Saturday, May 18, 2013

The Truth Behind Book Signings

 by L. C. Hayden

Leave a comment this weekend and you’ll have a chance to win a free copy of When the Past Haunts You.

Ahhh, the infamous book signing filled with people, laughter, and glamour. This is the moment the authors shine—or do we? Let’s examine the facts.

First, I’ve always said that authors must dress up for the event. Call me old school if you want, but we’re representing the bookstore and all authors, right?  In my everyday world, I hardly ever wear make up, but I will to a signing. I wear church clothes and spend time grooming my hair.

My efforts have paid off. In Odessa, a man bought three copies of my books because he thought I was very pretty—did I tell you I like this man? Had I shown up with torn jeans and a t-shirt, that wouldn’t have happened.

The next day, I went to Wichita Falls, as a tourist, not an author. Since it was very hot and humid and I was just bumming around anyway, I decided to wear shorts. I didn’t care that my naturally curly hair looked like I plugged my finger into the electrical outlet, and my hair stood up.

As we were driving along, my husband, Rich, suggested we stop at Books-a-Million and sign stock. I was hesitant, but agreed.

The manager was very sweet and said she'd love to have me sign the stock. Then she proceeded to set up a table and announced that famous author--didn't I tell you I like that manager?--L. C. Hayden was in the store signing books. I had shorts on, terrible hair, and no make-up. I felt miserable and ugly. Who would want to buy a book from an author who looked like a scarecrow?

Within one hour, I sold out.

So much for having to look pretty.


Ugly or beautiful, the author needs to be on time. In New Hampshire, I had back-to-back signings. Although I had downloaded maps of the stores I was going to visit, I still asked for directions. I only had an hour to reach the next store and I certainly didn't want to be late. I was told to get on the freeway and at exit one the huge mall where I was to sign would loom before me.

Armed with new knowledge, I drove away and did as told. I took exit one, saw the mall, and noticed that its name did not coincide with the one I had. Being a smart cookie, I took out my cell.

“You’re where?  I haven't even heard of that mall!" the bookseller told me. "Now what directions did they give you?"

I told them about exit one.

“Oh no. You’re going to have to get back on the freeway and take exit two."
Due to construction, in order to get back to the freeway, I had to drive around several blocks before picking up the freeway. By now, I only had ten minutes to get to the signing on time. I hurried as much as I could, but traffic fought me all of the way. I finally reached exit two. Sure enough, I saw the mall—the same mall, opposite side.


At a recent California signing where I was proudly promoting my latest release, When the Past Haunts You, a lady approached me and stared at the promotional poster featuring me and my mystery novel. She studied my glamour shot, then looked at me, and back again at the picture. She turned to me and said, “Darling, that is such a nice picture of you. Too bad you don’t look like that.”


People do say the darnest things at signings. At a Houston signing, I met a very nice lady. She had checked out at least three Hayden backlist novels from the library, read them, and loved them. When she heard I was signing in Houston, she decided she’d attend. About five minutes before the signing ended, she arrived. She breathed heavily through her mouth. Her flushed features told me she had been running. “I just drove two-and-a-half hours to get to your signing,” she said gasping for air. “I’ve simply got to have all of your books.”

Naturally, I felt thrilled and honored. As we talked, my mind raced furiously. I wanted to write something very special on her book. Then, because she planned to purchase each of my titles, I had to think of several different things to say. We had chatted for about five minutes longer when she glanced at her watch, grabbed a copy of each of my books and dashed off.

“Excuse me,” I called her back. “Do you want me to sign those books?”

Her eyes widened and her eyebrows arched. “Heavens no!  I don’t like my books trashed.”


At another signing, this time for my nonfiction inspirational book When Angels Touch You, I walked into the store and saw a poster with a hand-drawn Happy Face, my name, and title of book, plus information on the signing. The store’s manager apologized for the poster. I told her it was cute. She said, “You don’t understand. I had a beautiful poster made. I want to show it to you.”

She took me to the back of the store where she had hidden the beautiful poster because of its one tiny mistake. The designer wrote Where Angels Touch instead of When.


During some of my signings, most of the customers look at everything but me, but exceptions exist. These brave souls approach me and my heart beats with anticipation. I’m about to make a sale. I smile and face Brave Souls. Then they ask me the Number One Question all authors get asked, “Where’s the bathroom?”

