Friday, August 17, 2007

Valley of the Kings


Hippopotamus,
c. XII-XIII dynasty,
faience, blue glazed and painted,
provenance not known,
Brooklyn Museum of Art.

I see that Stephen King was mistaken for a vandal in an Australian bookstore. He's been scribbling his name in copies of his novel - apparently as a secret act of kindness.

One of those itchy things - like a uraeus - that signify your elevation from mere writer to the status of author is the book signing.

Seems the expected style is to not just stand there, swaying like a reed in the winds from the Upper Nile and waving your pen like a drunken cobra, but to also speak to the multitude. Read a scene aloud. Give a talk. Answer questions.

So. At a book signing of the formal kind - not the type that tucks you away behind a ricketty card table next to the washroom - what would you talk about?

29 comments:

James Goodman said...

Hmm, good question, Bernita. I would like to think I would talk about the journey, the failures, the re-writes, the, in retrospect, inevitable success, the feeling of accomplishment, but in truth, I would probably just stick to inspiration and perseverance.

Especially if it were my first, I would stand there, gripping the podium with sweaty hands, praying my voice didn't break, thus revealing me for the true amateur that I know in my heart I must still be.

Bernita said...

The Journey of the Book, then, James, with emphasis on the Can Do.
D'ya think that anti-perspirant would work on palms?

Kell said...

Hey - Do you know what happened to Dakota Knight? She seems to have vanished -and I was wondering if you've heard anything from or about her lately.

Kell said...

Oh - I guess I would talk about the process of writing the book... and mostly try and answer questions.

Jaye Wells said...

That sounds like a joke. "Stephen King walks into a bookstore..."

No clue what I'd talk about. Probably where I got the idea for the book and something about the process of world building.

Bernita said...

I've been wondering about her too, Kell.
No, I don't know what happened. Just seems to have vanished.Which is odd.
Intriguing novel and a lovely person too.
I think the question portion of a talk would be the most fun.

I wonder if he were also moving them face out, Jaye...
I wonder what the listeners would want and expect.

MissWrite said...

At the few I've had at actual book stores I've found that 'for me' the best approach was to just talk to customers, not so much as a sales pitch, but friendly conversation about books in general, writing, what it's like to be a writer, etc.

For the several library presentations I was asked to give, they expect a full-on presentation, up on a podium, the whole nine. Still, in the end, the most common questions asked by the people attending were based on what life was like as a writer, more than on the particular book.

For me, doing signings, or formal presentations is all about building up the right mental attitude before hand. Getting geared up to just have fun and not worry about 'selling'. It can be enjoyable.

I'm not sure, however, that doing signings, or anything like that actually is a marker of any particular distinction. A great many really fantastic writers never bother with actual signings. LOL

By the way, one of THE most curious and strange 'signings' I ever did was when WalMart held a literacy campaign and asked a variety of authors to come to their stores... I ended up reading a children's book to a bunch of pre-schoolers. Tell you the truth, as odd as it was for 'my' style of books, it was a lot of fun.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Interesting.

Sometimes I feel like I'm on stage at parties that way. People find out I'm a writer and ask me about it. I confess, it's difficult for me to maintain the "romantic vision" of a writer, cuz, as we all know, it's just work, like, well, any work. We have to do it even when we don't wanna, we have to miss out on other things.

But, still, it is work like no other. That bit's more difficult to explain.

Charles Gramlich said...

I'd try to give those who show up something they don't already have. Some tidbit of interest, some information that they don't know. And I'd hope also to be able to get the audience involved, get them to contribute to the whole affair.

raine said...

LOL at the King story!
Maybe it wasn't REALLY Stephen King...but a doppleganger, intent on taking over his identity, first by making his REAL signature obsolete, then currying the favor of bookstore owners one country at a time...

If I could actually manage to SPEAK at such a signing (which is unlikely)...I'd try to talk about the story. The history of the mythology, if any, contemporary takes on such myths, possibly why I chose to write it the way I did.

And try to resist the temptation to cut my own throat and tell the people that the STORY is what counts, not the author, not so much a signature on a first edition, not the local-makes-good stuff. My dream would be that the story would live on long after I'm gone. And that's the important thing after all.

Bernita said...

Tami, so you suggest the story of the writer interests the audience more than the story.
Hmmm.

Do they want to hear about the perceived glamour, SS?

"some information that they don't know" - I like that, Charles. The inside story.

