Yesterday, for a book signing, I drove 328 miles, spent $40 on gas, and was gone from home for 8 hours. I sold 20 books while I was in the store, at a profit of about $20 to me, which I won’t see for 9 months. And that’s assuming my publisher is still in business and bothers to pay me.

In August, I did a book signing here locally at Borders. They were unable to order my books (another story!), so they bought copies from me. I’m still waiting for the $350 Borders owes me. They could also declare bankruptcy at any time and I may never see that money either.

Keep in mind that I live in Oregon, which is not densely populated. To sign anyplace but the Borders here in Eugene, I have to get on the road and drive for a while. For the record, the Medford B&N (where I signed yesterday) invited me because I had a signing there last year and they considered it a success. I agreed to go again because the manager is the nicest bookstore person I’ve ever met.

The sad part of this is that I love meeting readers (and bookstore owners) and will miss those encounters. I will continue to attend reader conferences when I can and visit local book discussion groups, but I’m done with book signings. I simply can’t afford them.

  1. This this sad, L.J. but I get it. My one and only book signing was here locally. I sold the 44 books my publisher (Krill Press) sent to them, plus another dozen from my car when those 44 were sold. They paid me back in books for my 12 but have yet to pay Krill. They just announced that they are not doing well and will probably not make it. I’ll never see the royalties from that signing because, obviously, if Krill doesn’t get paid, I don’t get paid. I had a blast, people were spilling out the door of the little place, and they told me they hadn’t had a Friday night like that in years.

    Sometimes you have to spend money to make money, but the payoff–for both of us, it sounds like–isn’t worth it.


  2. I am also in a sparsely populated area and have to drive pretty far to bookstores. I do have one in the Dallas area — about 100 miles — that hosts me for signings and we sell pretty well there. Other places I usually sell maybe 10 books, which isn’t worth the time or the expense. That is one of the reasons I am doing more marketing and promoting online. I will miss the face-to-face encounters as I really love to talk to the people who spend time reading and want to talk about books. It is not the same online, but I have met some terrific cyber friends and readers.

  3. I had a sneaking suspicion that was how it usually works. It’s not so bad to go someplace within a few minutes of home, but all that work for nothing. Sheesh.

    I’ve got a reader group next Sunday. I don’t know how many people, but I suspect only four or five. I’ve heard three names now. I hope I can sell a few books to them. The good part is that will be immediate profit in my pocket without waiting on a publisher to pay. Like the author events we’ve both been to, at least you get paid for the sold books. If you sell any. I hate sitting near some of the local writers with a known name like Carola or Bill. Bless ’em, but they snag every sale. I feel invisible at a table next to them.

    Ebooks! Yay! We can just stay home.

    Speaking of which, have you considered putting your Det. Jackson series on a CD? You could sign the jewel case.

  4. Excellent idea, Marva. I’m also hoping to set up my website to sell signed copies of my books.

  5. All I can say is, I feel your pain.

  6. I kind of gave up on bookstores a while back. I still go to one that asks me periodically to come and talk to their writers group. I take my own books, sell a lot, but always have to keep reminding to get paid.

    We don’t have bookstores close so I usually do my book launch at a used bookstore, bring my own books and she always pays me right away.

    Where I do best is book and craft fairs. And I do sell some books from my website.


  7. Not something that I have to worry about quite yet… 🙂 I had a blast attending a book signing by an author who I had idolized for years and years. However, it sounds like book signings can be more of an entertainment thing than a profit thing for many authors. You can get a lot of great interaction with readers online, through blogs and chats and stuff – and if you like to travel, how about setting up signings in a place you’d like to go anyway?

  8. L.J.: Dang it, if I knew you were in Medford, I woulda been there. Good to see you at Bouchercon in SF. I went to Echelon’s website and see where they’ll only accept queries for non-electronic books by referral. Do you by any chance do referrals for aspiring writers?

  9. Clive, e-mail me about this. sellers.lj at

  10. I had much the same experience when my third book Self Reliance was brought out by a conventional publisher in 1999. I spent more than my modest royalty was worth, in publicizing that book. Zilch.

    I saw the light and self-published eight books thereafter. Result: around 30 times more income from every one.

    I agree about the futility of book signings. Their day has long gone. One tip that still works well, however, is to speak at a local society. They pay travel costs plus around $100 fee, and you get to sell your book at the end. That could mean 20-40 sales made to a happy captive audience. That’s profitable!

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