I’d be the first person to say I was lying if I had said that I wasn’t the slightest bit nervous. It wasn’t like I had received a phone call from a book store owner asking me to get together a couple dozen books and they would take care of the rest! No, this was completely different. For me, this was the first planned signing in which I would be in charge of everything. This is something that would be completely in my control, from the beginning stages of planning to the way I wanted my own little spot to be set up.
I had yet to meet the owner of the establishment where my signing was to take place, but this didn’t seem to matter. Between the both of us, we have a mutual friend who had spoken of the other enough that we each knew what to expect. Furthermore, I had already donated a copy of both of my books to the Trap’s Little Library, so a few of the patrons and visitors had already been exposed to my work.
Oh, I was nervous all right. I didn’t know what to expect. Here I was, about to do a signing at a venue where the ten-year celebration of a local music group was going to take place! Everything I had heard about The God Project promised that I was going to be surrounded by a sea of potential readers!
I spent weeks preparing. I wanted it to be just right.
What little money I had went into the production of flyers, materials for my table and the procuring of additional business cards and books. You know, just in case. What little free time I had went into trying to spread the word. When I wasn’t promoting on social media, I was trying to find places that would hang up my flyer.
The former was much easier, as I would soon find out. With my S.M., I was completely in control. I could say what was needed, leave teasers for what readers could expect and I didn’t have to fear it being taken down or removed. Not so, with the latter…
My biggest obstacle was finding a place that would be tolerant enough to support a local author! I only printed twenty flyers due to budget constraints, but I didn’t foresee a problem with finding places to put them. In the worst case, I figured that there wasn’t enough! What I DIDN’T plan on was the sheer number of rejections I would come across.
Now, I won’t lie to you. We authors are very accustomed to this sort of thing, but it wasn’t something I was prepared to face.
What’s that? You won’t hang my flyer because of the image? Okay, so I can kind of get that. It is, after all, a bit intimidating to the religiously uptight! Just the overtones alone might be enough to want to avoid!
What’s that? You don’t want to hang my flyer because of the venue? Now that’s just asinine. I picked your location because like you, the establishment I would be set up at sells beer to its patrons. Of course, there are many other reasons as well; such as location and visibility… I also picked your location because I thought I could reach my intended audience!
It was a daunting task and I didn’t get as many flyers out as thought I would. But then again, I’m also a full-time father by day and part-time Walmart Associate by night. I did as much as I humanly could and I have to live with that.
So, on to the signing itself.
As I mentioned before, I had been scheduled on a night in which a ten-year celebration had been scheduled for a local music group called The God Project. There were two other bands scheduled to open that night and I had every reason to believe that business would be good all around.
Things started off slow. Even though I was scheduled for an easy eight to nine p.m. before the music got underway, the door wasn’t unlocked until a few minutes past. We were the first ones inside, with the exception of the staff and one gentleman, and were set up before anyone else arrived. Last night, I was fortunate enough to have the company of my wife and her sister, who came to support their husband and brother-in-law respectively, as well as that of my friend Gabe, whose knowledge of The Trap and its people would inevitably help get my work the attention I hoped it would.
After a game of pool, we sat back and watched as the first group, a Metal band called Night Creation, began to arrive. People, too, began to slowly filter in as well. Most were regulars and they soon found their usual niches. My time slot had come and gone, but the owner was kind enough to allow me to stay set up as long as I wanted, something which I am very thankful for. Books didn’t start to leave the table until nearly ten!
By this time, I had finally met the owner, Brian, and had some very interesting conversation. We talked about his history with the bar, the origin of my pen name and ended with a rousing discussion about why swords were broken before being buried with their fallen. Remind me sometime to share that one with you, I’m sure you’ll find it very interesting as well!
We watched as Night Creation set up on stage, proceeded to make an embarrassment of themselves and promptly left without playing a single song. I could sense the irritation behind Brian’s friendly demeanor, but I didn’t blame him in the slightest. Here was a group he had booked for the night that was leaving because they weren’t getting their way. He laughed about it at the time, but I have a feeling that this group won’t be playing locally anytime soon.
He soon excused himself to meet with the members of the next group, Soiled Dove, and I returned to my seat as a couple more books left the table. I had a pleasant discussion with a reader named Jenny, who had already read my work via the lil Trap Library and was looking forward to reading the next book. This was the first time I had spoken with someone who had read my work, with the exception of my biggest fans; Gabe and Celeste, and was floored by the passion she had for the story.
