Why Book Signings are So Important

Many authors, especially the more famous ones, avoid book signings. They feel that the amount of work required to put into a book signing doesn’t equal the sales returned. The ROI doesn’t calculate in favor of the author.

But I disagree. Book signings are some of my favorite events.book sign - 2nd book

With my most recent book signing, I was billed as a native of Enid, Oklahoma. The Hastings store in my home town hosted the signing and helped me advertise it.

What makes a successful book signing? Some authors believe selling 10-50 copies constitutes a success. But for me, the success of the event centers around the people who attend.

For example, in Enid, the following people visited my table:

• A prayer partner – a woman who faithfully prays for my ministry as writer, life coach and program director at GateWay of Hope. She also prays for my personal concerns and the cares of my family.

• My former piano teacher – the woman who taught me how to follow the notes but also how to play with my soul. She is still teaching me because every time we visit, I am awed and inspired by her gracious personality and her godly character.

• A high school and college friend – this woman has taught me about the importance of faith, especially when life unravels in different directions. She encourages me through social media and by attending the events that are important to me. She is an example of the believers in the Hebrews’ Hall of Faith.

• The sister of another high school friend – she came to buy each of the books so that she could read them and then send them on to her sister. Every time I see her at church, I am struck by the peace of God that rests on her, and I feel blessed.

• A friend of our family who continues to meet weekly with my mother, walks around the mall with her and drives her to Braum’s so they can have biscuits and gravy together. I have known her all my life and appreciated her kindness to our family.

• My own sister who buys books for six of her friends, filling her Christmas list early and encouraging me in the process. She interrupts her own schedule to fill my needs.

• A pastor and his wife who show loyalty to the family of their parishioners and continue to encourage me in my writing journey.

All these people uplifted me because they took the time on a busy Saturday to drive across town and buy one or more of my books. I know they will read the books and probably tell someone else about them. They will pray for me and that will build up my coverage in heaven for this wordsmithing I do.

But then – just as I began to pack my remaining books away – another person approached the table, picked up a book and asked, “What’s it about?”

“A woman minister,” I said, “who is diagnosed with Alzheimer’s. She lives in assisted living and meets a whole group of interesting characters.”

“Perfect,” she said. “My mother’s best friend just went to live in assisted living. Mom doesn’t know what to do to help her, and she misses her so much – the things they used to do together.”

We talked for a while about how life changes so rapidly and how difficult Alzheimer’s and dementia can be for the caregivers. She bought the first book, “The Unraveling of Reverend G” and slipped a bookmark for the second book, “Intermission for Reverend G” into her purse. She picked up a business card, “So I can follow you online,” she said, “and buy the second book on Amazon.”

Then she moved toward the register, and I continued to pack up my books, grateful that I waited a few more minutes so that I could share hope with this lovely woman.

All my book signings have been successful – that is – I’ve sold more than 10 books. But the best part of the entire process is that I get to meet face to face the people who read the words God has given me. I get to thank them for coming and hopefully bless them with a hug or a handshake.

I meet people who will be encouraged by the story of this brave little minister with Alzheimer’s Disease, people who are caregivers, who experience the 36-hour day and know firsthand how it feels to live with a loved one who sometimes forgets.

Book signings are another way to share the message that no matter how dire life gets – God is still good and he never stops loving us.

©2014 RJ Thesman – “Intermission for Reverend G” – http://amzn.to/1l4oGoo

Long-Term Friends

We met again because one of my book signings happened to be close to where both of them live. The last time all three of us were together, my son was in the first grade. Twenty-some years have passed, quickly and unbelievably.

Yet there they were, supporting me at a book signing and smiling for pictures that erased the wrinkles and the years of crises, job changes, multiple moves.

2 Carols and RJT

2 Carols and a Writer

At lunch, we shared pictures and stories, chatting as if we had seen each other just 20 minutes ago rather than 20 years. Each of us has changed in our own ways, seasoned by life, yet still believing in the foundations that brought us together:

  • Faith in the grace-giving joy of Jesus
  • A sisterhood carved from a shared piece of history – the years we all lived in the same town
  • Seasons of prayer for each other and for our families

Although we are more mature, we remember the young women we were and the lessons we learned. Now, we understand more about our mothers and grandmothers – how they survived the years with grace and ended up surrounded by halos of wisdom.

We bring that grace to each other, accepting our differences and celebrating our sameness.

We have decided not to let 20 years separate us again. In the spring of 2013, we’re planning a weekend retreat where we’ll eat well, laugh and enjoy being together.

And now, in this season of gratitude, I am so thankful for these long-term friends who have not only remembered me – but also support the passion I call writing.

As I think of them, I pray the traditional Gaelic blessing:

“May the road rise to meet you.
May the wind be always at your back.
May the sun shine warm upon your face,
And the rains fall soft upon your fields.

And until we meet again,
May God hold you ever in the palm of His hand.”

© 2012 RJ Thesman

Birthday Changes

All my life, Mom made my birthday special. One year, she made the most decadent gooey chocolate cake I’ve ever tasted. I walked into the house after a long basketball practice, plopped into my chair at the kitchen table and eagerly sliced a piece of that wonderful cake. It tasted like love.

During my first year of college, I lived far away on my birthday. But Mom somehow managed to send a message to the dorm mother who arranged for a chocolate chip creation that I shared with all the girls on my hall.

Mom never forgot birthdays for any of us. She schemed and planned for weeks in order to make the best cake, find the perfect present and make the day special. Then she lustily sang the Happy Birthday song, to ensure that each of her children knew what a special day it was for her, too.

This year, my birthday seemed bittersweet. For two hours, I signed books at my hometown Hastings. It was a great time of connecting with friends and family, talking about Reverend G and sipping an iced chai. Afterwards, my siblings and I feasted at the local Western Sizzlin’ where I treated myself to a dish of blackberry cobbler a la mode.

Then I drove to the nursing home to spend the rest of the evening with Mom. We watched television together as she asked me over and over about my son’s major in college. I didn’t tell her about the book signing, because she would have regretted that she couldn’t come.

Every five minutes, she pleaded, “When can I go home? Why can’t I go home? I want to go home.”

No birthday card. No mention of the day. No cake.

I felt guilty for my self-pity, knowing that for me it was only a birthday. For Mom, it’s the rest of her life in a facility and a gradual eating away of her brain by that brutal Alzheimer’s.

But still, I missed the fact that for the first time in my life, October 12 came and went without a birthday acknowledgement from Mom. And there will never be another birthday card from her or a decadent chocolate cake or a colorful balloon. Those days are over.

As I drove back to Kansas, a song on the radio reminded me to hang on to the only One who never changes, the Christ who saved me and now upholds all of us in this Alzheimer’s journey with Mom.

“When my world is shaking, heaven stands. When my heart is breaking, I never leave your hands.”