Saturday, December 6, 2008

Not Tonight, Josephine

Photos from library book signing in Yukon, OK.
Top, Pat Browning; Bottom, Jefferson Spivey

By Pat Browning

Thursday night’s group book signing at the library was a washout for ABSINTHE OF MALICE. I didn’t sell a single book. Not. One.

Nobody was selling. There were more authors than customers. Lots of adults with kids, but mostly they were checking out books. The most popular spot of all was the cookie and cider table.

I had a table in front so I got to watch people come and go. A couple of observations: 1) Religious books, children’s books and inspirational/self-help books drew the most browsers; and 2) Every one (all 5 of them) who stopped at my table picked up the book and turned it over to read the back summary and blurbs. Another author actually flipped through the book and read a page or two.

So – although nobody was buying, I’d say they are readers. That’s exactly how I pick up a new book – read the back blurbs to find out what the book is about, then flip through a few pages to get a feel for the writing style.

The author who flipped through the book did compliment me on the cover: “It has character. It’s not generic.”

I should have mentioned: “You can say the same about the book.” Ah, well, too late. Next time.

Nothing is ever a total loss. The other authors went all out to decorate their tables, with posters, souvenirs and giveaways, so I picked up all kinds of ideas for “next time.”
I met an author who is willing to go in with me to do a writing workshop. We bounced the idea off the head librarian, who loved it, but said we would have to wait until spring. Winter in Oklahoma can be brutal and unpredictable. It’s too much work to get a program together, then have to cancel because of snow and ice.

Okay. If I get back to work, I can have Book #2 ready for a spring workshop.
The highlight of the evening was meeting a cowboy who is also a writer and a knife maker. Jefferson Spivey is a legend. He garnered national attention by riding horseback from coast to coast in 1968. In 1984 he rode horseback from Canada down the Rocky Mountain chain to Mexico. In 1986 he rode across the badlands of Namibia, Southwest Africa. Early in his trail-mapping career he invented the Sabertooth knife.

Spivey easily had the most interesting table decorations, and I bought a copy of his book, WIND DRINKER. It’s part journal, part narrative. The photos alone are worth the price of the book. The knives he made are works of art, and collector’s items.

What a source and resource for a mystery writer! His book has all kinds of interesting information about guns and knives. If I have a question, I can pick up the phone or send him an e-mail. He lives right here in town.


Chester Campbell said...

I know the feeling, Pat. I've been invited to do signings a couple of evenings at the Main Library in downtown Nashville and looked at mostly empty chairs. I had one person besides the librarian and my wife on one occasion, three people the other time. I sold a book or two but that was it. This is a large library, and the sessions were held in a corner nook where nobody would be unless they came specifically for me. On the other hand, I've done a couple of signings at the Southwest Branch Library on the outskirts of Pensacola and did great. They sat me at a table right in front of the entrance at mid-afternoon. You never know.

Jean Henry Mead said...

That's another reason why I gave up personal book touring, Pat. I sold exactly 40 books at my first signing party and it went downhill from there. I'm quite content now to stay home and sell my books via the internet. My newly released book is number one in sales in multi format because I spent so much time promoting it via Twitter and the other sites. And I'm currently in the middle of a blog tour. It's been down to 5 below zero here this week and there's no way I'm going to trudge around in the wind and snow to hopefully sell a book or two.


Anonymous said...

I'm exhausted already with this promotion stuff. Not as young as I used to be. LOL

My publisher is younger and a ball of fire. He personally went on a "book tour" in Oregon Friday and placed 12 of my books in BOOKSTORES. Blew me away.

Jean, what exactly does "number one in sales in multi format" mean? How does that translate to numbers of books sold, and what group or company keeps track?

Still hanging on the ropes today, but cleaning up the mess so I can begin writing again.


Auntie Knickers said...

Oh well, better luck next time, and at any rate you've interested me in Absinthe of Malice! (Maybe it's a dry town and the likker turned them off???) At my local library, in the fall we have a series of four author talks-with-signings, co-sponsored by Sisters in Crime. It appears to me that a lot of the people who come buy at least one book and often more. It's only one author per event, and they talk first, which introduces the work to anyone who didn't already know about the author.

Kaye Wilkinson Barley - Meanderings and Muses said...

Pat - You are a wiz at this stuff! You're a natural with your personality,so don't give up. Plus - the book is great!!!!!
Hang in there - between you and that handsome publisher of yours, you're gonna do great.

Anonymous said...

Hey, Auntie Knickers:

I think it was the weather and the economy. Each author had at least one visitor who appeared to be a friend or relative, just hanging out.

I took a quick look at your blog. Lots of good reading there. I hardly know where to start!
Pat Browning

Anonymous said...


You're the best buddy! Thanks for your encouragement.

I'm getting your (Penny's)book in the mail Monday.


Jean Henry Mead said...

Multi format means various forms of ebooks (CDs, downloads, etc.) and number one means the top selling book.

Terrie Farley Moran said...


Please don't be discouraged.

Library patrons may be readers but the generally read books they borrow for free.

You are going to do just fine next time out. We've all had discouraging situations. Hang in there.


Anonymous said...


Thanks! I wasn't discouraged, just bummed out. LOL It's all part of the game, and these are hard times.


Jaden Terrell said...

You're right, Pat. Signings are tough. Parnell Hall does a song about it: "Signing at a Waldenbooks, and Nobody is There."

Libraries seem like they'd be especially difficult, since, as Terrie pointed out, people generally go there to borrow rather than buy.

But congratulations on the workshop! That would be fun.

Anonymous said...

Hi, Beth:

I heard Parnell sing that song at Bouchercon-Las Vegas (2004). Cracked up the audience.

Libraries are good if you're doing a program. But just signing doesn't cut as much ice anymore. Maybe the novelty finally wore off. (-: