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The Most Important Thing I Learned This Summer

Those of you who've been following my social media, blog, and/or newsletter posts this summer know that I've done a lot of book signings. Slowly but surely, I've been doing my best to get my book in front of as many people as possible. Early on, I noticed two things that surprised me, and they continued to be reinforced throughout the summer.

1. A busy day in the bookstore (or winery) does not mean a successful book signing.

When I say successful, I mean that I sold more than a couple books. The place could be packed, but if no one stops at my table, there probably won't be any sales. At one of my signings at a bookstore, the store was packed, but so few people stopped at my table, I only sold two books the whole afternoon.

The first time I did a winery book signing, I didn't sell a single book.

Were there people in the winery that day? Yes. At some points it was even crowded.

Did they see me? Yes

Did they stop to talk to me? Some did, yes. A few took my custom designed bookmarks or business cards.

Did any of them buy my book? No

That was my first winery date out of three, and I was ready to cancel the other two after that day. I'm glad I didn't, though. The second one went a little better (I sold two copies, which still felt pathetic, but it was better than none), and the third one better than that (I sold nine). For more on my winery book signing experiment, click below.

2. A slow day in the bookstore does not mean an unsuccessful book signing.

At my very first book signing, I had no idea what to expect. It was early afternoon on a Sunday, and the store was so quiet. Not quite dead, but only a trickle of people came in. I was at a table near the front door, so everyone walked by me on their way in and out. There were lots of people who didn't stop, or even make eye contact. (When I'm out shopping and someone is sitting behind a table, I'm usually one of these people, at least until I figure out whether that person is there to offer something I'm interested in. Therefore, I have absolutely no hard feelings towards these people.)

I had nothing to compare my sales number to that day, so I didn't feel especially impressed. By the end, I'd signed and sold fifteen books. It wasn't nothing, but it didn't feel that big. (Sadly, it remains my record) Still, it was a decent percentage of the small number of people who came through the store that day.

I guess you could say that all in all, this summer I learned that when it comes to book signings, you just never know. I had to go into each one prepared for the fact that I might sell nothing. One benefit of having no expectations is that you can't be disappointed.

Yes, it's a bummer when it happens. But I've decided to see those days, and that time spent, as an investment. My little book wasn't published by one of the Big Five publishers in New York, and no one is doing my marketing but me. While every author hopes that their book will shoot directly to the New York Times bestseller list, for most of us it takes a LOT of work to be even mildly successful. There are a lot of books out there, and most people have limited reading time and limited budgets!

I've made peace with the fact that this author thing is going to take a long time, but I have no intention of giving up. Yes, my numbers are tiny now - I have to start somewhere! I love writing books, so I'll tolerate the marketing part. That's the only way to make it work. I'm currently editing book number two, and hopefully it will also be published one of these days. If not, book number three (my favorite, but don't tell numbers one and two!) is already waiting for my edits, as well.

Just call me the Little Engine That Could. This mountain isn't going to stop me!

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