Decades ago—and I do mean decades—I wrote local histories for publishers like Windsor, Donning, American Historical Press, and Arcadia. The nice people in their publicity departments arranged for me to appear at book signings at places like county fairs, Costco, Barnes and Noble, and other bookshops that are no longer around.
When I began writing, most of the books were about nearby places and I drove to the signings. When I moved five hundred miles away, I had to fly in, rent a car, and drive to the bookstore. There, I’d park in a remote part of the lot and change into author clothes. That usually meant wiggling into pantyhose in the front seat of the car, quickly squeezing into my suit skirt, and sometimes pulling a tee shirt off and a sweater on, hoping no one strolled by in front of the windshield and called the cops for indecent exposure.
Inside the store, I was greeted warmly and placed at a table right by the front door with a stack of books. I didn’t have to bring them with me because most were large-format coffee-table picture books and were impossible to carry around. Then I was abandoned. Customers sometimes knew why I was there, but most nervously walked around me.
I learned to smile at the people walking in who thought I was A) the official greeter; B) purveyor of directions C) the checkout line. The most common question was “Can you direct me to the restroom?”
When I was through, the chair and table would be removed, I’d autograph a few books (if requested by store personnel), slap a little gold sticker on them that said “autographed copy” and head back to the car where I’d furtively change back into airplane clothes and head for home.
I now write fiction and in-person book signings are rare, even before Covid. But I have to admit they’re lots more fun.
My favorite one was at a winery in Healdsburg, California. Thirteen authors sat in a room with our books in front of us, various items of swag, and big smiles. Those attending bought a ticket to attend.
Questions were “what are your books about” or “how long have you been writing” or “what is your opinion of Pushkin and Chekhov.” Fortunately, I minored in Russian Studies so I could answer the last one. People drifted in all afternoon, sipping wine, munching on dainty desserts, and buying books. One woman left with two bags full.
Sure, they got free stuff. They got bookmarks and magnets and paper fans. At my table, I gave away plastic wine corks, pencils with my book names on them, and candy kisses. The best part? I talked to so many people I was hoarse by the end of the event.
Most “author parties” now are on-line, but they’re still fun. And the best part? No one asks the location of the restroom.
Check out my books–just the fiction ones–at http://www.pamelagibsonwrites.com. Happy reading.