Yesterday I went to my first ever multi-author book signing event.
As a book nerd, this is made infinitely cooler by the fact that I was attending as an author instead of just Fan Girl-ing over all the amazing writers in attendance. It was a book signing with the likes of Jennifer L. Armentrout, Jamie McGuire and Kristen Proby so I went into the event totally prepared for anonymity.
In the weeks leading up to this trip I’d see readers and fans posting pictures of the books they were bringing with them to have signed and I’d think Someday, I’ll see a reader post a picture of my book as one of those she wants signed. I knew it wouldn’t be this event, because it was my first as a newbie author. I saw this event not as a chance to sell books (because seriously, no one in Philly knows who I am) but to be a part of the excitement… to skate the edges of the book frenzy and bask in the euphoria that a reader feels when she meets her favorite author. I’ve felt that euphoria before, with Susanna Kearsley and Nalini Singh, Jennifer Probst and countless others. I’ve been breathless and giddy and babbling incoherent nonsense about how much I loved their characters. So the idea of being a part of that, even just as an observer with the prime real estate of the view from table four, felt like the raddest thing I might ever do.
So we trekked to Philadelphia… yes, in the dead of winter… yes, with an ill-conceived wardrobe made up of fabrics with far too fine a weave to be in any way warming. We woke up early and ate at a communal breakfast table with authors I adore (none of which recognized me). I changed into my signing ensemble, curled my hair and put on my favorite lipstick. I watched as the more famous authors amongst the crowd came into the room. These ladies are incredibly gracious and kind, but they’re also super famous in this sphere and they walk with a special kind of aura that draws the eye like visiting royalty. I wished there was music so at least my nervous fidgeting could have been coordinated along with a snappy beat. They kept announcing the number of minutes until they opened the doors to the hundreds of fans who’d been camped out since the morning. Five minutes, then three, then one…
And then the door opened, and I met Hannah. Hannah was the first person in line that morning. Hannah ran right to me. ME… at table four! Hannah was bright and enthuisiastic and she loved Party Girl and Landon and wondered who Max would end up with in book two. I was so overwhelmed that anyone even knew who I was, that even just the memory of it now makes me want to cry. Hannah was followed by Gianna, and Heather, Debi, Stephanie, three different Amy’s and more Jennifers than I can count. There were women I’m in book groups with on social media. There were more teenagers who’s mothers thanked me for writing a story clean enough for them to read together. There were women with Doc Martens and gauge earrings. There were older women with book carts and young ladies who talked so fast about my characters I could barely keep up. There were people who stood in line for the bigger author nearby but then we’d strike up a conversation about vampires or a YA series we both loved. An hour later they’d come back from the book store with a copy of Party Girl for me to sign. Going in I thought, if I can sell five books I’ll be thrilled. We sold fifty-two. Some of the New York Time’s Bestsellers in the room had people waiting in line for five hours to meet them and I’m sure fifty-two books would be devastating for them. It was, legitimately one of the coolest days of my life.
Before this trip one of my author-friends suggested I have something to hand out besides books. “You know,” she said, “so even if nobody buys a book you can still give them some candy or a pen.” I decided to hand out quote cards. I picked my favorite quote from Party Girl and gave it to everyone who came by. People would look at it at in confusion (this is not a regular giveaway item, clearly) and I’d tell them “Go put that on your fridge, read it to yourself when you’re having a bad day.”
I laugh at the irony that I chose a quote about courage. It took courage to send this book out to New York. It took courage to self publish it even when every publisher in New York told me flat out, it wouldn’t sell. Had it not been for courage that book would still be sitting on my computer. Had it not been for courage, for the willingness to feel awkward and uncomfortable and sit at table four without a single person stopping by I wouldn’t have met Hannah… or Gianna, or all those Jennifers. I wouldn’t have the utter thrill of being the reason for someone’s book euphoria. I wouldn’t have had any of the joy that this publishing journey has taken me on over the last year. I think John Wayne is famous for saying that Courage isn’t the absence of fear. Courage is feeling the fear but saddling up anyway.
I hope you’ll remember both these quotes the next time you consider trying something new. I hope you’ll remember that there’s no shame in being the awkward new kid. Everyone is new at some point. Everyone is awkward at times. You shouldn’t let a fear of being either keep you from trying something you’re excited about. xo, Rachel