Saturday, November 12, 2005

Invoking Nora

Yesterday I had a book signing in Martinsburg, West Virginia. This signing was part of a big, city-wide book festival and I was ensconced in the flower shop on the main street of town. Foot traffic into the store was light all day but when someone did come in, I found myself faced with a dilemma -- how to get them to come over to my table and (hopefully) buy my book.

Never good at chit-chat, I tried the usual technique of making some non-threatening (and probably inane) comment about the weather. For the most part, this approach didn't work. The people would answer the question, wander around the store without looking at my book and then leave. I tried just smiling. I pretended to look busy. Nothing seemed to lure people into looking at my book.

Then, quite by accident, I asked a woman if she liked to read romance novels, such as those by Nora Robets. She immediately perked up, hurried over and began to talk. And she wasn't the only one. Person after persona reacted with the same enthusiasm whenever I invoked Nora's name.

Now, I should explain that Nora lives very close to here. Everyone in this area knows that she is local. And I discovered yesterday that they are very proud of her success. They beam when I mention her name. They get all excited and want to talk about her books. They are even more interested when I mention that I know when her next book signing is (December 10th) and where (Turn the Page bookstore in Boonsboro, Maryland). If they haven't been to one of her signings, they want to hear what they are like. If they have, they invariably indicate that they want to attend another. One woman happily shared that Nora once let her wheelchair-bound mother cut through the long line at a book signing and have her picture taken with her.

All of which made me feel very good. I like knowing that people are proud when a local person becomes famous. I enjoy seeing the pleasure in their faces when they talk about her books. It's comforting to know that when person succeeds in life, others share the joy -- even strangers.

And most of all, what a testimony it is to the power of her books!


Nancy Herkness said...

Weehaw, Gail! That's West Virginian for "I'm really excited to hear that you were in my home state and having a good time." I was born and raised in the hills of the mountain state albeit a bit farther south than Martinsburg. How'd you happen to be in "Almost Heaven"?

gailbarrett said...

We moved to this "tri-state" area (VA, WV, MD) some years ago because of my husband's job. Last summer, I heard that the Martinsburg visitor's center was organizing its first-ever Apple Valley Book Festival and I rushed to sign up. They attracted over 140 authors (including Steven Coontz, who is from WV) and spread us around the town. I'm hoping that they have the event again next year because it was a wonderful idea. And it appears that there are a lot of writers in these beautiful mountains!

Candice Gilmer said...

So how did the signing do for you? Did you sell a lot of copies?

Alfie said...

Gail, I'm with Candice. Invoking Nora livened things up obviously, but did it sell books?

gailbarrett said...

Well, yes. Talking about Nora definitely sold books. Maybe it gave them something neutral to talk about while they decided whether or not to buy my book. Overall, though, the festival didn't draw many people so I can't say that I sold a lot of books during the event. There were some organizational problems that need to be addressed if they decide to hold it again.

Nancy Herkness said...

Gail, you should check out the West Virginia Book Festival in Charleston, WV. It's very well organized and gets a fair amount of traffic. I did a presentation there last year and had a grand time.