MUSING ON SIGNINGS
by Melodie Johnson Howe
I have been to two book signings recently. Jane Heller1 and David L. Gersh are local writersand friends of mine. Jane’s new book, Confessions of a She-Fan, was published by a large New York publisher. David’s new mystery, Going, Going, Gone, was published by a small company in Texas. As different as these writers and their publishing experiences are, there was a similarity to the signings.
Jane has a fan base and held her signing in a sports bar. Her book is about the ups and downs of her obsession with the Yankees and her marriage. Beer and hot dogs were served. David, who has a lot of friends, treated his guests to wine, hors d’oeuvres, and strawberries on the shaded lawn in front of our local independent book store, Tecolate. Both authors paid for their own parties.
Though Jane’s signing was louder and brasher, just as the Yankees are, there was a gentility and a camaraderie to both parties. I felt as if I were experiencing something from the past. The way things used to be. I know these authors want their books to be successful, but at their parties the hype—how many books did you sell?—seemed forgotten. The celebration was that Jane and David completed their books and got them published, however differently. It was about holding a book your hand. It was about accomplishment. There were no klieg lights, no limos lined up, and no security guards to keep the unwashed away. A writer wrote her book. A writer wrote his book. Each had the dedication and the discipline to complete their concept.
Yes, I wish there were more fanfare for authors—bugles blowing, flags waving—because signings are important. A book party displays the perseverance of finishing a novel against all the odds of not getting it published.
And for local writers it brings the community together.
David showed up at Jane’s signing and she showed up at his. As did Gayle Lynds, Kathleen Sharp, Jerry Friedman, and a few other writers. But not many. I wondered where they were? I’m sure they all had “better” things to do. But still….
As the advances get bigger, or as careers fail, do writers just not want to buy another book? Do they not want to be bothered? Do they not want to go to a book signing unless it’s their own?
Hey, I’ve walked down the red carpet. I‘ve had cameras clicking in my face. “Smile, Melodie.” “Look this way, Melodie.” I’ve also known what it is to have the cameras turn away from you, forget you. A book party seems such a simple way to get together no matter how big your ego is, or how shattered it is.
Most book signings are small and intimate. For a brief moment it doesn’t matter if you have a book deal or not, or an agent or not. But the accomplishment does. It was nice to stand on the lawn and feel the spring sun on my face and talk to friends and strangers. To hold a signed book in my hand. Like spring, it gave me hope. Not dreams of greatness.
Jane Heller carries a tiny little video cam with her so she can pounce on other “she-fans” of baseball. She interviewed me at David’s party. Now you can quickly see why I’m a mystery writer and not a baseball/sports writer. Here is the link to the video and her great blog.
- Jane also once wrote a guest column for Criminal Brief, which you will find here. —JLW.