The next group was ready to go and we got our first taste of live music in years. Can I say that I was all that impressed? By the lead singer, not so much, but the instrumentals were solid. Their music sounded a little between a cross of Static-X and System of a Down. It was a vibe that I enjoyed, but a lot of the vocals sounded the same. Aside from their spin on a gospel song, which I begrudgingly admit to enjoying, I might have passed them by in any other setting.
When they were finished, Brian returned to get a copy of my book. He would later buy it for himself and his wife, but his purpose now was to get on the mic and help spread the word. It was getting close to midnight by now and the bar was filling up for the main attraction.
Again, I was struck by a sense of the surreal when I heard my pen name reverberating off of the walls. When he spoke of my work, his words were kind and injected with a bit of humor.
“This is his book. It’s a story about a vampire hunter who kills stuff. See,” he says as he holds up the book. “This guy looks like he’s not having that great of a time…”
I wish I had recorded his announcement. I don’t think I have all the words right, but they are pretty close. There was also a very amusing moment when he introduced me as a local Arthur, rather than author, as he explained to his regulars and newcomers alike his mission to support local artists.
He soon left the stage and some more books left the table as The God Project began setting up for their performance.
It was late. Okay, not so late for this old night owl, but way past the bed times of my female company for the night. At this point, I hadn’t much hope for selling too many more books, but to tell you the truth, I was beginning to simply relax and enjoy myself. This was the first time that I had been out of the house, with my wife and without the kids, in years. Furthermore, with my nightlife schedule, my part-time job, with making sure my kids are in/out of school and all the etceteras that come along with it, not to mention my many writing projects? Yeah, getting away from it all isn’t often an option I have access to.
When the music started, I was enthralled. Sure, I had already spoken with the lead singer (Jeremy Gaston)… He was one of the gentlemen who was setting up the stage at the beginning of the night! But I had no idea what was going to happen once he was on that stage. This was the first new (to me) band I had heard live in years and they are definitely good enough that I would to pay to see them in any other venue. It was just the lead on guitar, a keyboardist and a drummer, but what they did up there was entertaining, the vocals spot on and each song was its own.
Before I knew it, their set was over, and it was time for me to call it a night.
We waited for the band to exit the stage, which took about ten minutes, before packing up to leave. By this time, it was nearly two in the morning, but I have no complaints. Was this a strange venue for a signing? Perhaps. I don’t recall ever hearing about a book signing at night, let alone at a bar… Would I do it again? Yes. I believe I would. There are some things I would handle differently beforehand, in the advertising and preparations, but it turned out as well as I had hoped.
I may not have left with an empty box, but I did get over a half of a dozen books out there to be read. Just having the opportunity to speak with people who enjoy my work was payment in and of itself. This, after all, is the most that I can hope for in anything that I write. It’s the most that any of us, as writers, should hope for.
There were a couple of perks to the night, which I would like to share before wrapping this up.
1) I met with a gentleman who gave me information to an online magazine, run by someone he knows, which is looking to buy short stories. Hmm… I can see the possibilities with this?
2) I met with a photographer for WIBW, a local news station, who recommended I get in touch with someone at his station who shows interest in local talents. We exchanged cards, shook hands, and he nonchalantly suggested I send an email to this news figure soon.
A grain of salt, yes, but if the greatest things I take away from this night are the connections I made and the open doors to these opportunities? I already have my self enjoyment for the night. I met many interesting people, had some unforgettable conversations and finally had a chance to spend a night out with my wife. I’m thankful for those who came to support me as well; Dannielle, Gabe, Jake. Thanks for being there. It really means a lot that you came. Even if you were going to be there anyways, Gabe!
I held my first planned book signing at The Boobie Trap, an establishment reputed for its status as a dive bar. The walls are covered in posters, stickers and other such memorabilia that you would expect, but this is a place for all types of people from many different walks of life. The interior may not be as fancy as Cheers, but it has all of the heart and soul that you would want to find there. I’m ever grateful to Brian Chambers for having me (and eternally more so to his wife for allowing him to!) monopolize two of his tables for the night. Just like most of the people I met last night, they are good people and I enjoyed getting to know them as well.
The door was left open to me, for promotions of my work as well as a possible return for the signing of my future work(s), so the question remains to be asked; will I be returning for another signing?
Who knows? Perhaps my wife and I will need another night out, sometime in the next few years…
No, but seriously. I probably will.
Thanks again to the Chambers for their generosity, to the patrons of The Trap and to those few Topeka folks who stopped by to get a copy of my work.