And that’s the truth behind book signings.


Leave a comment this weekend and you’ll have a chance to win a free copy of When the Past Haunts You.

L. C. Hayden is the author of the award winning Harry Bronson mystery series. Her latest mystery When the Past Haunts You is a finalist for Left Coast Crime’s Watson Award. Ill Conceived
, the first in a new series, will be released in June. Visit her website at


SandyG265 said...


The only book signing I've ever been to was one for Janet Evanovich. We had to get a wristband to even stand in line. Then she was an hour late so we wound up spending 4 hours in line just to get a signature on a book we'd already paid for. She wasn't even talking to anyone. That pretty much put me off of going to signings.

Kath said...

Wow! People do say the darndest things!
And there's no way I believe on your worst day you looked like a scarecrow.

After that one customer's evaluation of your glamour shot, I think I'll save my money and find my worst snapshot. Then if I one day finally find myself at my own book signing, maybe a reader will say, "Wow! You look way better than the photo."
Or Not?

J. D. Webb said...

I have a sign I display at my signings.
Yes, I'm the author
No, I don't work here.
Yes, I know where the bathroom is.
Do you like mysteries?

Creates a lot of comment.

JJM said...

Oh, you poor thing, I say, honestly sympathetic even though I'm laughing like mad at your stories. So much for the glamorous life of an author, eh? I've never gone to a "signing" as such, although I admit I have a tidy set of signed books I acquired simply because I cannot walk past a table where an author sits forlornly, books stacked high and pen at the ready, with no one else sparing her/him so much as a passing glance ...--Mario R.

Helen Ginger said...

Love J. D.'s sign.

Signings can be fun, with lots of readers stopping by and getting copies of your book. Or they can be depressing and lonely. Authors are optimists. We always hope for fun signings.

Fran Stewart said...

I had someone once tell me that she wasn't going to buy any of my books because she'd "found most of them on Amazon--used--dirt cheap." <>

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Kari Wainwright said...

I love to meet authors at book signings and thank goodness, have never had to ask for directions to the bathroom.

Anonymous said...

Think my husband's favorite question when he's signing books is "Are you the author?" Not sure why they would think he's sitting at the signing table with books and pen in front of him if he wasn't.


pennyt said...

I live in a small town (that now doesn't even have a bookstore) so we don't get author signings here. I still enjoyed your stories of the "perils of book signings"!! Thanks for such a fun read.

Unknown said...

Penny, I too live in a city where the only bookstore is Barnes & Noble, no indies. Sigh. Glad you enjoyed my book signings misadventures.

Unknown said...

Hi Janet,
Whoa. I too would be discouraged to go to a book signing if that happened to me. Normally, they're not like that. Wish you better luck on future book signings.

Unknown said...

I loved it. I absolutely loved it! Get the worst picture of me (and there's plenty of those!) have them put it up at the signing, and when my readers see me, they'll say, "Wow, she's so much better looking than the picture!" Thanks for the suggestion and the chuckle!

Unknown said...

J. D.,
I love your sign. If you turn around and not look, can I copy it?

Unknown said...

Glad you laughed at my stories and I'm super glad you can't pass a table where there's an author signing a book. You're my kind of person!

Unknown said...

Hi Helen,
You've got that one right. Authors do tend to be optimistic. It's the only way to be.

Unknown said...

Hi Fran,
I hope you told that person that Amazon was alright as long as it was your books she was looking for.

Unknown said...

Hey Keri,
Get with the program. You've got to ask at least one author where the bathroom is.

Unknown said...

Tell you husband he's not alone. After talking to a possible buyer for fifteen, twenty minutes, he says, "Oh, you're the author."
Geesh--or sigh.

Liz said...

The mall story is great.

Best wishes for success of your books and signings.

Dru said...

You guys are brave.

Whenever I attend a multi-people book signing, I always go first to the author who doesn't have anyone in her line.

L. C. Hayden said...

Yay, for you, Dru. I know that the author who doesn't have anyone in her line sure appreciates it.

L. C. Hayden said...

Thanks, Liz, for wishing me success on my books and signings. It's always been my dream to achieve success. Glad you liked the mall story. It's cute now, but it sure was frustrating back then.

Jacqueline Seewald said...

Hi, L.C.,

I love your description of your book signings! I rarely do them myself. So I don't have any good stories to offer. I'd love to know more about how you get bookstores to accept your books. We'll have to talk one day! Congrats on the new book. Wishing you every success.

