You don’t know humility until you don’t sell a single book at a book signing. I’ve been there. It’s awful.
I’ve heard other authors speak of similar experiences. Nearly every author has a tale of a lonely book signing when the only customer was sweet Aunt Jane. And of course, we all told Aunt Jane, “You really don’t have to buy the book.” But she did. She did because she’s sweet Aunt Jane.
I’ve suffered several lonely book signings. I’ve learned how to pretend to be busy, straightening and re-straightening the tablecloth. I’ve appreciated long bathroom breaks and calling it a day an hour (or two) early. And I’ve learned to shake it off when that one customer approaches the booth only to ask for directions to the audio book section. (Heartbreaking!)
The truth is that I would write whether or not I ever sold a book. (And, they haven’t all been bad. Most of my signings have been successful and quite fun!) But I’d be a liar if I didn’t admit that I’ve always dreamed of being J.K. Rowling. For me, speaking to a packed room of readers would be as much as a rush as hitting the winning home-run at Fenway. Yet, I’ve learned that the most powerful feeling in the world is having ONE person truly want to buy your book at the very moment when you feel like you couldn’t even give it away for free.
So, the next time you’re walking through a bookstore, and you see an author straightening and re-straightening a tablecloth… if you can afford it, buy their book. You can re-gift it. You can use it to level that wobbly chair. You can use it as a coaster for your frosty Friday night beer. It doesn’t matter what you do with the book… you’ll still be a hero.
And you never know… your autographed copy of WOLVES UNDER A JAMAICAN MOON may someday be a literary collectible.