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This blog was featured on 08/30/2016
Authors Behaving Badly: What NOT to Do at Your Bookstore Event!
Written by
How She Does It
September 2018
Written by
How She Does It
September 2018

Even though my counterparts worked from the Borders Group, Inc. corporate office in Ann Arbor, Michigan, the big wigs felt it was important to have a connection based out of Manhattan working directly with the publishers and their authors. Therefore, I was hired as a national event specialist, but worked out of the Borders store on Park Avenue.

What made my position unique was that I got to oversee many author events, witnessing what worked and what didn’t. I took mental notes of this while writing my novel in anticipation of doing my own book tour. 

In 2005, after having been with the company for over 11 years, I went out on my own as a freelance writer and publishing consultant, which happened to be the very day I got my first book review for my novel Without Grace, which was a wonderful, heart-stopping review, by the way. (Whew!) I remembered those authors who were gracious and behaved professionally when only a couple of seats were filled at an event. They knew that the store and the events manager did everything they could to fill those seats, but that there’s never a guarantee of how many people will actually show up. The author’s good graces meant that the booksellers were more willing to hand sell their book than from the author who berated them when the turnout for their event was less than expected. I also recalled the celebrity who was staying at the Trump Tower around the block from the store and continually sent over his handlers to see how big the line was; unfortunately, the small gathering wasn’t big enough for this celebrity, so he had his manager call the store and say that his car was stuck on the Long Island Expressway and that he wouldn’t be able to make the signing. Hmm, the LIE, huh? How appropriate. When the few people who had shown up found out that the celeb canceled his appearance at the last minute, they returned the CDs they’d bought for his signature and didn’t have very nice comments to make about him.

These lessons remained with me and, not only for myself, but when I guide other authors doing events, I strongly encourage them to treat each person who showed up for them with respect. No matter if there’s two or two hundred, the author is wise to give their all. Trust me, I’ve had authors show little regard to those who took the time to show up when the turnout was small and have hurt possible sales by their unappreciative attitude. I’ve also seen booksellers pull down the author’s book display as soon as the author left the building. So, yes, while I traveled all along the Eastern seaboard doing events at a number of places, some where only three people showed up, I always managed to sell books because, first, I like meeting people and, second, I wanted each person to know I appreciated the time they took to meet me.

What is also true, is that bookstores aren't necessarily the best place to do an an event; it may be where the books are, but not necessarily where your audience will be. I did an event at my hair salon—twice, several book discussion groups, and schools; oh, and several bookstores. Sometimes all the chairs were filled, other times most of the chairs were empty. Still, I kept thinking how fortunate I am to do what I love. And now that I have been in my own business for five years, I still feel the same way.


Questions for Carol? Need help with your own author event, at a bookstore or elsewhere?

Carol works with writers no matter where they are in the process. In addition, due to her experience as having been a National Event Specialist for Borders Books for several years, she is available to She Writes authors by providing publicity, marketing and event planning services.

About Carol Hoenig

Carol Hoenig is a fulltime freelance writer, publishing consultant and a multi-award winning author. Of her many credits, Carol contributed to Putting Your Passion into Print. Carol is on the advisory council for Author Solutions and was on The New York Center for Independent Publishing advisory council and writer’s conference committee for five years before it disbanded. She was the Director and Writer-in-Residence for Old Forge Library Adirondack Summer Writing Workshop for 2008. She is Editorial Director for Worthy Shorts and is a member of the Women’s Media Group.

For more information, visit www.carolhoenig.com.


* This post was orginally published in August 2016.

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  • Teresa L Watts

    I wrote a post on my Writers Daily blog very similar to this topic. Promotional Signings and Fans. I agree with every word. People are not going to stop, drop and roll out the red carpet because you wrote a book. You have to remember how you got there in the first place - the readers and the fans, the book store owner isn't having a book signing to accommodate you - they are having a signing to sell books. It is just as hard for the seller to deal with few attendees as well. They too have projected sales. Be gracious and thankful you have an event to schedule and go to, for pity's sake!
    Great Post.

