I was scrolling through Facebook last week and saw that the day before my book signing at Treasure House Books and Gifts in Albuquerque another author had a signing scheduled... at a Barnes & Noble in Anchorage, Alaska. The reason I heard about this was because my nieces had attended the signing. I also discovered that fans had waited three hours in line to hear his book talk and get their books signed by him. The author was Christopher Paolini, author of the "Eragon" book series.
It seems to be a given that, once a writer gets their first book published, many people believe that they've "hit it big" and that they have received a huge advance and will have ever-growing royalty checks rolling in ever so often as their book series continues, especially after their books are optioned for a TV series or movie. And that the public gathers in the streets whenever the author appears in order to meet said author and get their books signed, even if it means standing in line for three hours.
I'm not going to lie and say that I haven't allowed my daydreams to wander in that direction, but the riches I've amassed as a relatively unknown author are certainly the ones that, I believe, most writers would cherish.
At my book signing, I didn't have fans lined up for three hours--or even three minutes--to meet me and have me sign their books. Many people who wandered in had never heard of me, although they did stop to pick up a bookmark and a cookie (yes, I bribe customers with cookies. Don't judge.) A few very graciously listened to me tell them about my books and then--wonder of wonders--picked up a copy to purchase. And I wondered if Paolini still did a happy dance in his mind when that happened.
Of course, Paolini doesn't have to work too hard to sell his books anymore. I'm sure he did when he first started out, but now his work is practically a household name (even if his own name isn't.) No, my books don't sell themselves; I have to sell them. I'm in the position of being a matchmaker of sorts... I see a person and I introduce them to a book they've never seen or heard of before and convince them that they will have a great time reading it. When I succeed, it's a moment of triumph for many reasons, mainly that my characters (Corrie, Rick, and J.D.) might find a new friend in that reader who had decided to purchase their story.
I didn't sell a huge amount of books (though the bookstore owner graciously told me that my signings are among the most successful ones that they host), but I did sell books, talk to a lot of wonderful people, and gave away many bookmarks that will, I hope, inspire more sales in the future. But it was a success in that I was able to do what I love and find readers who love what I do.
I had a woman come charging through the door, not long after my event started, her eyes alight and her smile from ear to ear. Not only was she eager to buy two books in the series and have me sign them, she pulled out one of the other books in the series from her purse that she had purchased elsewhere and asked me to sign it. That was a first for me and it made me feel extremely grateful and humbled. Many books I sell at signings are impulse buys for first-time Black Horse Campground readers, but this lady had already read a couple of my books and was hooked on the series. And if she had a copy that wasn't signed, then it was one that I didn't personally sell to her... she had bought it from another source because she couldn't wait to read it.
That's a feeling I can't begin to describe.