I’ve done signings in the past, but they’ve always been at comic book stores or comic conventions. Yesterday was my first signing at a book store. But not the fancy kind. Not big hardwood table in the center of a massive Barnes & Noble, with a complimentary cappuccino and a line of fans waiting outside in the cold. Rather, it was a little Waldenbooks in a mall.
Yes, a mall.
But hey, you gotta’ start somewhere, right? In this case, it was the Waldenbooks in Polaris Fashion Place, Columbus’ newest and latest sprawling temple to mass consumerism. To her credit, though, Liz (the store manager) was excited about having me over and they set me up with a table right outside the front doors, so everyone walking into the store would walk by my display first.
In retrospect, the time she picked out (noon till 4) probably wasn’t the best, as mall traffic didn’t really pick up until closer to 1 or 2. The store had ordered 5 copies of my graphic novel (not a huge number, obviously, but also not bad for a $20 book from a bunch of unknowns.) The good news: I sold out of all 5 copies in the 4 hours I was there. The bad news: I had to put up with a lot of weird people:
- 3 different people asked me where the restrooms were. Apparently I looked like a mall information specialist.
- One older gentleman talked my ear off about the many manuscripts he’d written over the years, including one where teenagers dig tunnels under a cemetery to rob the caskets from beneath of jewelry and other valuables. He was a nice enough guy, but he pretty much blocked my table from other passers by.
- A lady asked me where they had the store “with the massge type chairs”.
- Another lady asked me if she could use her debit card at the ATM around the corner.
- Upon seeing my small signs with the list of my upcoming projects (which includes a Zombies! series from IDW,) I had two different guys ask me if I drew Marvel Zombies. And in what’s got to be a blow for the anti-online piracy efforts of Marvel, one of them wasn’t even aware that Marvel printed those books! I kid you not! He said he only read them online and didn’t think Marvel would ever publish any of them “you know, like in a comic format”!
- A lady asked me where the Stride Rite store was. I guess it’s too hard to look at the mall directory and easier to ask the guy behind the table with a sign that reads “Book Signing”.
But worse than any of those annoyances was the Nailpro nail salon across the aisle. The fumes emanating from it were so bad that I had a headache by 12:30, and even the mall patrons who walked by all made faces and looked around for the source of the stench. I shudder to imagine what those fumes are doing to the poor souls that actually have to work in that store day in and day out!
But like I mentioned earlier, I did have interested customers as well. A couple of coworkers purchased books, as well as a couple of complete strangers. One was familiar with Jeff Smith’s work on Bone and was getting more into graphic novels, while another was a senior at Bowling Green who was studying art and was interested in the mechanics of making comics. I enjoyed chatting with both and also the other people who flipped through the book, offered congratulatory sayings, or were just curious.
So overall, not a bad day. I’d still like to do a signing in one of the bigger stores close to the OSU campus, where I think there’s a bigger audience for the book. But Borders and Barnes & Noble have such overwhelming, bureaucratic policies and procedures for in-store signings that it seems to me like they’ve actually set out with the goal of discouraging any such events.
Oh well, their loss. While they’re too stupid to actually leverage the few advantages they have over faceless online retailers (by bringing people into their stores through community features, spotlighting local creators, and other face-to-face events), places like Amazon.com will continue to beat them every single time through deeper discounts, bigger selections, and the convenience of 24/7 shopping from home.