Thank you. Wonderful. It's almost exactly my experience, both in book stores and at Bouchercon. The whole bit is utterly humiliating. In the end you come away angry. Not good for the blood pressure. I don't sign any more -- and these days, some stores even ask me to come. :) And I go to Bouchercon only to entertain myself.
Signings can be good, bad or indifferent. I've had signings where 50 books and sold and signings where 3 have. Much of it depends on the store, how well they do with your books in general, how well they team you up with other authors (if they do), how well they promote you (if they do), etc. Chain stores in general seem to do little or nothing, or sometimes a sign in the door or window. Specialty stores like Mysterious Galaxy (of which I'm a co-owner), or Poisoned Pen, or general bookstores run by dedicated and informed people like Kris and Joe Neri at Well Red Coyote, can put on events that actually draw readers (keeping in mind that there are also things far beyond their control).
I have seen authors use signings very effectively, building up an audience with repeated visits, scraping their way onto regional bestseller lists, and then onto the national lists from there. James Ellroy is one good example--he really worked a signing, even when almost no one showed up. It didn't hurt that he was a terrific writer, but his constant presence in front of readers was a big factor.
I don't like doing the ones where the only people who stop at my table do so to ask where the cookbooks are, or the restrooms. But I figure that at a certain level, the only thing a writer can do is to win one reader at a time and try to hang onto them all, and if getting out there helps introduce me to those readers (and causes stores to order in more copies of my books) then I'll keep doing it.
Too funny. This confirms my suspicion that book signings are generally a form of cosmic punishment for writers, no matter what their stature. If you're an unknown, nobody shows up. If you're famous, everybody freaking shows up. Hard to say which is worse.
Very funny - and pretty much what I always suspected so I've never bothered to ask a bookshop to let me sign. And being that despised creature, a mid-lister, I figured the answer would probably be no, anyway! :-)
Agreed, Benjamin. If nothing else, I stop and say hello, ask questions, and offer to buy them a cuppa coffee or tea. Personally, I would not be sitting there looking lonely, though: I'd be up talking, dancing on the table, whatever it took to walk away from the signing saying, uh-huh, I sold one damn book so it was worth my time. By the way, are these signings an IRS writeoff?