Stephen King was recently mistaken for a vandal when he was spotted signing copies of his own book in an Australian bookstore.Â Only when the bookseller saw his signature did she realize it had beenÂ the author himself who’d been in her store.
King was only doing what I (and every other author in the universe) feel compelled to do, even while on vacation: drop into local bookstores and check out how many copies ofÂ my books are on the shelves.Â I also want to autograph them, because I know readers love signed copies, but too often I leave them unsigned. And you know why?
Because then I’d have to snag a bookseller and ask for permission to do so.Â You have no idea how much energy is involved just trying to get the attention of harried clerks.Â Then the reaction is often a weary sigh and a “Let me find the manager.”Â You may think booksellers would be delighted to see an author in their store, but reality is much less glamorous, and sometimes downright discouraging.Â I’ve blogged about my experiences in Honolulu bookshops, where I was allowed to sign only a few copies, and they made it clear they thought they were doing me a favor.Â Sometimes I’ve had to produce I.D. to prove who I was.Â A lot of the time I’m greeted with a shrug and a “yeah, whatever.”
As a result, I’ve often had the urge to be sneaky about the whole thing and just sign the books, slap an “autographed” sticker on the cover, and slink out of the store without talking to anyone.Â Much more efficient that way, right?Â
But you could get into trouble, as King almost did, being mistaken for a vandal.Â I remember talking to one bookseller who was livid at an authorÂ when he did a sneak signing.Â She caught him back among the shelves, signing and stickering his own books, and she confronted him.Â He proved to her satisfaction that he was indeed the author, and you’d think she’d be thrilled.Â But no, she was outraged that he’d sign books without asking for permission first, and as a result, she said, “I will never have that man in my store for a formal signing!Â Never!Â He did it without asking me first!”
Boy, talk about being territorial.
Aside from not pissing off the booksellers, the real reason to approach them is thatÂ they could be your best allies.Â Yes, I know that manyÂ of them don’t give a hoot that you’reÂ an author.Â Many of them would rather you’d just go away and not bother them.Â But there are always a few who are thrilled you’re there and will tell their customers “guess what, those are signed copies!”Â And that alone makes it worth having to endure the occasional “yeah, whatever” greeting.