I enter the bookstore and find a table already placed in a strategic position for me. On it are copies of my memoir Soul Friend and my sixth novel The Inheritance, along with one of several posters around the store advertising my visit. I notice the comfortable chair behind the table and am thankful—this is my fifteenth in-store book signing and I know they can be tiring.
I get out a bundle of bookmarks supplied by my publisher and try to set them out in an attractive way, along with my own business cards and a copy of each of my five earlier novels. There are none of these in stock now, but I like to have them there to show anyone interested.
The young manager comes to ensure I have everything I need and offers me some coffee, but I am too eager to move around meeting people and hand out bookmarks. At first, it is slow going—there seem fewer customers than usual. Every half hour, a staff member announces my presence over the PA system and I am grateful. But I also laugh when I hear him call my latest novel a ‘Koorong classic’!
Eventually, a lady I spoke to earlier approaches me.
‘Would you please sign both your books? We’re going away on a long trip and I’m trying to find some good books to take with me.’
Feeling relieved, I tell her she is my first customer. But I also remind myself it’s not only about promoting my books. I have prayed for some ‘God conversations’ in that bookstore and am looking forward to seeing what shape these take.
I soon find out. I meet an African pastor and chat about his home country. I give him my card and he gives me his, telling me he would love me to speak to the women at his church. Not long after, a lady comes by with her teenage daughter. As I explain how I began writing in my fifties and how I believe God can weave all our life experiences together to accomplish the next thing we are called to do, her eyes fill with tears.
‘That’s just what I needed to hear today,’ she whispers.
She buys both my books and asks me to write her daughter’s name, Lily, in one. I pray for Lily as I do –both seem so open and vulnerable.
The hours pass. I meet a teacher who remembers hearing me speak at his school and encourage him. I relate to someone from our own church who seems so lost and sad, giving her a hug in the middle of the store. I talk up a friend’s book I see someone thinking of buying (Integrate by Adele Jones). I manage to sell a few more of my own. As my day draws to an end, I am grateful for those sales, but even more grateful for those God moments along the way. I have done my best to be sensitive in all my conversations and actions—the results are in God’s hands.
Yes, I know in-store book signings can be discouraging at times, but I still believe they are well worth the effort. What about you? How do you feel about such events, either as an author or a customer?
Jo-Anne Berthelsen lives in Sydney but grew up in Brisbane. She holds degrees in Arts and Theology and has worked as a high school teacher, editor and secretary, as well as in local church ministry. Jo-Anne is passionate about touching hearts and lives through both the written and spoken word. She is the author of six published novels and one non-fiction work, Soul Friend: the story of a shared spiritual journey. Jo-Anne is married to a retired minister and has three grown-up children and four grandchildren. For more information, please visit www.jo-anneberthelsen.com.