First Book Signing EVER Recap post!

Well – that was interesting!

This past Sunday took me over to Kanata (part of Ottawa) for a book signing event. Though when I say event, I really mean a wooden table, my books and a sign. But since this was my first book signing ever, I suppose that could merit ‘event’ status. Why not? 🙂

Book Signing

As I said, it was interesting. I feel like the occasion took part in three stages. Here they are:

Stage One: A throwback to preschool.

I arrived at the bookstore with my laundry basket full of book signing stuff – big sign, extra books if necessary, stand for the big sign, some quotes, some business cards and . . . no pen. I forgot the pen for the book signing. My mom dropped me off, and we decided she ought to stay for a cup of tea for a little while. So while she hooked us up with the teas, I set up my table.

Chapters was really good and put the signing table right at the front of the store. You really couldn’t ask for a better spot. So that was lovely.

We sat at the table and drank our tea. A few folks came up and one women actually recognized the book from the newspaper! She bought a copy for her daughter who had just given birth. I think that is awesome. Eventually my mom was like, “time for me to go…” And I was like, “NOOOOOOOO” because it feels soooooooooooooooooooooo awkward to be at the front of the store looking at people pass by just hoping someone might toss you a smile. It’s really uncomfortable stuff.

Ten more minutes tick by, and finally I said okay, she could go. Not that I was literally keeping here there – but I mean like she could go as in, I realized it was time to grow up and harness some courage.

So, mom left.

Stage Two: Alone.

After mom left, I was at the table sitting down and sipping on my tea. It continued to be weird. People walk into the shop and will either 1) make eye contact, smile and immediately move away, or 2) make no eye contact and keep a wide distance.

One lady asked if Claire Never-Ending was a kid’s book, which is totally understandable since it’s a fun cover. I’m going to try changing it – even if I do love the cover. She’s my first, and will always be remembered. I’m debating between three possible options for the next cover: random woman absorbing the world type image, random woman looking pregnant type image, or random connection to ancestry type image. I say random because it’ll most likely be stock photo – though I’ll carefully pick it.

Anyhow, it was a really painful hour. Weird-o-rama. However, I did sell a copy of the book to two ladies – a mother and daughter (the mom was 92) who were both named Olive. Apparently the name doesn’t go very far back in the family, but it does extend to cousins across the world. Cool.

While waiting for the agony of a book signing to end, Kevin and his daughter popped over to say hello. Kevin dropped off the copy of his book I’d asked for, The Novel Writer’s Blueprint, since I’m hoping it will help me kick some butt with my writing. And Lori popped over too with her two girls. Lori and I were in the photo collection Faces and a Cause shot by Lou Truss. She’d come all the way across town to buy two of the books! So, how is that for awesome? It was a delight to see everyone.

But then they left, and I was alone again.

Stage Three: Stand UP.

This is when a lady named Karen took her shift at the book store. She was working at the front of the shop greeting customers as they browsed the aisles. Karen came over to my table as I sat there feeling uncomfortable.

“You’ll never sell anything that way. You have to stand up.”


I stood up.

“Yeah,” she tells me. “You have to stand up and say hello to people. Have you got anything to give them?”

“I’ve got these?” I showed her my business cards that look like book.

“Bookmarks! Great, ask if they want a bookmark,” she suggested.


(Of course this wasn’t our exact conversation – but it’s the gist. Karen also introduced me to another fellow who worked at the shop, who was, apparently “as shy as you are!”)


So, I stood up and handed out ‘bookmarks’. The first person I offered a bookmark to rejected the offer with a decisive “no.”

“That’s okay, you asked her and that’s what matters,” encouraged Karen.

I did. I did ask her. She said no, and it didn’t physically hurt me. Besides, honestly, if someone doesn’t want the bookmark, it saves me one bookmark for someone who does want it!

For the rest of the time I was there, I was literally springing bookmarks on people. They would be whizzing by, and I was like “HEY YOU! TAKE A BOOK MARK!!”

(Well, okay, I was more like “Would you like a bookmark!!!!?!!!!!”)

