On some level, the problem of “having” to do a reading or a signing is a minor one for a writer. If you even have the opportunity, in general things are going well for you.
That said, taking the opportunity is something you should do judiciously. Especially in bookstores.
See, when you do a reading or signing event in a bookstore, they’ll naturally order a large chunk of your books, in anticipation of having many on hand to sell. So what happens if they order 60 books and you only get five people there? You’ll get a lot of returns. Do that too much, and you get A TON of returns.
See, readings and signings aren’t really good events to find new readers. They are for your existing, dedicated fans. If you’re not even sure if you have a fans in some other city, you shouldn’t make a point of traveling there just to do a bookstore signing.
There is a next-level thing where the publisher sends you on a book tour. I’m not there yet. Very few writers are. I’m of the mindset to trust that they’ll know when it ought to happen. To try to make it happen on your own can cause more damage than not. I met one writer who nearly scuttled his career by trying to do events in every bookstore up and down California. All he accomplished was give himself a ton of returns, making his name toxic. He had to reboot his career under a pseudonym.
Now, if you’re at a con, and they give you a reading or signing time, I say take it and make the most of it. Even if you only get one person. There it’s not hurting you: you’re already there, and there isn’t the same risk-of-return. Getting one new reader, if that’s all you get, is worth your time.
Well, it’s worth your time if you enjoy doing it. Personally, I like it a lot, and I think I do it pretty well. But that’s me. I know plenty of writers who would rather gnaw off their own foot, and only do readings out of a sense of obligation.
So, hey, if we’re at the same event, come hear me read, ask me to sign something. You’ll have a good time.
Speaking of, another reminder: I’ll be at ArmadilloCon in July, where I’m running the Writers’ Workshop. Registration for the workshop goes until June 15th, so there’s still plenty of time to polish that short story or novel chapter and send it in. Feel free to hit me up if you have any questions about it.
Now, back to the word mines. See you all down there.