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Return of the Lonely, Awkward Book Signing

November 21, 2021
(image via wikimedia)

The first thing I saw when I walked into the book store was a guy trying to sell his novel. He had a table set up just inside the entrance of the book store, and he greeted me with a smile and a cheerful voice. He asked me something like if I would want to buy his book or talk about his book or if I would look at his book. I don’t know how he phrased it, but I knew I didn’t want to look at his book.

It had been a while since I’d seen a lonely author book signing. I used to see them frequently a few years ago. Back then, I treated lonely book signings like mall kiosks salespeople; I just didn’t make eye contact. Then the pandemic hit, and book stores closed down for a while. Then the book stores slowly reopened but did extreme social distancing. Now the lonely, awkward book signings have returned.

I felt bad for the author. His book was a hardback with a decent cover. Whether or not he used his own money, I don’t know, but somebody had invested in that book. Things didn’t look good for him, though. It was mid-afternoon, and the stack of books looked pretty tall, and customers were steering clear.

As I analyzed the author from a distance, I noticed that his book had a niche topic. I won’t get into it, but the book probably appeals only to a small percentage of a certain kind of nerd. Plus, the author seemed uncomfortable. He tried to be charming with customers when they wandered too close to his orbit, but it seemed forced.

I was torn. Maybe I should have talked to the guy. Then again, I try to avoid as many awkward situations as I can. Plus, I didn’t want to give the author false hope. He might still do okay with his book. He just won’t be successful at that kind of book store.

The thing is, I might have to do my own book signing in about a year. I don’t want to, and I might not do one, but I might.

After all, I’m a former English teacher. Of course I’m writing a book. Every English teacher wants to write a book. I want to have at least one real book with my name on it. I’ve written a few ebooks, but I don’t count those. I think of them as practice. My ebooks are okay, but they’re flawed.

If I do a book signing, I think I’ll do a silent book signing. Customers wouldn’t have to talk to me. I would be glad to talk to them, but I wouldn’t initiate the conversations. That’s how I am most of the time. I rarely start conversations, but I’ll gladly talk to you if you initiate.

Instead of ambushing customers as they walk in, I’d sit quietly at the table with signs about my book posted throughout the store. My book has a good title. My book has a good premise. It should have general appeal with a niche element that makes it unique.

Or I could get an extrovert to do my talking for me. I have a couple charming friends. If I can’t get one of them to stand by me and talk up my book, I can pay somebody charming to stand next to me and pitch my book. This is my one book. If I do a book signing, I’ll go all-out.

I like these possible book signing ideas. I might not sell many books either way, but at least I won’t be responsible for a lonely, awkward book signing.

  1. I’ve never had the privilege to have a book signing, but I suspect anything related to my book might be the same. But you know what? I wouldn’t mind it, to be honest, as long as it’s a step towards the direction I want to go. Anyway, thanks for this post!

  2. Maybe as a new, lonely author we should post a provocative sign: “My book should be banned. Discuss.” or “Lonely author in need of a conversation for a new book” or “Reading is on the decline. Argue”. If I had a book to sell, I’d be okay with sitting with a pile of books. But like you, I’m an introvert and if no one spoke to me, I’d be a little uncomfortable but much less uncomfortable with a crowd pushing toward me! Either way, I just want to finish my book.

    • You have some good ideas. I like your “My book should be banned. Discuss” sign idea. I might try that, along with a bunch of other stuff. If I ever have a book signing, I’m going all out!

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