Some people said no. But, several people said, “okay,” and of those a handful of them stopped to actually ask what the book was about, and of those I actually sold about three copies. And all of that happened in about 30 minutes of standing and throwing bookmarks at people. Imagine how it would have gone if I’d been doing that the entire time?

. . .

THEREFORE, it was a very worthwhile event. And standing up to launch bookmark assaults on customers felt far better than sitting down and hiding behind the pile of unsold books. It was still awkward, but it was good awkward. It felt kinda . . .adventurous.

So, good first signing! It was scary, and I reckon they’ll keep being scary but at least I know I can (at least) stand up and say hello. Maybe one of these days I’ll wander into the aisle and chase potential readers through the book stacks. Maybe…

And that is the story of my very first book signing event. Thumbs up for learning.


P.S. I used to work at that Chapters for about three years. Back when I met Zsolt and kept flying between Canada and Hungary, they essentially funded the plane fare by allowing me to pick up work whenever I was back in Canada.

18 thoughts on “First Book Signing EVER Recap post!

  1. Your post really brought back memories! May I share a poem I wrote with you?

    Book Signing in the Mall

    I sit in the mall
    in front of a small,
    round table of books

    (I, too, am quite small
    and not very tall
    nor have I young looks)

    The people walk past
    and some go quite fast
    so as to not see

    The longer I sit
    the smaller I get
    invisible me

    If one would just stop
    my heart could flip-flop
    my self-esteem rise

    Alas and black!
    they cut me no slack
    how can I look wise?

    If big name were mine
    like Powell or Klein
    I’d not be a fool…

    Acclaim is deserved
    for those who have learned
    to look calm and cool

    As they sit in the mall
    in front of a small,
    round table of doubt

    Invisible, derisible,
    deplorable, defensible,
    invincible me…

    Copyright 1996 Lois Tschetter Hjelmstad

  2. dear Catheine, your set-up looks awesome, and you look awesome! some weird moments, indeed, but hey, a great learning experience and you SOLD SOME BOOKS!!! YAY, YOU!!!

    congratulations, with much love,

    Karen xoxo

  3. Great experience! Loved reading step by step how it went! Yeah, must have been super super awkward, but i love the lesson in it!

  4. I listened to a podcast recently with entrepreneur Pejman Ghadimi ( He got his start working in a grocery store bank. Apparently, all the bank employees stood in the little bank and tried to get people to sign-up as they walked by. He, on the other hand, went into the grocery store aisles and started talking to people and pitching them directly. It was hugely effective and launched him into a extremely successful and lucrative career in banking! The way he told the story sounded extremely similar to your own experience of approaching and interacting with potential customers. “Audentes fortuna iuvat!”

  5. Hi Catherine,
    Wow, an official book-signing event! And yes, it was an event! I’m so proud of you. This selling books thing is no easy task is it? I need help! I loved your book and wish you great success with it. Loved reading this post. It’s fabulous as always. The photo’s pretty great too. Congrats to you, Catherine!

  6. Your table looks very professional. Yes indeed, it was an official book-signing event for a young, upcoming, talented local writer. Your photo looks great!

    Thanks for sharing Karen’s tips on how to engage potential purchasers for your book. Your bookmark was advertising, so even if some people did not buy at the time (and missed out on getting a signed copy), your bookmark will be a reminder for them to check out your book at a later date … maybe before their summer vacation.

    Next time you have such an event, let me know so I can be there. I’d love to be a third party who says what a great Canadian story it is.

    You are an inspiration to those of us who want to have our stories published.

  7. Hi Catherine – Congratulations on your first book signing! I haven’t written a book yet, but plan to have a poetry collection, so your expose of your experience and tips are very welcome. I wish you all the best in your author journey, and will have to take a look at your book.

    • Hello Shery,

      Best of writing and creating to you as you write your collection. And thanks for saying hello here. I’ve seen you online, so it’s nice to see you on the blog too! 🙂 Please do let me know when your collection is ready – maybe we can have you as a guest on Ottawa Writes? 🙂

  8. Pingback: Punk Rock Publishing with Adam Thomilson: Ottawa Writes Podcast Ep. 8 — The Novel Writer's Blueprint

  9. Pingback: Episode 10: Tips for your book signing (Selling!) | Ottawa Writes

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