Monday, November 17, 2014
Can Book Signings Turn Heads?
Only a few things can cause me to stop on the street and pause from a busy day in the city: a police action/car accident, a beautiful woman, a celebrity, and yes, a beautiful woman (can’t get enough of that). But something else stunned me the other night as I was walking by the Union Square Barnes & Noble in Manhattan. I saw a line, out the door, winding down the long block. There had to be at least 150 people outside, all holding hard cover copies of a new book, waiting for it to be signed by an author making an appearance.
It was so wonderful to see. First, seeing support for a bookstore was great. Second, seeing a book turn into an event is always good to have. Books should get such attention but unfortunately not all bookstores hold author talks nor do they promote them so well. Many signings are poorly attended, but for author relatives and friends.
But this signing gave me renewed hope. Books must be seen and shown everywhere. It starts with bookstores, but doesn’t end there. Still, a healthy book climate begins when people are summoned to the "book church" (stores) and they respond enthusiastically in droves.
All bookstores should do book signings. Some stores may say they lack space to do so. I say bologna. You can hold it outside if the weather is nice – or on the roof if you get a permit. Or close the store down for an hour to fill it with book-lovers for a book talk with an author. Or go beyond the store. The store should take requests from authors and publishers for signings and locate a nearby, underutilized space to hold the signings. Use a school gym, a church, a warehouse, or a nearby restaurant during its dead hours (say 2:30-3:30 pm).
I want to see some inventiveness, some energy, some kind of extra push to make books important and visible. The time is now to do battle with the isolation provided by digital books sold virtually -- or forever hold your peace.
We need a Books Everywhere movement. It may not seem the same as political movements for civil rights, women’s rights, or gay rights, but it’s very important that we see books as our cultural heritage and definer of society’s standards. Should we not protect that, promote it and build it up?
Authors need to speak up and stores need to find a way to provide a forum to not only sell books, but to elevate them.