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Bestselling Authors Share Their Worst Book Signing Experiences
Episode 4720th December 2022 • Writing Break • America's Editor
00:00:00 00:14:08

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Learn about several bestselling authors' worst book singing experiences, and learn one thing many aspiring authors fail to do.

Music licensed from Storyblocks:

“More Jam Please” by Raighes Factory

“Santa in Red” by Loops Lab

“Holiday at Home” by Jon Presstone

"Gift Giving" by Amber Waldron

“In Need of Christmas” by Boomer

"Dance Of The Sugar Plum Fairy" by Craig Austin, Worldwide Public Domain


Rosemi Mederos:

If you have plot bunnies coming out of your plot holes, it’s time for a writing break.

Season's greetings. I hope your holiday stress is minimal. To help in that regard, I’ve got a feel-good episode for you today, so let’s get settled in at the Writing Break cafe where we’ll start our break with some publishing news.

The Andromeda Strain, died in:

According to the author’s widow, Sherri Crichton, “Michael had been working on this book for years, it was his passion project and centered in the place that inspired him the most, Hawaii.”

published by Little, Brown in:

While Patterson never met Michael Crichton, he says he knows Crichton “through his books.”

Here’s a happy small town story for you. Crime writer Ann Cleeves was making her way through a blizzard in the town of Lerwick in Shetland, Scotland, when her laptop fell out of her bag and got lost in the snow.

Shortly after the storm passed, a woman named Rachel Wiseman was clearing snow from her car when she came across the laptop. Through a WhatsApp group chat, the town figured out to whom the laptop belonged, and Cleeves and her laptop were reunited.

The laptop looks like it has been run over a few times, but the author was glad to have it back. She will need to consult an expert to see if her latest manuscript can be retrieved from it. Cleeves said, “I had email attached my novel to myself a couple of weeks ago so not too much will be lost.”

So, let me ask you, When was the last time you backed up your work?

On December 3rd, Chelsea Banning held a book signing for her debut fantasy novel, Of Crowns and Legends. Two people attended the book signing.

The next day she tweeted, “Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it. Especially as 37 people responded ‘going’ to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.”

Soon after, several bestselling authors shared their stories of book signing woe. Here are a few of them:

Jodi Picoult: “I have sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach…and ask me where the bathroom is.”

Margaret Atwood: “Join the club, I did a signing to which nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help.”

David Nicholls: “The one where the bookshop staff kindly pretended to be customers so I wouldn’t feel too bad, that stays with me.”

Jonathan Coe: “I was once invited to a crime writers’ festival. Colin Dexter was on at the same time. Only one person showed up for me. We chatted for a while and I told him how glad I was that he’d come. He said, ‘Actually I’m Ian Rankin and I was supposed to be introducing you.’”

Malorie Blackman: “We’ve all been there, I once did a talk at a library and five people turned up, including a mum who planted her two infant school children in front of me and then strategically ‘withdrew’ to get some peace for a while.”

Min Jin Lee: “I did a book reading where only my husband’s cousin showed up. One person. I’ll never forget that reading.”

Christopher Moore: “Did a signing at a book store in Berkeley, 2nd book, I think. No one showed up. NO ONE. The owner locked the doors and I sat on the floor in an aisle and read a passage to the owner, his employee, and the friend who was kind enough to drive me there.”

Neil Gaiman: “Terry Pratchett and I did a signing in Manhattan for Good Omens that nobody came to at all. So you are two up on us.”

Cheryl Strayed: “I’m sorry that happened to you, Chelsea. I know how awful it feels, as it has happened to me too. Almost every author I know has had this experience at some point in their career. It isn’t a reflection of you or your work!”

I hope this never happens to you, but odds are it will. I’ll share with you my favorite story about such an event. It’s about Orson Welles, as told by Roger Ebert.

“He once came to appear at Chicago's Auditorium Theatre. A snowstorm shut down the city, but he was able to get to the theater from his nearby hotel. At curtain time, he stepped before the handful of people who had been able to attend. ‘Good evening,’ he said. ‘I am Orson Welles -- director, producer; actor; impresario; writer; artist; magician; star of stage, screen and radio, and a pretty fair singer. Why are there so many of me, and so few of you?’"

