Have you ever attended a book signing by a celebrity author at a major bookstore (think Barnes & Noble), the kind where you are required to purchase the book in advance before you can get so much as a glimpse of the man or woman you have come to see? Then you have to wait in a line, sometimes a long line, and when you finally get up to the signing table, the author may be flanked by sharp-eyed assistants who look like Secret Service agents. Their purpose is to keep the masses at arms length, ward off time-consuming chatting, and keep the line moving right along. One of the author’s assistants may ask you for your name, write it down on a piece of paper, and slip it in front of the author who, without even having to look up at you, can scribble your name inside the book (before signing their own) to make it more “personal.” This done, the book is slapped shut and pushed towards you. You snatch it up, and you’re out of there! Book signing over! It’s all kind of sterile.
But that’s just one kind of book signing. About a month ago I went to a very different kind, a neighborhood book event at a small independent bookstore, Chevalier’s Books at 126 N. Larchmont Blvd. in the Hancock Park section of Los Angeles (chevaliersbooks.com), the kind of book shop that has been disappearing over the past decade because of big troubles in the publishing industry. But this bookstore still seems to be going strong, and the whole signing event was friendly, warm, and cozy — with some great cheese.
The author at this particular book signing is a colleague, Douglas Green, LMFT, a licensed psychotherapist and fellow mental health professional. Lots of his friends and colleagues were there in support of his publication adventure. It was a party atmosphere. Doug’s book, which I’d already read, loved, and had written a blurb for, is called The Teachings of SHIRELLE: Life Lessons From a Divine Knucklehead. It’s a book about a man (Doug) and his dog (Shirelle) and their awesome connection. It’s one of those books that makes readers end up saying, “I laughed; I cried” — and so did I.
Leading up to, and on the night of, the big event at Chevalier’s Books, there was an appealing little chalk-drawn sign outside the front door, inviting people to the “party” — and when you stepped inside you were greeted by a stack of “Shirelle” books but with no pressure to buy before you were allowed to see the author! Doug was right there by the cheese, nervous and happy to see his friends. Finally, it was time for people to find seats and quiet down so Doug could begin.
The book: “The Teachings of Shirelle: Life Lessons from a Divine Knucklehead.” (Available on Amazon.com)
The audience had filled the room. Standing room only in the back. And people kept arriving. At one point Doug looked up at the big crowd and said, as though in awe at the sight, “Oh, this is what you all look like!”
And we, in the audience, got a hear Doug read some wonderful excerpts from “SHIRELLE” and think, “Oh, this is what Doug looks like doing his book signing.” Everyone was on the same page!
Some people pulled their chairs up close. Doug had everyone’s attention with his warmth, humor, and delight in his subject matter (“we laughed”); and we felt sadness when, at the end 0f the book, after many wonderful years, Shirelle died (“we cried”).
When it was over, people jumped up, rushed to the counter to buy the book, grab some more cheese and crackers, gab with friends, and form themselves into a very chatty line to have Doug the Author sign his book.
Above, Doug is signing, talking, and laughing with relief — he’d gotten through it! A book signing is really a lot of work, but once you’ve been to one like Doug’s, you’ll want one of your very own.
All you have to do is write a fantastic book!
Support your local authors and independent bookstores!
(c) Sylvia Cary; Photos by Sylvia Cary