Thursday, February 21, 2008

Do You Like Book Signings?

By James O. Born

Here’s the last of the Burn Zone updates. At least for a while.

The launch party for Burn Zone was at Murder on the Beach in Delray Beach, Florida. It was a great time with a crowd that downed a fair amount of alcohol. Some of you may not know it but the lovely Joanne Sinchuck, shown here with me while she was still sober, recently sold the store to the not quite as lovely but a good guy, Dave Wulf. Both were on hand for the festivities along with Jonathon King, several Mystery Writers of America members as well as Lisa Manuel and Karen Kendall from the Florida Romance Writers.

The next morning, bright and early, I scooted across the state to Florida’s Gulf Coast for my first stop at of the day at Circle Books in Sarasota. I ran into two Florida authors, James W. Hall and, in a surprise and momentarily scary appearance, David Hagberg. Some of you might recall that Mr. Hagberg was the subject of my short film, Pneumatics and Mnemonics. Ever the good sport he replaced the copy of Scorpion of Allah, which I blew the shit out of with a potato cannon.

In the late afternoon, I stopped by St Petersburg’s legendary Haslam’s Bookstore. Owner Ray Hinst is not only a great supporter of writers, I used him as a resource for Burn Zone. He recently retired as a Lt. Colonel in the air force and the man is smart. I mean scary smart. His store spans a full city block and has books on every subject known to man. He knows his writers too. My favorite story is that Pulitzer Prize winner Michael Sharaa was a policeman in St. Pete. This was up until The Killer Angels hit it big and later became the movie Gettysburg.

Tuesday was a stop in Coral Gables, a couple of hours south of my house at Book & Books. Mitchell Kaplan, the owner f the store and organizer of the Miami Book Fair is always a gracious host.

Here's a hint: Don't cut through Little Havana on the day Fidel Castro steps down from power. Just a little traffic delay.

The rest of the week was a blur of Borders and Barnes & Nobles where the community relations managers do a good job publicizing events and making authors feel at home.

Today I’m off to Columbia South Carolina and the South Carolina Book Festival where I will teach a “master class” in writing tomorrow, participate in a panel on crime fiction Saturday, moderate a panel on science fiction Saturday afternoon, attend a moveable brunch Sunday morning and a panel on thrillers Sunday afternoon.

This is one weird way to earn a living

Do you attend book signings? If you’re an author, do you like events? I’m curious about others thoughts on this.


  1. Is King doing the Macarena?

  2. That's very good. I'll tell the pissed off, six foot eight man you were mocking him.

    He graciously introduced me and was telling a story. The crowd loved him.

  3. Do I attend book signings...? Duh.

    Tom, T.O.

  4. Do I attend book signings...? Duh.

    Tom, T.O.

  5. Tom,
    I have teenage kids. I speak duh.


  6. As a reader, I attend signings fairly often. Whether I enjoy myself depends upon what the author has to say, and the staff at the store.

    I'm not a huge fan of writers simply reading from their book - I can do that for myself. I like to hear something that's not in the book - how the idea for the plot came about, an amusing anecdote or two.

    If the staff is friendly and ready to help both the author and the readers have a good time, it can be worlds of fun. If the staff is cranky, or not available, well, I'd just as soon stay home.

  7. Rae,
    I agree. Most people who attend signings can read. I try to tell the story that influenced the sbook and the details of how different things made it into the book.


  8. I don't think I ever went to a book signing before I started publishing books. Now I go often, mostly to friends' signings. I agree with Rae. I don't want to hear authors read from their books, because some aren't good readers, which makes for a very boring presentation.

  9. This must be a popular post idea....Marcus Sakey asked almost the same question yesterday at the Outfit website.

    But of course we all go to signings if we can...aren't sitting here reading this blog when we should be

    If an author is going to read, I would like it to be the scene that sparked the book. And then tell how this germ of an idea / mental vision became the book.

    Oh, and thanks for the books....each one has been better then the last.


  10. I believe I own the story for the worst book signing in history.

    PLACE: Worth Avenue, Palm Beach, Doubleday Book Store.

    TIME: Noon, a Wednesday in August, circa 1994.

    WEATHER: Sunny and hot, humid as Jim Born's old sweat socks.

    SURROUNDINGS: Pedestrians spotted on street during one hour signing: ZERO. Browsers in store: ZERO. Books sold: ZERO.

    All that having been said, I love book signings.

  11. I do not attend book signings for the simple reason that they are not convenient for me to go to. I would have to drive 90 minutes into the city and then contend with trying to find parking, pay for parking,etc. Also I'd have to find someone to go with me as I have the amazing ability to get lost on a one way street with no exits. It's just not worth the hassle to me. I guess I'm just more interested in reading the books that my favorite authors write, rather than meeting the authors themselves. (Even though I'm sure they are worderful, interesting people.)

    That said, I probably would go to some if it was more convenient. And a book signing with alcohol, just might tempt me.

  12. Okay, Paul wins the prize for bad signing events, but I've got second place:

    Ridgefield, Connecticut, library

    Besides the bookstore owner, the librarian and me, there was one other person in attendance: Peter Spiegelman, who wrote the wonderful RED CAT and who happens to live in Ridgefield and brought me coffee.

    Peter did buy a book. He is my new best friend.

    Sad thing is, there were scads of people on the sidewalks. There was a fall festival going on. But still no one else showed up.

  13. One of our favorite "worst signing" stories at Seattle Mystery Bookshop is the time that the owner was talking to the author. There was one other lone person in the shop, and she went over to JB and said author and told them both to "Shut up. You're ruining my browsing!" and stalked away.

    She didn't buy anything.

    Some signings are brilliant, some are the pits, and sometimes they're just going to be odd. It's hard to predict which will happen on any given day. But staff interest and involvement, author willingness to be friendly, and an overall sense of humor and acknowledgement that this is frequently theatre of the absurd can make most signings work.

    Unless you're told to shut up.

  14. Doug, That comment cheered me up after a day of flight connections.

    I think most of us have had signngs like Paul's and Karen's. You guys just tell the story well.

    I'm typing away in my hotel room in Columbia SC. he prostitute just dozed off. I have some time to kill.


  15. I don't know, Paul. I think I have a better one--Wayne State University bookstore on a Friday afternoon in July. God only knows what the publicist was thinking when she booked me at a university bookstore on a July Friday afternoon and God only knows why I didn't question it BEFORE I went and sat there in an empty store for a couple hours.

    I don't actually go to book signings because where I live there don't seem to be any nearby. The local Borders, about 10 miles away, has never had any that I know of. So the nearest regular ones are a good 35 to 70 miles away in Birmingham or worse, Ann Arbor.

  16. Mark,

    tell me about it. I live in the Ann Arbor area....home of Borders...and we rarely ever have author's reading or signing. One of the great mysteries of the universe. Thank God for Aunt Agatha's.


  17. My bad book signing experience was as an attendee. A famous English interior designer was coming to sign at our local Barnes & Noble. I was anxiously waiting to hear her talk about her experiences, inspirations, ideas, etc. I arrived early to get a good seat. While waiting for the chairs to be set up, I chatted with some other people, one of whom drove for two hours to see the author. We were surprised when it approached the signing time & no chairs had been put up. The time finally arrived but still no chairs. Finally someone put up a table & one chair for the author. We found out that the author was ONLY SIGNING! No discussions, no short talk, nothing! All of us who came to meet the interior designer were disappointed -- but the lady who drove two hours was even more so, as you can imagine. The author didn't even answer any questions. Only signed the books!