I could tell you about my first booksigning as Leigh Ellwood, how I sold ten books in a three-hour gig at an adult bookstore with two author friends. We learned to schedule gigs like that during military pay day weekend, when their business spiked.
I could tell you about the first time I signed at the Philadelphia Book Festival with my romance books on display. A balloon animal guy from the nearby kids museum, called the Please Touch Museum, came up to look. He told us, "Well, I don't promote that kind of touching." Later on a woman came up and scolded us for having candy at our booth, and accused us of luring children with it. Uh, what? o.O
Lady, I ended up eating most of it. I also sold a lot of books that year.
Oh, and the time I split a booth at BEA with Laura Baumbach, Ally Blue, and some other MM authors. Laura had a huge, sexy banner of a guy (man parts strategically shadowed) with her MLR Press logo. A BEA person came up and said, "We're getting complaints about your banner." We pointed to the indie author across us - his banner displayed the thonged backside of a woman. We had to stare at those gigantic ass cheeks all weekend. Did anybody complain about that signage? No.
Laura got to keep her banner up.
I could tell you about my first time at the Rainbow Book Fair in NYC, when I had M-Squared on display. A guy saw the cover and freaked out because he hated hated hated snakes. I told him there were no snakes in the book, but he didn't care. I even offered to tape over the cover if he still wanted to buy the book. No sale.
I have stories with frustrating and not-so-happy endings, too.
There's the time I went to a group signing in Maryland, done in conjunction with a seafood festival. The people organizing it put us in a downtown bookstore, while everybody on the planet was at the actual seafood festival a mile away. I thought we would be set up there, you know, where the people were? I learned from that experience to investigate the venue and setup before agreeing to travel out of state to an event. I sat in a customer-empty bookstore for six hours and didn't eat a single fried clam.
There's the time I attended a book fair closer to home and the organizers had me share a table with an author who didn't write in my genre. I had just set up my side of the table when he lumbered up and SLAMMED down this big-ass trifold display that knocked over all my stuff and effectively blocked my books from one angle. He didn't smile, didn't say two words to me the entire time until the end, when he looked my way and sneered, "This place is f*cking dead."
For the record, I am nice. I am not the most extroverted person in the world, and at time busy events are hard for me. I do them because I want to come out and be social. If you are an introvert, you know the challenge. Anyway, from that experience I learned to pay for a full table unless I personally knew the author who wanted to split one, and we would create a nice display.
Why all the stories? I understand some indie author events are getting shit these days, with people claiming they are rip-offs. I can't vouch for every single event organizer, but I share my experience. To be specific:
I have attended several Romance Ink events (one TNEE and several AADs) and saw multitudes of readers at each and every one. Now, I may not have sold out of books at each event, but the event is what the author makes of it. A good organizer gets the venue and the table for you, and you close the deal with the readers. It would be nice one day to be in a position where I can post on Twitter "Hey, I'll be here," and people will actually show up because I said that.
Pictures posted on the Internet tell stories, but often it's the one the person posting wants to convey. Anybody can upload a picture of an empty ballroom with a lone author fiddling at her table - it doesn't mean the event was an overall failure. You're looking at two seconds of a multi-hour gig, what else happened? Are you looking at the picture in the proper context or is somebody telling you what to see? If you have concerns about a signing or con, talk to people who were there, then talk to more people. Remember that results will always vary.
Will I attend a signing again? I never say never. With the kidlet growing up and doing weekend things, it will be harder to do. I wouldn't mind regular readings close to home, though. I've scouted several possible locations to hold reading salons around town. I know there are plenty of writers in the area, just need to put it together.
After I finish writing.