There are tips galore on what makes a book signing successful - business cards, blow-ups of your book cover, crystal dishes brimming with chocolate. Good ideas. But if there is one thing to bring above all else, it is your willingness to listen.
Writing is a solitary endeavor. It's just you and the blank sheet of paper or computer screen. All of that changes 360 degrees when you publish. Then the opportunity to meet new people, forge connections and share stories sparks a whole other experience. The journey comes full circle.
Engage people in conversation, ask them their name before signing the book, write a personal note. Most of all, listen.
"I always wanted to write a book," a man said at my book signing Saturday night. "I have an idea for a novel. It has been rolling around in my head for quite some time," he admitted.
"Writing your story must have been therapeutic," a woman offered with a wistful tone making it clear she has thought of penning her memoir.
"I would love to write a book. We all have stories to tell, don't we? Maybe when my four-year-old is grown, I will have the time," a young woman told me.
"A friend recently lost her husband," another woman confided as she held my memoir. "I am excited to be able to tell her about your book. Can she call you?"
This is the stuff of community, of life. It is also the fun part of book signings. When you offer a signing, implicit is a personal invitation to connect.
And in every conversation, a tidbit, a morsel of a future story for you as a writer may emerge more satisfying than any piece of chocolate. For isn't it true that the best writers are also the best listeners? Almost everyone wants to write. They know they have a story to tell, a story rooted in their own lives . . .a story crying to be heard. Or they have a friend who wants to write. Sometimes, all they need is that tiny ounce of encouragement . . . seeing someone just like them at a book signing willing to listen.