Last Thursday, I drove up to Denver for a group book signing with two other Colorado mystery authors, Mike Befeler and Linda Berry. We were scheduled to be at the Mont Blanc boutique in the Cherry Creek Mall, an upscale shopping mall, from 5:30 - 7:30 pm, and the event was well publicized by the store, us authors, and the organizer of the event, Anne Randolph, who sent out notices to fans and students of her Soup Kitchen Writing courses.
Due to a perfect storm of unforseen circumstances, though, we had a poor turnout and only one book was sold. What were the circumstances? First was a real storm, a snowstorm that dumped a couple of inches of slush on Denver's streets late in the afternoon, making driving treacherous and being outdoors cold, wet, and miserable. Second was President Obama's visit to Denver that afternoon and evening to campaign for Colorado Senator Michael Bennet. Local police and security personnel closed random streets and portions of the I-25 highway running through the middle of the city at random times to mask the actual route that was taken by Obama's motorcade.
These two factors slowed traffic to a crawl on the highway and snarled the surface streets. Even though I gave myself an extra half hour to get there, I arrived late at the signing. And, anyone else who might have planned to come probably gave up in teeth-grinding frustration. I would have if I wasn't one of the authors! The normally bustling mall was deserted, with solitary footsteps echoing in empty hallways. The Mont Blanc boutique had a grand total of one customer who did not come in for the signing, and after looking at some wallets, he didn't buy anything.
Could we have predicted that these circumstances would occur and that this event would go sour when we made the arrangements months ago? Of course not. Could we have done anything differently to make it more successful? No. Every author has tales to tell about book events gone bust, for a variety of unforseen reasons. We three authors now have another "try to top this" story to add to our repertoire of disaster stories.
However, I wouldn't call this event a failure. Why? Because of all the publicity for the event, our names were trotted out in public. People who may not have heard of us now have. Others who had heard of us and thought about coming to the event but didn't or couldn't, may buy one of our books somewhere else. Other offers to sign may come to us from other businesses. One positive that I do know about is that Anne Randolph will share her table at the upcoming Colorado Independent Publishers Association (CIPA) College with me, so I can sell my books there. We're both presenters at the college. I'm sure more positives will come out of this event down the road, and I'm sure I won't even know what they all are.
What are your tales of book events gone bust? I'd love to hear from readers, location hosts, and authors!