This picture is Amy at her reading, gamely sitting there with a fever, smiling at the empty chairs.
NO ONE SHOWED UP.
I wanted to run this (and Amy graciously agreed to let me) because, this is a problem that happens to every writer I know.
I know. I've had it happen. Twice. I read in a Princeton Barnes and Noble once and not only did no one show up, but the staff felt so sorry for me, they sat down in the front row, complete with name tags! I read in Philadelphia and no one showed up, but at least we ended up going out for a nice dinner afterwards.
Michael Dorris, husband of Louise Erdrich, who usually got 500 people at every reading, told me that he once walked into a room to find....four people. Gamely, he read, and then the cops came in and arrested three of the people. They were bank robbers on the lam, who figured a bookstore reading might be the last place anyone would expect to find them.
You need to do readings. You get to sign books which gives them a more prominent place in the bookstore. You get a bit of publicity when the store advertises you, and you get to meet the store people who might like you and your book enough to do some hand selling.
But, readings can be traumatic. I've had a packed house in a blizzard, and yes, there were two times (Two! How traumatic is that!) when no one was there but me, my husband, my son, and the staff. I love reading with another writer because there is so much less stress, and I love reading when there actually is a crowd because then you get to meet and talk to your audience, who are usually wonderful. I get so jazzed! I love doing panels at book fairs like Backspace or AWP because the audience is so interested and interesting. Most of all, I adore bookclubs. But before every reading, I get so anxious I am ready to be scraped off the walls. I can't help thinking and worrying: what if no one shows up?
So, anyone want to share their embarrassing reading stories? Come on, Amy and I just did!