Lessons from a Lonely Book Signing

Photo of a Man Sleeping on Books

© Vitaly Raduntsev | Dreamstime.com

When I began writing I embraced a fantasy.

It went something like this:

I was going to write a knock-em-dead suspense novel that would rocket to the top of the New York Times bestseller list. Once my novel topped the charts, I would then be besieged by a host of publishers wanting to sign me and offering outrageously large advances. After this, I would ride a huge wave of popularity, turn out a bestseller every few years, and have book signings where people lined up around the block just to have the privilege of meeting me.

As you probably already have figured out, none of that happened.

Oh, I wrote my novel. And a publisher picked it up. But the book signing?

That was another matter.

I arranged with my local Hastings to have a table and display and plenty of books. I didn’t want someone to walk away disappointed because I’d sold out.

When the day arrived, I positioned myself behind my author’s table, a stack of books at my right hand, ready for the hordes of eager readers who would soon rush through the door. Unfortunately, the reality didn’t match my expectations.

A few friends stopped by, but they didn’t buy books. And although some people stopped by my table, most of the other customers went out of their way to avoid me. I was positioned near the front door, and as people came in, they took a circular path away from my table. I began to wonder if they thought I had an infectious disease.

As I recall, I didn’t sell a single book that night. But I did begin to learn an important lesson.

It’s not about me.

Writing isn’t about fame and fortune. It’s not about big advances, awesome reviews, or people lining up at midnight to buy my book. It’s not about feeding my ego or bolstering my pride. It’s not about living at the top of the bestseller lists.

I’ve been writing professionally since 2000. I’ve had nine books published. I’ve never had a big seller. My name’s not on any bookstore marquis.

But over the years, I’ve gotten notes and e-mails from people who have read, and been touched, by my words. I’ve heard from people who were struggling with God’s goodness in personal tragedy. They’ve thanked me for telling a story that helped them in their trials.

Last week, a lady told me that my book, More God (about a young man who overcame a traumatic brain injury) helped her understand what her sister, who has brain cancer, is going through.

A writer’s success cannot be measured in bestseller lists, outrageous advances, and standing-room-only book signings.

There’s nothing wrong with those things.

But true success is measured by how your words impact your readers for good.

I began learning that lesson at a lonely book signing. Ten years and nine books later, I’m still learning it.

And every day I thank God that He’s letting me live my dream. And then I pray that somehow, somewhere, He’ll use my words in someone’s life.

What dreams of yours have been realized through a kind e-mail or note from someone who read your writing? What is your “book signing” desire–has it come to fruition, or have you realized that dream through another avenue? 

Have you ever worn the same outfit on your book jacket that you wore to your first book signing?

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