Is it embarrassing to say that I’ve never been to a book signing? Despite being a life-long avid reader, I’ve never been to a book signing. Perhaps it was due to geographic location limits, but book signings are not something that has ever crossed my radar. After recently moving to the Atlanta area, with much more arts and culture activities, suddenly, book signings are something that are doable.
When I found out that one of my favorite authors, Emily Giffin, was going to be within driving distance launching her new book First Comes Love, I jumped at the chance to go. But then….all of the questions….what happens at a book signing (books are signed, I know, but what else?), what does one wear (I found out that this event was mostly cute sun dresses), etc. Needless to say, my excitement level was at a fever pitch and I grabbed a friend to tag along. By the way, I would have gone alone, but it was defiantly a friend event. There were gaggles of girls everywhere.
Hosted at the Marcus Jewish Community Center, Emily Giffin’s book signing was more of an event than just a signing. A book talk was hosted by local personality Mara Davis that felt like we were in the audience of a talk show. The venue was much smaller than what I anticipated but that worked out in my favor as we were able to see Emily better. It felt very intimate but packed at the same time—the room was full of women (and a few men…a few)! It surprised me how much I enjoyed the book talk. I’m not sure if I enjoyed it so much because it felt talk showish or if it was because of Emily’s personality. (Side note: Atlanta is where Emily Giffin resides and is personal friends with Mara Davis. I’m sure their comradery added a little something extra to the event.)
Because Atlanta is Emily’s (am I allowed to call her by her first name? It feels like I can after the event) hometown, many of her friends and family members were in the audience which she talked to, or rather about, throughout the book talk. Mara Davis started the book talk by stating that Emily was everything you hoped she would be and more—which is something that she definitely lived up to. I was surprised at how funny she was and candid throughout the conversation. We quickly learned that she and her first book agent did not have the best of relationships. As someone low on the totem pole, Emily’s emails were not returned frequently and responses were very short from her agent. Emily told the audience under no uncertain terms should aspiring writers ever use this agent—frequently. This was surprising and hilarious at the same time. Haven’t we all had those people that we would love to give a big ol “I’ll show you” to? Emily recalled a story where her sister confessed to her that she sent that agent a signed copy of one of Emily’s best-selling books. I’m sure that agent has never forgotten the writer she passed on.
Another surprising thing that Emily said, I can’t remember the context, they were obviously talking about the movie Something Borrowed, but someone asked her about turning her current book, First Comes Love, into a movie and who would she cast. Mara Davis, who was magnificent by the way, reminded Emily that she had just mentioned on the Today show this week that Kate Hudson would be a good person much to Emily’s surprise. She said “did I really say that?!” to which Mara confirmed. Emily then had a confused/horrified look on her face to which she then said something like “well let’s just say that Kate played her character true to form in Something Borrowed (this is a previous book of Emily’s that was turned into a movie. Kate Hudson played Darcy.) She is definitely a Darcy”. (If you haven’t watched the movie, you should! It’s really good, and you will totally understand the Darcy dig). My friend and I looked at each other going “did she just say that?” I was delighted—it’s refreshing that she didn’t give a PC answer.
At one point during the book talk, Mara Davis posed the question to Emily about how she felt about being classified as a “chick lit” author. I was surprised and thankful for Emily’s candid answer. Emily stated that although her success of her first book, Something Borrowed, came on the heels of Bridget Jones’s Diary and that much of the success of her book can be attributed to the influx of female readers during that time period, she does not feel that her books fit into the “chic lit” mold that is so often characterized. She stressed that she writes about relationships between people and not Sex and the City martini sipping shopping girls. Mara Davis brought up the fact that late night talk show host Steven Colbert has not had the first female author on his show despite having plenty of bestselling male authors. Emilly stated that despite male authors such as Nick Hornby writing about the same type of topics covered in her books, Hornby’s works are not classified as “chic lit”. (This is a topic that would make for a great post about gender inequality in the publishing world) Despite not really liking her deemed genre, Emily stated that she is simply happy to have readers. Readers that have made her a bestselling author for the soon to be 8th time.
After speaking with Mara Davis for about 30 minutes, the floor was opened up to audience member’s questions. Dun, dun, dun….I had a question, but boy was it nerve wracking—do you raise your hand to ask? I finally worked up the courage, despite my nervousness. I was dying to know if Emily had ever thought about writing a young adult novel (a guilty-ish pleasure). Surprisingly, Emily stated that she would love to write a YA novel. Because several of her novels are essentially coming of age stories, and because she likes them so much, she said that she could see herself writing one. Fingers crossed!
Finally, as the last questions were being asked from audience members, I saw several people in the audience begin to leave—how rude! But then I realized….they were leaving to jump in line for the book signing. Maybe they were smart. That line was incredibly long! Are they always this long? I’ve never been more grateful that I had a friend with me. We spent an hour in line chit chatting while we people watched and waited for our turn. Although I thought the line would move faster, I realized that it wasn’t moving that fast because Emily was gracious enough to take pictures with anyone that asked, and multiples as well, and have conversations with her fans. I couldn’t have asked for a better first book signing/talk and can’t wait to go to another one.
What has your experience been with book signings/talks? Are they similar to what I described?