Last Sunday, my husband and I took off for a long, lazy Sunday drive. We decided to go to Grand Lake in Ohio–a large, manmade, shallow lake that was dug as a reservoir for the Miami and Eerie Canals. To get there, we took a route that I realized, after we drove through several small towns I recognized, was one I drove many times years ago. My writer friends–Carl Grody and Dawn Dunn–and I drove from Fort Wayne, Indiana to Dayton, Ohio to Books & Company whenever the bookstore invited a favorite author to give a short presentation and sign books. We’d stop for supper at the Spaghetti Warehouse, which I haven’t been to since Carl moved away and Dawn became a nurse practitioner. We listened to many good authors talk about what drove them to write the particular book they were promoting and often added something about the craft of writing. Each time we went was a wonderful experience. We each always bought one of the author’s books as a thank you for him/her sharing her time and experience with us.
The time came, though, when we didn’t have to leave Fort Wayne to find authors. A new bookstore–Little Professor–went up on the southwest side of the city. The three of us went to see the owner and told him about the wonderful experiences we had in Ohio. He wasn’t quite ready to jump into book signings, but he asked if we’d give panels at his store once a month so that he could see what the turnout would be. So many people came, month after month, he decided to go for it. Little Professor became a good stopping place for Chicago authors to promote new books. We went to every signing and bought a book at each.
Now I’m not an especially sentimental person. I often gave my books to the library or friends after I read them. I went to hear and meet the authors. The presentations meant more to me than anyone’s signature. I did get Ann Rice to sign SERVANT OF THE BONES, though. Carl, Dawn, and I still did panels when the weather was bad and the store needed a program in a hurry. And our city felt like a little hub of literary activity until Barnes & Noble came to town and Little Professor closed its doors. To this day, I miss that store.
But book signings, in general, have become a thing of the past. I can’t blame authors. Too few people buy books at the end of the presentations. On the first beautiful days of spring, nobody shows up. Weather can turn nasty. Signing books in a store is a hit and miss proposition, and everyone’s busy these days. There’s never enough time to get everything done. I’d never go to a store just to buy a book and get it signed. If there’s no presentation, I’m not there. Publishers don’t pay most authors to travel and promote their books these days either. If you’re not a big name who’ll attract a big crowd, forget about it.
I know everything changes. Readers can tweet with authors now, read their blogs, and visit their webpages. It’s not the same. I still miss Little Professor and I still miss authors sharing writing and experiences for half an hour here and there. Hope something inspires you to hit those keys this week. Happy writing!
P.S. Thought I’d add the authors coming to Books & Co. for July and August, just so you can check Books & Company out.