A book signing is something that every author aspires to. We’ve seen them in movies, with the line out the door of readers clamoring to meet their favorite novelist. The author says hi to the person, asks their name and then scrawls out a “To Jane, Love, Author” across the title page in the front of the book. The rapid scrawl of the sharpie is for saving time. There’s a line out the door, people, let’s be quick about it.

For a new author like myself, the reality is different. There isn’t a line out the door because nobody knows who I am yet… other than my friends and family. I’ve been hesitant to arrange events like signings at local bookstores for a few reasons. But one of them really is that I am an unknown author who will likely sit there awkwardly in a room filled with exactly zero people.

Then I found out about the Easthampton BookFest in Easthampton, Massachusetts. I learned about it because another Booktrope author, Gail Olmsted, indicated on Facebook that she’s going to it. I read Gail’s books, I even blogged about one of them. I dropped her an email that said “you wrote a book about rockstars… I wrote a book about rockstars… let’s join forces.” This took away the awkwardness of me sitting there alone. We could BOTH sit awkwardly waiting for people to talk about our books with us.

And the day wasn’t nearly as awkward as I thought it was. I blasted my rock n roll, but the people two tables away blasted church music. When I walked by their booth I saw a laptop displaying Christian themed pictures. I could hear “Highway to Hell” by AC/DC blasting from my table. Oops. Of course Spotify played “Hells Bells” next. (Of course!)

I struggled with the awkwardness of standing there while people picked up my book and read the blurb on the back. I wanted to interact, to engage, to tell them why I wrote the book, to tell them about the story. I wanted to SIGN A DAMN BOOK and feel like an important author. What do you think? Do I look needy or cool here?

My mother in law came down from Vermont. She picked up a copy of the book, clutched it to her chest with the cover facing out and walked around the event. I sold two copies. I whipped out the fancy pen my sister in law, Emily, got me for Christmas. It has “BJ Knapp the Author” and “Beside the Music” engraved on it. I carry it everywhere in my purse in case of an impromptu book signing emergency.

The six hours blew right by. I set up a swag bag with bookmarks I had printed on Vistaprint and earbuds in a case that I had branded with my book cover. I made up shopping bags with my cover on the as well. There’s plenty of room in the bags in case people need to carry purchases from other authors in there—and my cover would always remain on display.

My friend Rebecca from work came by. My cousin Joanna and my Aunt Jessie came by, as did my cousin Anna and her daughter Claudia. The local public access TV station’s camera crew came by and did an interview with me. I saw my little brightly colored shopping bags in hands of people walking by.

This is me with my gorgeous cousin Joanna. My Aunt Jessie, Joanna's mom, is on the right.

Here I am with another one of my model quality relatives, my cousin Anna and her daughter Claudia. My family has the perfect recipe for making these beauties.

BJ Knapp Beside the Music Easthampton BookFest

In the end I sold 12 books. I brought 23 with me. I had wanted to go home with an empty box. But I think that 12 is still pretty awesome for my first time. I had 18 sign ups to my mailing list, a drawing for a $20 gift card to Amazon was the motivator. I was tweeted about and retweeted about. I talked all day, and engaged as much as I could. Thoroughly exhausted after driving the nearly 2 hours back home to Rhode Island.

And I loved every single minute of it. I want to do it again. And again. Thank you all for your support!

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.

BJ Knapp is the author of Beside the Music, available for purchase here. Please sign up for the Backstage with BJ Knapp mailing list to get updates on events, signings, dog pictures and so much more.