Observing a Book Signing and Panel Discussion

On Saturday afternoon, I attended a book signing/release event at Barnes & Noble for the novel, Stella Rose, by Vermont author Tammy Flanders Hetrick. I’m hoping to get a chance to do a similar event at B & N and wanted to know what to expect. Hetrick only spoke for ten minutes or so, which I thought was surprisingly short. I arrived a few minutes late, unfortunately, and didn’t get to hear the bulk of her speech. She then opened up the floor to questions. The question/answer session lasted much longer, running 20 to 25 minutes. Afterward, the audience formed a queue, and she signed copies of her book and chatted with everyone.

She had a good crowd of 30-40 people. The majority appeared to be family, friends, and coworkers who had brought friends with them. They provided a great support group, very upbeat with a lot of engagement and laughter, and I think their positive energy and the size of the crowd drew in other shoppers to see what was going on.

Hetrick wore a nice, colorful dress and looked professional. She had swag laid out for people to see — T-shirts, mugs, and bookmarks, along with her business cards. Some of the T-shirts and mugs were given away as door prizes to those who had come from the farthest distance and those who had brought the most friends with them.

The entire event lasted an hour or so, with friendly conversations lingering afterward. I wasn’t in the market to buy one of her books right then, so I didn’t go up and speak with her, but just observed from the fringes. What’s that called in social media — lurking? 🙂

In contrast, on Monday evening, I went to my local library for a panel discussion by three Vermont authors, J.P. Choquette, Bill Schubart, and Steve Delaney, on their books and self-publishing. The event was scheduled to run an hour and a half, and for the first third of the program, I was the only one in the audience. As disappointing as it likely was for the authors, it worked out well for me, because I got to ask tons of questions and gather some incredibly useful information and resources. Another lady came in part way through, and the two of us kept the discussion going until it was time to leave.

The panelists dressed in nice casualwear and brought copies of their books and business cards. They didn’t have any other swag, and I wondered if it was only considered appropriate to bring those types of items with new releases? Or can you bring the T-shirts, bookmarks, etc., to any event?

I’m really glad I had a chance to go to these events and see what I might be getting myself into in the future. And even though the second event was much more low key and less likely to be considered a success, I learned a valuable lesson from it. It’s okay if not many people show up. Sharing your knowledge and experiences from your writing journey with just one interested person can be as satisfying as sharing it with many. The sister- and brotherhood of writers is amazingly generous when it comes to helping their fellow writers along. Of course, that part I already knew.





© Lori L. MacLaughlin and Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams, 2015. All rights reserved.

22 thoughts on “Observing a Book Signing and Panel Discussion

    • I felt bad for the authors, but it did work out well for me. I’m much more comfortable speaking up in small groups, and this was definitely a small one. I was thinking that swag would be okay anywhere, too.


  1. I’m glad you were able to attend both, Lori, and I hope there will be more opportunities because I imagine each is slightly different. I would have been tongue-tied as the only audience member so kudos that you were able to benefit from your ‘personal’ session with the panel. I’m happy you noted the generosity of fellow authors; it’s certainly win/win.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thanks, Sammy. It is win/win, that’s for sure. It was great to be able to get an idea of what to expect and see both the good and the not so good possibilities. And speaking up, for me, is much easier with a small number of people.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. The idea of doing an event and only having one or two people turn up is almost as scary as having to talk in front of a room of strangers (although sounds like the other event was mainly people she knew so that’s much easier). Thank god for the internet and social media! 🙂

    Liked by 1 person

  3. I’ve never been to a book signing or a panel discussion. Since I want to be a children’s author, though, it would be neat to do a book reading/signing at a bookstore/library. I’m not big on public speaking (even though I do act, but that’s different because you’re pretending to be someone else) and would like a more intimate or smaller setting, but that scares me also. Glad you got to experience both situations and got to know a little about what to expect.

    Liked by 1 person

  4. I’ve been to some book signing things at Barnes and Nobles and I find them very awkward. They always seem so artificial. If the purpose is to introduce a author to an audience, there should be an audience that doesn’t already know the person…ie friends and family. If you go, you feel compelled to buy a book, but I’m not sure any of that really helps the author. The book stores need to do a better job or promoting it seems to me.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I like the idea of having family and friends there for support, but I agree it does seem like preaching to the choir, so to speak, if there aren’t many people there who don’t know the author. I know a few shoppers were drawn in by the crowd. It was an interesting experience.


  5. Pingback: Celebrate the Small Things! | Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams

  6. I like that idea of the crowd drawing other people in. I’ve been to some book-signings where it seemed to be just signings rather than a talk and those are really awkward. People avoid eye contact because they know they’ll have to buy a book. 🙂 I think the key thing is having something interesting to share with an audience as opposed to just selling a book.

    I once met Kelley Armstrong at a book signing where there was hardly anyone there. She’s now gone on to be a bestselling author. So I agree that even having a small number of people is a good thing, and people should not be discouraged!

    (I like bookmarks as swag, by the way, because I can never have too many bookmarks.)

    Liked by 1 person

    • That’s neat that you met Kelley Armstrong. Book signings are scary things. You never know how they’re going to go. I’m hoping, if I do it, I’ll have a couple of family members and friends for moral support. Whatever happens, I’ll chalk it up to a learning experience.
      I like bookmarks, too. I collect them and rotate them between books I’m reading.

      Liked by 1 person

  7. Hi Lori! I wish you had introduced yourself – I would have enjoyed meeting you! For the record, I was scared to death, ask anyone in my family that morning when I was too sweaty to get dressed and totally stressed out. Public speaking scares the crap out of me, so the first few minutes at the mic were awkward (glad you were late!). But eventually I was able to relax, especially during the Q&A. I love talking about STELLA ROSE and about writing! You were right, at first it was mostly friends and family, and then others joined. I was so happy to look up and see standing room only – even though it intensified my nerves at first. Hearing you describe the event is fascinating for me – I’m so glad you came, and glad you wrote this post! I wish you the best of luck when your big day arrives!

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Pingback: League of VT Writers Meeting Recap and Barnes & Noble Prep | Writing, Reading, and the Pursuit of Dreams

Leave a Reply

Fill in your details below or click an icon to log in:

WordPress.com Logo

You are commenting using your WordPress.com account. Log Out /  Change )

Facebook photo

You are commenting using your Facebook account. Log Out /  Change )

Connecting to %s

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.