Jen J. Danna said...

Hilarious! As someone who is just starting out (book releases in just over 2 weeks), these stories are gold. The only signing I've been to was one for Kelly Armstrong and it was a zoo... but it was Kelly Armstrong. No such expectations here.

Thanks for the stories and the advice that comes with them!

L. C. Hayden said...

Hi Jacqueline,
Glad you loved my stories about book signings. Makes for good memories, if not frustrating ones!
Getting books into the bookstores if you're not published by the Big Five is a time consuming effort. You need to contact each store. It's also very important that you get to know the indies bookstore owners. Besides being powerful, they're a bunch of nice folks.

L. C. Hayden said...

Hi Jen,
You're more than welcome. Glad you enjoyed the stories and thought them hilarious. That's the thing about signings, no matter what, always look for the silver lining in them. It's there.
And mega congrats on your new release. You'll need to tell me where it's being sold, and I'll be glad to support you. If I luck out, I can be your first customer.

Janis Patterson said...

Laughed all the way through this post - somewhat ruefully, admittedly! This has all happened to me (and probably most every other author) save that my hair turns into lank strings instead of curling... Enjoyed this very much!

Katreader said...

I love it! lol. Personally, as long as the author seems nice, I could care less what he or she looks like...although it would be appreciated if she was clean! I enjoy attending book signings and am grateful to the authors for doing them...I also love having my books "trashed"! LOL!

L. C. Hayden said...

Thanks for taking the time to post. It's nice that we can laugh about these things!
So your hair turns into strings, eh? You and I together are Curly Strings. Nice to make your acquaintance.

L. C. Hayden said...

Hi Katreader,
That's the way it should be. It doesn't matter what we wear, how we look like. It's what's inside that really counts. Thanks for expressing that thought and for the post.

Patricia Stoltey said...

I got that "where's the bathroom" question so many times at B&N I considered putting a little sign up on my table. :D

June Shaw said...

L.C., really enjoyed your post! I can relate to many of them. One thing you suggested to someone that I'll need to try. At another author's signing, I will need to ask, "Where's the bathroom?"

Thanks for the chuckle.

Marilyn Levinson said...

Loved reading about your book signing experiences. Sometimes we're surprised and many people buy our books. Sometimes we're surprised and no one buys one book.

Warren Bull said...

I like to dress as one of my characters so that if everyone ignores my book at least I have something yo talk with people about

Nancy G. Westg said...

Hi, L. C. Loved the humor! Like all authors, I guess, I've had good signings and some not-so-good. Next time, I'd like to use J.D.Webb's sign and add a few embellishments. After I'm sure where the bathroom is.
(: Nancy G. West

Kathleen Asay said...

Thanks for the post. I just had my first "signing" which turned out to be speaking as well. But since only friends came, it was no problem. After reading your experiences, I'm better prepared for next time.

L. C. Hayden said...

Hi Patricia,
I like your idea for a sign. Can I borrow it? ;>)

L. C. Hayden said...

Hey June!
Go for it. Ask the author at the next signing where the bathroom is--just don't tell them I sent you!

L. C. Hayden said...

Oh yeah. Book signings are definitely one surprise after another. Makes for an interesting life.

L. C. Hayden said...

Hi Warren,
What a great idea--dressing as your character, but I do have a small problem with that. My series character is Harry Bronson, a block of a man. Seeing that I'm a female who never made it to 5 feet, I think you can see my problem there.

L. C. Hayden said...

Hi Nancy,
Let me know how J. D. Webb's sign works out. I love the comment you made about the bathroom.

L. C. Hayden said...

Welcome to the Wacky World of Book Signings. Mega congrats on your first signing. Here's to many more. (I'm raising my drink as a toast to you. Okay, okay. So it's just water. The intent is there.

Linda Brue said...

Authors get a big pat on the back from me for being brave enough to go out to promote their books even if they are not the outgoing type. The idea of public speaking makes me shudder! I've been to quite a few local author signings, none for particulary big names, and they were all quite fun. As for asking the author where the bathroom is: give them directions, and remind them that if they need something to read while so engaged, your book is a good "bathroom read!" LOL!

L. C. Hayden said...

I love it! A "bathroom read!" That's really clever. You don't mind if I try it, do you?