  • DuEwa Frazier

    Oh my. For an author to behave this way, whether they are a celebrity or not, shows a complete lack of gratitude and respect. How can we expect to receive *more* in the way of support and accolades when we don't *show up* to participate (in a positive way -- some authors show up and have an attitude or sense of entitlement when things don't go their way) in what comes our way. No matter where your event is - Borders or a hair salon being gracious, kind and humble can only pave the way for more good in our lives. Thanks for this post!

  • Keri Pugh

    It's amazing how transcendent the need for professionalism is, despite your industry...and, how often it can still be swept aside for bravado. Thanks for the reminder!

  • Susan G. Bell

    Thanks to everyone for advice and good wishes, which make a solitary occupation feel much less so.

  • Teresa K. Thorne Writing

    I started to respond to Susan's interesting question and ended up posting a blog (Rejection & Relationships) about it. LOL. I imagine this is not an unusual affliction in this place...
    Congrats on your book, Susan and thanks for the great blog, Carol.

  • Carol Hoenig

    Susan, in answer to your question, it is often up to the bookstore, but I would say, yes, sign the book, even if it was purchased elsewhere, as long as the bookstore has no problem with it. For what it's worth, when I was the national event specialist, I never stopped anyone from having a book or CD signed if it was purchased elsewhere. I just felt it made for a better relationship between that customer and the store. By the way, I wish you every success with your first novel! Congratulations...

  • Susan G. Bell

    I have a book signing for my first novel coming up in our local bookstore so your advice is timely. I have a protocol question: Is it OK to sign books for people who have purchased them elsewhere and bring them to the bookstore signing?
    Thanks and continued success,
    Susan Bell

  • Elin Stebbins Waldal

    Oh this struck a chord! Several months ago I attended a book signing where the author was simply rude, graceless, and well...arrogant. I had been so looking forward to meeting her, the reality of which left a bad taste in my mouth. The book store was PACKED, the line to the register was always long, books were piled up all around her for her to sign for people who had purchased but couldn't be there. When I approached the table with my 4 book purchase to have signed she could have cared less. It was as if she would prefer to be anywhere but where she was. As I drove away from that experience with my freshly scrawled, I mean "inscribed" books I couldn't help but feel there was a lesson in my experience. No matter how tired I am, if I am ever fortunate to have anyone show up because they care about what I have written, I will look them in the eye and be gracious. If it's 1 or standing room only--all those people are there for you. I can no more imagine behaving the way I was treated then orbit another planet. And as another person wrote in a previous comment...I have zero interest in purchasing her next book. Sadly the lasting impression is she was nothing like the woman she described in her memoir.

  • Suzanne Linn Kamata

    I did a couple of bookstore signings where hardly anyone showed up (in one case, NO ONE), but I always felt embarrassed and ashamed and that that I should apologize to the bookstore owners for not bringing in more people, not the other way around.

  • Sarah Pinneo

    I love this thread! I did three book signings in ski lodges.

  • Karyne Corum

    Most books are still sold via word of mouth so if you treat each person as if they matter, they will make sure(if you've worked your craft right!) to spread the word. I really loved, and made note of, the fact that bookstores aren't always the best place to have an event.

  • Mercedes M. Yardley

    This was a wonderful reminder that Mama was right, and we should always be gracious.

  • Carol Hoenig

    You're absolutely right, Miz Sharon. I had the opportunity to work with some of the big names, including Jimmy Carter (twice), the Clintons, and Kurt Vonnegut--also twice. Yet, it was the first-time authors who were so thrilled to see their books on display and have the opportunity to do an event that always made me so happy to do what I did. I loved supporting them in their career. You can well imagine the collection of autographed books that I have. I actually blogged about it recently here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/carol-hoenig/the-value-of-books_b_750695.html

  • Judith O\'Sullivan


  • Allie Phillips

    Excellent words of advice that are so true! Be grateful for each person that shows to your event.

  • Deborah Siegel Writing

    I'd love to hear more about non-bookstore events --

    "I did an event at my hair salon—twice, several book discussion groups, and schools""

    Any tips for doing events at these kinds of venues? We'd love to hear! It seems the bookstore event is going the way of...sigh...the newspaper. No?

  • miz sharon

    I think it would be so much fun to be an events specialist! It sounds like being at a party, where you get to talk to people who share your love of books and writing. Sure the crowd may consist of three people, but you and the author get to spend time interacting with those people!