Wednesday, February 2, 2011

my first book signing and what i coulda, woulda, shoulda done.

coulda, woulda, shoulda... i hate those terms (for one because they are so grammaticaly incorrect!) but also because we can't change the past so why dwell on it? 

well, i just had my first book signing at a caribou coffee near Cleveland and i have two more book signings coming up in the next two weeks so i think this time its pretty vital that i consider the coulda, woulda, shoulda's and make sure i do better next time. 

i'm not going to lie.  this book signing was an absolute flop.  i don't think it could have gone more poorly (okay, the customers could have thrown muffin tops at my head) but other than that i think i can only go up from here.  unless i stay stagnant, which would be bad, so i'm going to analyze the event and figure out where i can improve.  and what better place to do that than right here on my blog for you to all learn from my mistakes as well?

here's what i did at the book signing and what i coulda, woulda, shoulda done...

1. i planned too much in the hours leading up to the book signing.  i wanted to get my exercising in, plus run an errand, plus hit up the samples at costco (because its a saturday-family tradition and since i was going to be away from my family all afternoon i wanted to at least do that) then i had to get ready and stop at the post office (longest line ever!) and even though i wanted to be at caribou coffee fifteen minutes early i got there right at 1pm (which was the starting time) and i was flustered!
coulda gone to the post office AFTER the book signing.
woulda foregone exercising or costco this one saturday.
shoulda taken a map to avoid getting lost!
2. when i got to caribou i went right up to the worker behind the counter and told her i was there for a book signing.  she pointed to the designated table in the back and i headed over to set up my stuff.
coulda introduced myself more properly.
woulda asked to speak to the person who set up the book signing with me in the first place.
shoulda asked them if i could put a sign up at the counter announcing my book signing (since my table was in the back).

3. as i started setting up all my things i scanned the coffee shop to see who was there.  the place was packed with middle aged men.  (the main crowd being a group of portuguese men playing cards at a nearby table.)  my immediate response? "great.  none of these guys are going to want to buy my book."
coulda asked the portuguese men more questions about their game and where they were from (especially when one of them asked me if i was having a boy or a girl... [i'm pregnant.]) 
woulda found out if they had any daughters or nieces between the ages of 12-17.
shoulda offered them some cards with my information on them just in case.

4.  Once my table was set up and i had nothing else to do, i tried to look busy by writing my blog address on the back of my promotional cards.  I tried making eye contact and smiling at everyone who walked into the cafe.  but i felt like a desperate little puppy begging for someone - anyone - to come talk to me.  when a blond haired lady came within talking distance of my table i practically jumped out at her and asked her if she had teenage daughters.  she said no and walked away.
coulda approached people with a better opening line like, "Do you like to read?" More people like to read than have teenage daughters.
woulda positioned myself better at my table so that it wasn't such a stretch to talk to people.
shoulda gone up to the sugar table a few times to "put sugar" in my hot chocolate so that i could just talk to people there.

5.  After a while I got up from the table and took promotional cards around to a few of the younger looking people in the room. (my publisher suggested i do this if noone was coming to me.) I felt awkward and shy and barely said a thing as i passed them out.
coulda realized that I'm an adult and can act like one.  why am i so shy about this?  
woulda acted more proud about my book and let them know that its something they really need to read
shoulda had more conversation with them.  asked them questions.  gotten to know them.  after all, its a coffee shop. people go there for friendly conversation. 

6. When there were no available tables I invited a mother and her 20-something daughter to sit at my table (it was big and i wasn't using all the space.)  i was hoping i'd be able to have more conversation with them about the book.  but it turned out that they were meeting up at the coffee shop to discuss a fight they had gotten into and the fact that the daughter was moving out.  they were right next to me.  i heard every word. and they knew it. AWKWARD! i offered them a promotional card as they left and they kindly took it. 
coulda butted in with my own advice about their fight. (but really i would never do that.)
woulda told them that there is a part in my book about a mother and daughter fighting too! (that's a joke, i would never do that either.)
shoulda asked them if they were interested in buying my book rather than just asking if they wanted a promotional card. (but i don't know if i would have done that either... it was really awkward.) 

7. After a while I got so desperate that I just started offering people free chocolate hearts from my candy dish.  i got rejected there as well.  Not one person wanted my free candy! Not. One. Person.  It's FREE people!!
coulda bought the dove chocolate brand instead of Nestle. (Nestle just can't compete.)
woulda put a little sign up by the bows offering passers by to "help yourself." (maybe that would have gotten more people to the table.)
shoulda just saved my money and not offered chocolate hearts at all.  (i'm guessing that chocolate hearts don't go too well with a cappucino.)

8. At 3pm i packed up my things and told a young blond haired kid at the counter that i was leaving.  he had just barely gotten there and had no idea who i was but he smiled politely and said, "okay, bye!"  (now that i think about it, its a little bit hilarious that he probably thought i was just a customer informing him that i was done with my coffee and was ready to go.)  I called my husband the second i was in my car and somewhere between me complaining about waisting my time and laughing so hard at how horrible it all went, i burst into tears and told him i'd talk to him when i got home. 
coulda asked to talk to someone behind the counter that knew what was going on and thanked them for letting me come.
woulda processed the event out in my head before calling my husband so that he wasn't so worried about me.
shoulda sucked it up and realized that its not that its not the end of the world and life will go on.

9. i drove home frusterated with so many things.  frusterated that my book was published three months after we moved to an entirely new city. i have no extended family here.  and only a few close friends to support me in all of this.  i was frustrated with my publisher for scheduling the book signing at a coffee shop on a saturday afternoon.  teens and their mothers don't hang out at coffee shops on a saturday afternoon!  i was frustrated that i don't have a personality for selling things.  i'd rather be at home, writing a book than in a coffee shop trying to get people to buy it.
coulda stopped making excuses.
woulda stopped making excuses.
shoulda stopped mkaing excuses!

I'll let you know how the next one goes!


  1. Wow, you poor thing! That sounds like a Saturday from hell!

    But hey, at least you realize what you could've done differently, right? And we're supposed to learn from our experiences, right? So, there's your silver lining.

    Good luck with your next signings!

  2. *hugs*

    Oh, Natalie. This is something that truly scares me about trying to get published, this getting out there and trying to get people to read my work. Like you, I'm so not into sales. And selling myself!?

    But you've got one signing under your belt now, and I think you've made some great evaluations. That book I referenced in an earlier comment about marketing your work has some ideas that the author has found useful (and she's published 15 books). One of them is doing some of the stuff you said in your post that you wouldn't do.

    It's definitely out of my (and sounds like your) comfort zone.

    But so is having a baby ...

  3. i wish that i would've known!! would've come and helped you promote, promote, promote! good luck on the next one!

  4. I am sorry it was hard. :( I accidently ask whom I thought was a costco employee for a specific book when the lady slammed a book down and said I am an author here for a book signing. I felt so bad, I had no idea so I picked her book up and ask as many questions as I could and tried to make it a better experience. I saw her a month later signing at Barnes and Noble and she was so happy! I am certain you have many wonderful experiences ahead of you! Good luck. :D