Every aspiring author dreams of that first book tour, even if it’s just a tiny local one involving a few stores. And every author has nightmares about book signings gone bad. The greatest fear is that you’ll be all prepared and ready to talk books and no one will show up. It’s kind of like dreaming about going to work and realizing your forgot to put on your pants. We conjure up worst case scenarios to assure ourselves that things could always be worse.
I believed that to be the case until my nightmare came true. About ten years ago, I published a comedic suspense novel with a very small (and in retrospect, disreputable) publisher. To support the book, I contacted chain book stores and every mom and pop shop in the New York tri-state area, hoping a few would let this unknown author with his offbeat novel sit behind a folding table and sell a few books. I was fortunate enough to get a string of signings at about a dozen locations. Included in that tour was a miracle. The Barnes & Noble by my house said they would be happy to have me come in. Seeing the huge poster in their window announcing my big day was a pretty important milestone for me.
Now, the date of the signing should have forewarned me that things were not going to go well. It was on July 4th. That’s right, the birthday of our country when everyone is home barbecuing and swimming is when I would be at the B&N in the mall. When I got to the mall, it was like a scene straight out of Dawn of the Dead. Just a few bodies shambled here and there. There were more people working in the book store than perusing the shelves.
They gave me a great spot in the front of the store, but it was also under a giant skylight. The temperature was hovering around 100 degrees outside and the sun pierced through the glass and fried me like an ant. I could feel the top of my head sizzle like a slab of bacon and sweat dripped down my face in a never ending torrent.
No one, and I mean no one, so much as came near me or my books. At one point, a semi-dazed woman started leafing through Hilary Clinton’s book behind me and I convinced her that there were better ways to spend her money. OK, so I wasn’t a big Clinton fan.
The manager kept coming over, a pitiable look in her eyes, occasionally bringing me bottles of water to replenish the fluids that escaped my body at an alarming rate. For two hours, I sat in the sun and stared at an empty mall, the sounds of muzac lulling me to sleep. In fact, I was almost snoring when she came over and apologized for the poor turnout. “I thought it was strange that they scheduled your signing for today,” she said.
Odd indeed. I thanked her and signed a few books, hoping someone would buy one when they were put on the shelf after I left. I remember going straight to a family party and jumping into the pool with my clothes and insisting I guzzle two beers before recounting my signing ordeal.
At the very least, I can say that I got the worst over and done with. And I can happily tell you no other signing was quite as desolate. I laugh about it every time I recall my moment literally in the sun. Let me be a lesson. If a book store says they’ll have you in for the Fourth of July, Memorial Day, Labor Day, or any holiday, politely ask them to consider another date. And if you do go on a holiday, wear sunscreen.
About the Author:
Hunter Shea is the author of the novels Forest of Shadows and Evil Eternal, Swamp Monster Massacre and the upcoming Sinister Entity. His stories have appeared in numerous magazines, including Dark Moon Digest, Morpheus Tales and the upcoming anthology, Shocklines : Fresh Voices in Terror. His obsession with all things horrific has led him to real life exploration of the paranormal, interviews with exorcists and other things that would keep most people awake with the lights on. He is also half of the Monster Men video podcast, a fun look at the world of horror.