Saturday the Malice in Memphis mystery writers group of which I am a member had a booksigning at a real live bookstore in Bartlett, a suburb of Memphis. In a week in which our largest independent bookstore closed its doors, having an actual booksigning was kind of an affirmation of faith in the written and physically printed word. I love my Ipad to death, but let’s face it, I still can’t take it in the bathtub to read a book, nor easily lend a book I like to someone else, now make notes in the margins. I still miss actual books with pages that turn physically rather than electronically.
Can’t have a booksigning for a virtual book either. There are good things and bad things about that. On the one hand, a writer sitting all alone at a table in a bookstore while shoppers walk by and stare, while said writer pasts a stupid smile on her face in hopes of conning a prospective customer in to at least have a bit of conversation is not so good. I’ve found that more than half the time, the prospective customer says something like, “Oh, I never read. I mean, who has time?” Then they wonder why their children never pick up a book.
And there is the ever popular, “Where do you get your ideas?” Frankly, I haven’t a clue. All it takes is a nudge and a modicum of “what if?”
Setting up a booksigning for an anthology in which there are stories by eleven different writers is not a piece of cake. We try to keep it neat and orderly so that the books pass around from author to author and wind up with every story signed. Somehow, however, the order invariably gets messed up—some authors sign, some authors miss their turns and have to hunt up the copies they didn’t sign. People change seats or go to the bathroom or wander off to look at the mysteries or the romances. Eventually, however, we did get all the copies signed. At least I think we did.
The fun of a booksigning is talking to those prospective customers. Not trying to sell them anything, but simply enjoying meeting and chatting with them. Everybody has a story. Our latest anthology is based on ghost stories. At least in the south, everybody has at least one story of an encounter with a ghost. And in a small bookstore like the one we signed at today, the atmosphere is relaxed, people do enjoy conversation whether they buy a book or not.
I love booksignings, because I like talking to strangers. I tend to be shy and standoffish in large groups, but with four or five people I have a wonderful time.
The people who read books are by definition interesting. So, the next time you run into a stray booksigning somewhere, go chat with the author or authors. I promise you they’ll welcome your company.