Wednesday, July 12, 2017

My first book-signing in the era of independent brick-and-mortar bookstores by Mary Ellis


I often think back fondly of my very first book-signing. I had just published a romantic suspense geared to the library market. So the binding and packaging were top-notch—it would truly hold up to heavy wear-and-tear. And the cover photo was embedded in the hardback cover, beneath the paper jacket. The only problem was the list price of $27.00 for an absolute “nobody” of a writer. I was so tickled with getting published that I scheduled a signing at my local independent bookstore. (Borders and Barnes and Noble kept asking: Who did you say you were?) This was an adorable shop in a valley surrounded by ski slopes and quaint art galleries. Unfortunately, it is now out-of-business. I send out dozens of publicity postcards to my family, friends, neighbors and business acquaintances. I paid for ads in my local newspapers and tried every avenue of free publicity I could find.
The day of the event I wore my new dress and took extra time with hair and make-up. I brought a tray of cookies and fruit tarts from the nearby bakery. The store owner had a fire lit with a comfy armchair for me to greet my “fans.” And in they came—my neighbors, cousins, and coworkers at my day job. It was like a cocktail party minus the cocktails. Everyone mingled and had a great time, including me. One hapless tourist wandered in and noticed the commotion. I spent fifteen minutes weaving an intriguing synopsis of my mystery. He kept thumbing through the book and nodding his head enthusiastically. Then suddenly he said: “Your book sounds good, but I’ll just check it out at the library.” And he disappeared out the door. In the end, I didn’t sell a single copy to anyone who wasn’t related to me or knew me personally, but I did sell almost thirty books. When we were leaving with our empty dessert tray, my husband said: “This obligates us to very nice wedding/shower/baby/graduation or whatever gifts to everyone for the rest of our lives.” But you know what? It was all worth it because for one special afternoon I felt like an author instead of just a writer.

Mary Ellis has written twenty-one novels. Her latest, Sunset in Old Savannah, is fourth of a mystery series, Secrets of the South, from Harvest House Publishers. Before "retiring" to write full-time, Mary taught school and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate, a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. She enjoys traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming, and lives in Ohio with her husband, dog, and cat. She can be found at: www.maryellis.net or www.facebook.com/Mary-Ellis/Author


Something Very Wicked, my very first book and referred to above, was re-released last year by Harlequin World Wide Mysteries under the name Mary Zelinsky. Please leave me a comment for a chance to win a copy of Something Very Wicked. Winner will be drawn in one week. US and Canadian entries only, please. 

40 comments:

  1. Great article. Thank goodness for family and friends! Love your books!!

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    1. Where would we be without friends & family?

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  2. WOW! I loved this. You are "living the dream." Congratulations. Now, i need to find your book and buy it. :) GOD bless.

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    1. Thanks< Mary. You're sweet to leave me a comment.

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  3. That sounds like it was a wonderful first book signing. Back then I bet you didn't realize that you'd publish so many more novels. Congrats on your latest!

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    1. I certainly didn't think I'd publish 21 more books after that one. thanks for dropping by.

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  4. Loved the Secrets of the South series. :)

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  5. Interesting learning about your journey in writing. What a amazing feeling it must be to have your first book re-released. Would enjoy reading. Congrats!
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Dianne, and good luck in the drawing!!

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  6. Interesting learning about your journey in writing. What a amazing feeling it must be to have your first book re-released. Would enjoy reading. Congrats!
    diannekc8(at)gmail(dot)com

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  7. I'm glad your first signing turned out to be a positive experience. I kept waiting for you to write a curve ball into that story! Who knew back then where you would be today! Congratulations.

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    1. tmkgrup2soon(AT)hotmail(DOT)com

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    2. Thanks, Arletta! I believe the only two people who had faith in me back then were my husband, Ken, and my agent, Mary Sue.

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  8. What a great story. I would be " thrilled" to read your first book! Thanks .

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    1. Thanks so much for dropping by Suspense Sisters.

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  9. What an interesting "first" story. I am curious if the book ended up borrowed quite a bit from the library and if that is how you became more known or what other avenues you used. Thanks for the chance to win your first book.

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    1. When never know about whether the book was borrowed much or not. And regarding how I became better known, I owed that to my agent for selling my books to a larger publisher.

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  10. Awww! That's a sweet story. I can relate. I'm not a fan of book signings for that reason. It's fun to meet people, but I don't think many lasting connections are made that way. Thanks for sharing!

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    1. I'd love to meet you sometime Dana! I love watching your videos you post. You're so expressive and that's a rare talent I think.

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    2. Thanks so much Dana, for taking time from your writing to leave me a comment.

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    1. They did do a nice job with the cover, didn't they?

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  12. Love book signings and the opportunity to meet people! And I love your books.

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    1. Thanks so much for taking time from your writing to leave me a comment, Patricia. I love your books too!

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  13. There have been very few book signings in my area but I go when there is one announced. I love mystery and suspense type books. At my age it never hurts to get the ole ticker pumping a little extra hard every now and then!
    tumcsec(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks for attending book-signings in your area! And I knew exactly what you mean by "getting the old ticker ticking."

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  14. I love your Secrets of the South Series!

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    1. Thanks, Beverly, that series has been so much fun to write!

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  15. I am glad that the book signing had such a positive impact on you!
    Martha T.
    CRPrairie1(@)imonmail(dot) com

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    1. Thanks, Martha, and good luck in the drawing.

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  16. Loved the interesting cover.
    betsylu2@msn.com

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    1. Harlequin did a great job on the cover.

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  17. I am a retired librarian and I often scheduled Booktalks/book signings and I was always disappointed for the author if there wasn't a good turnout. Most of them were always upbeat and they just loved to meet with readers. I am sure that you have no problems now!
    Blessings!
    Connie
    cps1950(at)gmail(dot)com

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    1. Thanks, Connie, for being so supportive of authors. Authors love librarians for that reason and because they're so sweet!

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  18. I would love to win a copy of your book. Very interesting details about your life and first book signing experience. d[dot]brookmyer[at]yahoo[dot]com

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    1. Good luck in drawing, and thanks for dropping by Suspense Sisters, Donna.

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  19. MARY, I enjoyed reading about your first book signing. It's a fun way to meet and greet bookish friends.

    psalm103and138 at gmail dot com

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    1. Thanks, Caryl, for taking the time to leave me a comment.

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  20. Thanks to everyone who took the time to leave me a comment. Sorry it took so long to pick a winner, but I've been out of town with very spotty internet coverage. Without further ado, my winner of Something Very Wicked is Arletta. I have emailed her for her address and will send that book right out.

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