Tuesday, April 22, 2008

How Not to Do a Booksigning

Friday night I went to an event at a local mega-bookstore billed as a discussion led by a certain nonfiction author. I won't embarrass the author or mention the book title, which was clever enough to attract my attention. Since I'd like to do a similar event to get the word out about We the Purple, I left my cozy little mountain enclave, reluctantly drove down the pass, and took the Evil I (Interstate 25) to the bookstore.

Big mistake.

At 7 p.m., when the author was scheduled to begin her talk, a videographer was still fiddling with the A/V equipment, which he continued to do for the next 10 minutes. Meanwhile, a dozen or so people in the audience politely waited for the technical drama to end and the book event to begin. Finally, the videographer was good to go. Everyone readjusted themselves in their seats and turned their attention toward the author, who stood behind the podium and appeared ready to talk.

But no.

She just stood there. For the next 10 minutes. Not saying a significant word. I had invited a friend to go to the event with me. "I'm losing it," she said. "Me too," I said. Those proved to be the most significant, and perhaps only, words spoken for the next 5 minutes.

Get that? It was now 7:25, a full 25 minutes into a one-hour event, and nothing had happened.

The bookstore support person, who had been standing at attention for the entire 25 minutes, did not do or say a thing. You have to visualize this scene. A videographer in the back, waiting. An author at the podium, waiting. A staffer on the sidelines, waiting. A dozen people in the seats, waiting.

And then the author took a breath, as if to speak. We sat up straight, anticipating the best—the beginning of the event, finally. "I'm still expecting two people," she said to the staffer, holding up 2 fingers in case, I suppose, the staffer mistakenly thought she meant "too people."

Whatever. We left.

At first I was ticked off, having left my cozy little mountain enclave, reluctantly driven down the pass, and taken the Evil I (Interstate 25) to the bookstore.

But then I reminded myself of the cardinal rules of any event:
  • Start on time.

  • Set up the bloody A/V equipment well in advance.

  • Start on time.

  • Don't wait for latecomers.

  • Start on time.

  • Show the people who are already there that you value their time.

  • Start on time.

  • Don't depend on the bookstore staff to do your job, which is to:

  • Start on time.

So now we all know what's going to happen the next time I have a booksigning: something is going to prevent me from starting on time. But I can guarantee it won't be because I'm waiting for latecomers. And I can guarantee that instead of standing at the podium looking clueless, I'll be explaining the delay to the audience. I may still look clueless, of course, but at least the audience will be clued in.

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