Book-signings in a Bygone Era of Brick and Mortar

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by Mary Ellis

I often think back fondly of my very first book-signing. I had just published a romantic suspense geared to the literary/library market. So the binding and packaging were top-notch-it would truly hold up to heavy wear-and-tear. And the cover photo was imbedded in the hardback cover, beneath the paper jacket. The only problem was the list price of $27.00 for an absolute “nobody” of a writer. I was so tickled with getting published that I scheduled a signing at my local independent bookstore. (Borders and Barnes and Noble kept asking: Who did you say you were?) This was an adorable shop in a valley surrounded by ski slopes and quaint art galleries. Unfortunately, it is now out-of-business. I sent out dozens of publicity postcards to my family, friends, neighbors and business acquaintances. I paid for ads in my local newspapers and tried every avenue of free publicity I could find.

The day of the event I wore my new dress and took extra time with hair and make-up. I brought a tray of cookies and fruit tarts from the nearby bakery. The store owner had a fire lit with a comfy armchair for me to greet my “fans.” And in they came-my neighbors, cousins, and coworkers at my day job. It was like a cocktail party minus the cocktails. Everyone mingled and had a great time, including me. One hapless tourist wandered in and noticed the commotion. I spent fifteen minutes weaving an intriguing synopsis of my mystery. He kept thumbing through the book and nodding his head enthusiastically. Then suddenly he said: “Your book sounds good, but I’ll just check it out at the library.” And he disappeared out the door.

In the end, I didn’t sell a single copy to anyone who wasn’t related to me or knew me personally, but I did sell almost thirty books. When we were leaving with our empty dessert tray, my husband said: “This obligates us to very nice wedding/shower/baby/graduation or whatever gifts to everyone for the rest of our lives.” But you know what? It was all worth it, because for one special afternoon I felt like an author instead of just a writer.

A Plain ManMary Ellis grew up close to the Amish where she loved their peaceful agrarian lifestyle and strong sense of Christian community. Mary enjoys reading, traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught Middle School and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate-a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. Living in Harmony, book one of her last series won the 2012 Lime Award for Excellence in Amish Fiction. Book two, Love Comes to Paradise, won the 2013 Lime Award. She is currently working on a three-book historical romance series set during the Civil War. The Quaker and the Rebel released in January and her current release is A Plain Man from Harvest House Publishers. She can be found on the web at,,!/pages/Mary-Ellis/126995058236.

Comments 0

  1. Although I have sold books through signings in bookstores, I have sold many more books at other venues. For instance, this past weekend I teamed up with a writer friend to sell books at the annual Indiana Association of Home Educators convention. (I sold 55 books) Such conventions have worked well for us. We put out signs saying “Meet Indiana Authors” and shoppers seems genuinely pleased to meet the actual authors and not simply retailers. Other authors have sold at craft fairs and even home shows.

    Opportunities are out there, and from my experience some of them (although not all) are much more worthwhile than the brick & mortar store signings.

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