When Book Signings Go Bad

OK, in actuality, the book signing where we took this picture went quite well. My daughters thought it would be funny to take this pic to show what a disaster a signing can turn into if no one shows up. I’ve had a few of those in my time. I laugh about them now, but when they were happening – damn, they sucked.

Bad Book Signing

Want to hear about the worst book signing ever? About 10 years ago, I self pubbed a darkly comedic suspense novel. It had mobsters, porn stars, UFO nuts, a benevolent drug dealer, old men on a quest, a dominatrix and gay fashion desingers. I still love that book and hope to give it another life, but that’s another story.

I somehow snagged a signing at a huge Barnes & Noble. At the time, I was petrified of public speaking, so when I arranged it, I expressly said it would be a signing only.

When I showed up, I saw they purchased about 40 books! Whoa. How the hell was I, an unknown with a self pubbed novel, supposed to sell 40 books? And on a Tuesday night no less?

Imagine my growing horror when the manager walked me to a podium that stood in front of 50 chairs. She said they wanted me to read from the book and talk about the writing life. I almost had a heart attack.

In those 50 chairs was my wife, her friend, and a half dozen men who didn’t look well at all. Turns out, they were a hepatitis support group. When I spoke in my trembling voice, they looked at me like I was disturbing them – which I was. Thankfully, no one other than my wife and her friend listened to me at all. I said my piece and quickly sat down.

Aaaaand, for the next 2 hours, I proceeded to sell ZERO books. The manager looked like she wanted to hang me. I wanted to crawl  under the building.

To this day, I use that night as my unit of book signing success measurement. So far, everything since has been FAR, FAR BETTER. Lower those expectations, and the world is your oyster.

What are your book signing horror stories? Ever had one, or watched one go down in flames? I know I’m not the only one.

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About Hunter Shea

Hunter Shea is the product of a misspent childhood watching scary movies, reading forbidden books and wishing Bigfoot would walk past his house. He doesn’t just write about the paranormal – he actively seeks out the things that scare the hell out of people and experiences them for himself. Hunter’s novels can even be found on display at the International Cryptozoology Museum. His video podcast, Monster Men, is one of the most watched horror podcasts in the world. You’ll also find him every week on the Final Guys podcast, available everywhere. He’s a bestselling author of over 30 books, all of them written with the express desire to quicken heartbeats and make spines tingle. Living with his wonderful family and two cats, he’s happy to be close enough to New York City to gobble down Gray’s Papaya hotdogs when the craving hits.

4 responses to “When Book Signings Go Bad”

  1. lexacain says :

    I’m pleased to say I live outside the country, so I’ll never have to do a signing or (God forbid) plug my book to anyone. I loved the pic and your story though, and you’re right about lowering expectations. That’s worked well for me for quite some time. 😉

    • Hunter Shea says :

      Do they not do book signings where you live? With the advent of social media, the long slog of a book tour is no longer mandatory, but it’s nice to get out from time to time and meet the peeps.

  2. Adriana Noir (@AdrianaNoir) says :

    I *hate* public speaking as well. I’m so shy!

    My first book signing was four hours away at the time. I remember shaking like a leaf and having no clue what-so-ever what I was doing. My publisher was nice enough to show, but spent the entire time outside smoking and talking on her phone. The only time she came in was to yell at me to stand up and not sit at my table! So, my kidneys were throbbing, my best friend who was holding my hand and helping me through it was deathly ill and miserable. I was petrified out of my mind, and I sold four books. (which by the way didn’t even cover the gas and toll money to get there!)

    Would I do it again? Absolutely, but next time, I think I’ll hit a convention. I don’t care much for being in the spotlight or the sole focus in a room. 😉

  3. Paul D. Dail says :

    Glad to hear you’ve gotten better at public speaking. I imagine that would’ve been a nightmare. But good that you have that experience as a barometer.

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