Before my first novel was published, I loved going to book signings. Actually, I still do, but with a whole new appreciation for the authors who do them, appreciation that increases as I set out on a new round of signings for Dakota (schedule, here).
Signings are mostly great fun. You get to read from your book, tactfully skipping the parts you wish you’d changed before the damn thing went into print.
You get to answer questions, thereby opening yourself to that awkward moment when your mind goes blank. Case in point: At a reading in Philadelphia earlier this year, someone asked me to share my favorite women mystery authors. I have some. Many, in fact. But could I remember a single one at that moment? Nope. I stuttered and stammered and generally looked like an illiterate idiot.
And you get to see old friends. That part is especially fun, and gets more fun the longer it’s been since you’ve seen them. These lovely people with their lovely familiar faces—but not quite familiar enough—approach and ask you to sign your book. (Luckily, I can name all of the people around me in Don Groff’s photo, above, from the Philadelphia reading.) My fallback—“Who would you like me to make this out to?”—never, ever works. Because inevitably the answer is, “Oh, just make it out to us.” Which forces me to confess that my brain has yet again gone to mush. I’ve learned to scan the audience ahead of time and, if I see too many not-familiar-enough faces, admit to this shortcoming ahead of time, which has resulted in relatives loudly announcing their names to me. Serves me right.
That said, it’s a privilege to do these events and I hope those who attend feel as though they’ve gotten good value despite my stumbles. Besides, I’ve figured out a way to turn the tables—now I ask people to recommend mystery authors to me. My reading list has increased exponentially, and my blank-brain-moments decreased accordingly. Whew.