. When I arrived, there didn't seem to be a soul in the entire town. Finally, I spotted a volunteer fire house with an actual person walking around outside. I pulled up and asked where I could find the "community center." He smiled (South Jersey people being very friendly) and said, "You're looking at it." I smiled back but my heart sank. I didn't even understand where I was supposed to speak. (On top of the fire truck?) Well, prior to my talk, the volunteer firefighters moved their equipment (one fire truck and one ambulance) outdoors, thereby creating indoor space for my event. They set up rows of chairs, a podium, and a table for my books. I filled every one of those seats, sold about forty hard cover books (not bad for hard cover), and had a great time. To all of you debut authors out there: You will have lousy book signings, and you will have splendid ones. It's all part of the journey. Just keep smiling.

A Southern Accent Does Not Mean You're Stupid

July 2, 2013

Ladies and gentlemen, newsflash from this here rare bird who is just as comfortable living in the South as the North: Having a Southern accent does not mean you're stupid. I don't know why it's necessary for Southerners, and friends of Southerners, to have to explain this all the time, but it's very painful. I lived in South Carolina during my formative years, age six to 12, during the 1960s. I went to college and began my career as a newspaper reporter in Florida, covering alligator festivals and the like, and learning that Florida is almost as "rebby" as South Carolina. A pivotal moment for me, however, was earlier, when I was 12 and my family moved back north from South Carolina. I lost my accent (learned to hide it) by lunchtime on the first day of school. (more…)