Links to these articles can be found in the show notes of this episode and on And now, grab your stuff, we’re taking a trip to an independent bookstore where browsing in person is not recommended, not even by the owner.

We are at Mizrahi Book Store in Brooklyn, NY. This book store contains over 500,000 religious and nonreligious books about Judaism and the Jewish culture. The books are haphazardly placed in a claustrophobic space, which the owner describes as organized chaos. But the owner says you cannot come in and browse the store or you’ll never find anything. Instead, he recommends looking at their website and calling them up if there’s anything you’re interested in purchasing.

I recommend watching the fascinating interview that takes place inside the bookstore so that you can get a close look at the space and some of the amazing books contained therein without fearing death by book avalanche.

Now, let’s side shuffle on out of here and head back to the Writing Break cafe where while I’ll tell you about a free holiday book and a publisher currently accepting submissions.

Shine a Light by Rebecca Crowley is the first book in the Orchard Hill Series.

“When Ellie Bloom’s life literally goes up in flames after an apartment fire, she slinks back to her sister’s house in the St. Louis suburb she’s avoided since her mom died. Ellie quickly caves to her nephews’ pleas to direct the temple Hanukkah play—her mom’s pride and joy—and by the time she’s lighting the first candle in her menorah, she doubts she’ll ever escape her hometown. And then she spots the cute fireman who rescued her lighting his own menorah in the window next door.

Firefighter Jonah Spellman may have dropped out of seminary, but he still has deep roots in his Jewish faith. Hoping to mend fences with his Rabbi father who can’t forgive his career change, Jonah agrees to direct the Hanukkah play, never expecting to clash with his beautiful, fire-starting new next-door neighbor.

By day they spar—Ellie’s desperate to live up to her mom’s legacy while Jonah’s driven to impress his dad. But by night they return to their secret candle-lighting ritual. Will their love burn as brightly as the Hanukkah flames?”

Right now, Shine a Light is free on Kindle.

Shine a Light is published by Tule Publishing, while this means it’s not an independently published book, I wanted to share this particular holiday-centered book with you because Tule Publishing is currently accepting submissions. You can find a link in the show notes to their submission guidelines. They are currently calling for the following submissions: stories with diversity, cozy mysteries, crime fiction, psychological thrillers, detective stories (especially with female sleuths), fresh takes on classic romance tropes, strong, savvy heroines, romantic comedies, and stories with series potential.

Good luck.

You’ll also find a link in the show notes to more free holiday books, and a link to The Christmas Spirit by Debbie Macomber, which is not free, but I did receive a free copy from Penguin RandomHouse, and it’s a cute story about a bartender and a pastor who trade places the week before Christmas.

Now, join me on the Overthinking Couch for today’s writing tip.

Last week I shared 5 last-minute, free gifts others should give you, the writer. If you’re looking for a free gift you can give yourself that will make a huge difference in your writing, consider reading. Many aspiring writers I talk to do not read. It’s true. Or they balk at the idea of reading something about a subject they don’t know anything about or are not interested in, no matter how well-written and acclaimed that book might be. It’s wild.

Without exception, avid readers enjoy being transported to new worlds and learning about new things. So you might expect all writers to be the same way. In the famous words of Stephen King, “If you don't have time to read, you don't have the time (or the tools) to write. Simple as that.”

Now, you might have the time to write, but if you don’t also make time to read, your writing won’t be good. When you read other authors, you increase your ability to identify good writing, which means you’ll know when you’ve written something worthwhile and when you need to write another draft. It’s about understanding flow, pacing, character development, and so much more. You’re not reading to plagiarize or mimic others; rather, you’re reading to learn what moves you and what doesn’t. That’s how you develop as a writer. I encourage you to give yourself the gift of reading.

Until next week, thanks for listening, and remember, you deserved this break.

If you would like us to visit your favorite independent bookstore, feature your favorite independent author (even if it’s you), or discuss something you’re overthinking about, please email me at

Thank you for making space in your mind for The Muse today.

Writing Break is hosted by America’s Editor and produced by Allon Media with technical direction by Gus Aviles. Visit us at or contact us at




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