I'm James Maxey, the author of numerous novels of fantasy and science fiction. I use this site to discuss a wide range of topics, with a heavy emphasis on cranky, uninformed rants about politics and religion and other topics that polite people attempt to avoid. For anyone just wanting to read about my books, I maintain a second blog, The Prophet and the Dragon, where I keep the focus solely on my fiction. I also have a webpage where both blogs stream, with more information about all my books, at jamesmaxey.net.


Tuesday, April 24, 2007

Frustrations in the life of the young novelist...

I stopped at a bookstore yesterday and left my phone number with the folks at the information desk in the center of the store, hoping to arrange a signing. I came out of work today and checked my cell phone and WOOHOO! I had a message. Alas, it wasn't from the bookstore. It may be that other writers have vastly different experiences, but my experience as a novelist who isn't yet a household name is that people at bookstores routinely ignore your emails and disregard your phone calls if you're interested in discussing possible signings. I suspect the reality is they are probably swamped with dozens of people on any given day looking to arrange signings. There are probably more novelists in America than there are bookstores. I knew of at least a dozen local writers when I lived in Greensboro. Off the top of my head, I can think of three bookstores. So, the competition is probably pretty fierce to catch the attention of the people who arrange signings.

After I leave a message, I feel uncomfortable about calling back. I hate to feel like I'm hassling people. Fortunately, Bitterwood is still a few months away. I'm not in panic mode yet about unreturned phone calls.

Of course, tempering all this is the fact that I'm not sure that booksignings do all that much to boost sales for new writers. If I happened to be in a store when a reading and and signing of a book and an author I'd never heard of was going on, I might wander over and check it out. But, if I saw a poster about it, and didn't know the author, it probably wouldn't register as something I should go to. The signings that catch my eye are signings by authors I already know about, promoting books I've already heard about or read. It seems like a good way of supporting an existing fan base, but as a way of building a readership, I'm slightly dubious of a signing's value.

Does anyone have any different experience? Have you ever bought a book by an author you had never heard of simply because you heard about a reading at a local bookstore?


Erin U said...

Have you thought about organizing a "cluster signing"? (BTW, I just made up that term.) You could get together with a couple of the local authors and do a group signing with the intent of drawing a wider spread of people into the bookstore at one time.

I've seen this done a couple times in Cambridge, Mass.

James Maxey said...

Actually, given that fellow Solaris author Gail Z. Martin is also a fellow North Carolinian, we did discuss this possibility. My agent just emailed me some strategies to try as well. If I make a breakthrough, I'll be sure to post it here!