Tuesday, October 26, 2010
By Scott Nicholson
I’ve been in the writing game for 14 years now, and I’ve acted like a professional for most of them, though I’ve done some dumb stuff.
As part of the slog, I’ve done probably 120 to 150 store signings, maybe more. That was back in the days when your book came out and you went around like a madman trying to cram in as many stores as possible during the 30 days before the next wave of books came out and you got pushed off the shelves.
Looking back, it was a bit of an Amway model, where you’re hustling for the publisher and making a couple of quarters per book sold. Of course, you rarely earn out the advance so in essence you’re primarily hoping to keep good enough sales numbers so you don’t get dumped by the publisher. And, boy, for all their talk of protecting the literary values of America, they will drop you like a cold dog turd if your numbers don’t please them, even if you are the reincarnation of Jane Austen.
Signings are fun, but they are also funny. Usually signings are just plain lonely, as bookstore traffic diminished noticeably over the years I worked for New York. But sometimes they were just plain weird. Here’s the top three weird moments that I can remember.
I’d set up a signing in the next county, at a little downtown newstand that sold more girlie mags than books. I arrived and said “I’m Scott Nicholson and I’m here to sign books.” The person behind the counter said they hadn’t gotten the books in, though I could see a couple dozen stacked right on the counter beside us. I asked her to call the manager but they didn’t connect, and I rolled my eyes toward the books several times so she could take a hint. “Those are mine,” I said. I honestly think she thought I was trying to steal them. Finally I decided the place was so weird I wouldn’t sell any books anyway, so I took off. Later I came to believe she didn’t know what a “book signing” was and that I was somehow going to damage their nice new books by scribbling in them with a pen.
Another time I was pimping the anthology “Writers of the Future XV,” for which I’d won an international writing prize. The contest (which is a great one for new speculative fiction writers, BTW) is sponsored by the late L. Ron Hubbard of Scientology fame, to maintain his standing as a pulp icon. A man came up to me and asked if I were Hubbard. To which I should have replied, “Yes, that’s why I am sitting here pushing books instead of running my religion.” I told him I wasn’t, he told me he once saw William Shatner in a hotel lobby, and he left without buying a book. I wished I had told him I was Hubbard. At least I’d have had someone standing beside the table, and, besides, maybe he would have joined my religion.
My favorite, though, was when a guy kept sidling by the table, back and forth a few times, always keeping a safe distance and glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. Finally, the guy comes up and says in a conspiratorial whisper, “Are you the author?” I responded in the affirmative, thinking I’d finally reeled one in, but he promptly fled for the exit. Five minutes later, he comes back in and heads straight for me. I’m thinking maybe he doesn’t like supernatural books and he’s going to lay a cross on my forehead or something, such was the determination in his eyes.
Instead, he flips a $10 bill at me, says, “Here,” and walks back out without even taking a book or giving a backward glance. I still don’t know what to make of that one. Maybe he thought I was a charity case, a poor object of pity, or maybe it was his way of supporting the arts. At any rate, that was the most money I ever earned from a book signing.
Actually, this was the same signing where I opened four copies of my books to find the text of a lousy romance novel tucked in between my covers, but that’s another story for another day.
My new crime thriller Disintegration launches on Nov. 1 for 99 cents! With your help, it has a good chance to hit the Top 100 and double your chances of winning a Kindle. If you want a free advance copy and agree to review it by Nov. 1, please email me at hauntedcomputer AT yahoo.com
Scott Nicholson is author of 12 novels, including the thrillers Speed Dating with the Dead, Drummer Boy, Forever Never Ends, The Skull Ring, As I Die Lying, Burial to Follow ,and They Hunger. His revised novels for the U.K. Kindle are Creative Spirit, Troubled, and Solom. He’s also written four comic series, six screenplays, and more than 60 short stories. His story collections include Ashes, The First, Murdermouth: Zombie Bits, and Flowers.
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I just wanted to say thanks to Scott for stopping by my little bloggy blog! Go buy his books!