Readers might enjoy such highlights, Raine; still I imgine they remain curious about the story teller.

Rob said...

Beyond reading an excerpt and answering a few questions, I honestly can't think of what I'd talk about.

I'd probably want to hear about life as a writer and how the story grew, so I suppose that's what I'd speak about. I think it really depends on who the audience is and what my book was about.

Anonymous said...

I would talk about my primary inspirations and one or two of the key messages that I was currently most jazzed on. The handy thing about publishing a corporate history is that no one asks you why you did it.

Asa

Church Lady said...

Oh Bernita, I spend most of my time in Fantasy land. Signing books, having lunch with my publisher, screening actors for the movie adaptation....

As a children's book writer, I think that part of the process would be soo much fun! I'd ask them what books they're reading, which ones are their favorites and why, do they write as well. I'd sign each book with a little smiley or heart, and try to think of something very cool and unique for each child.

And I'd give out chocolate chip cookies.

Bernita said...

Somewhere, Rob, there is probably a lit of the Most Asked Questions.

"Key messages" - that makes for an interesting theme, Asa, and I suppose the research process is of particular interest in non-fiction.

Parents buy kid's books too, Chris, but I imagine they like chocolate chip cookies too.

spyscribbler said...

LOL, I'd probably prepare a list of emergency topics to keep away those awkward silences. I'd practice a one-sentence pitch and tell myself not to tell the eye-glazing version.

If it were appropriate, I'd read a scene aloud, and find some interesting facts and jokes that loosely related to my book. And then I'd talk to everyone, and pretend I was giving a party and in charge of seeing to everyone's comfort and happiness, LOL.

(Sweaty palm cure: baby powder.)

Bernita said...

Nice, Natasha! Some good tips.

Jon M said...

I think I'd end up talking about the circumstances around the book. What a dream, to be at your own book signing! That makes me smile!

Bernita said...

Would make an interesting talk, Jon.

sex scenes at starbucks said...

Mostly it's about the "creative process." Most people don't know how we come up with story ideas, much less write them down. They think the words just flow, perfectly crafted, from our manicured fingertips...

Oh and they think we make actual money, too. :)

ORION said...

Well the talks and signings that I have done have been either requested by the publisher or the book stores.
The people who attended have been very interested in hearing me read- they said they enjoy hearing authors interpret their own words.
When I talked I introduced myself, told them a bit about why I wrote LOTTERY and then the questions always came fast and furious. It has been a tremendous opportunity to meet and chat with readers. I do not consider it a time to pontificate-- but then I genuinely enjoy meeting and talking with people.

Scott from Oregon said...

I'd show everybody the scars on my hands and then tell a story about all of the obvious ones...

Bernita said...

Hee, SS.
"They think the words just flow, perfectly crafted, from our manicured fingertips..."
Amazing isn't it? That persistent idea ignores the development of a piece of prose and the bloody fingertips based on the result.
I wonder if it disappoints some readers to learn it is often a struggle.

Certainly, Pat, one should avoid sounding overtly like a salesman - or an instructor; and one should see it as an opportunity to share rather than a chore.

It would be a rare reader who wouldn't enjoy a show-and-tell, Scott.
BTW, I've had the feeling for some time that Miss Snark Dear would really like your style.

writtenwyrdd said...

Honestly, I plan to avoid it at all costs. I don't want to do radio talk shows, Oprah, or speak in public. I hate that kind of shit. Of course, if I have a runaway best seller I guess I'll have to, lol.

The Anti-Wife said...

In my incredible imagination I would tell what inspired me to write it and talk about the process then open it up to questions. Sometimes the most interesting things come from the Q & A sessions. Why Bernita? Are you planning a little tour soon?

Bernita said...

Written, they suggest it is one of the stops on the way to a best-seller.

I agree, AW. I think of the "talk" as just a means of priming the pump for the questions - the real interaction - the most interesting and the most fun.
Not at all. Just indulging in one of those idle cart-before-the-horse type of speculations.

Scott from Oregon said...

Coming from the grand lady of eloquence, I appreciate that.

Thanks!

Jeff said...

I think an informal question and answer format would work better for me. A nice relaxed enviornment where the readers are given an option to play an active role in the signing.

Bernita said...

Yes, Jeff. The preliminaries - a comment on themes, motivation - could be designed to invite/jump start that sort of vocal participation - like a good prologue.