Book Signings, Zombies and Other Terrors

If you look at my Instagram, you’ll see me smiling and posing, hopping from coffee shop to bookstore to bar, speaking in front of groups at bookstores to promote The Localist book like it’s no big deal. Here’s a secret, though: It is a big deal. I’m naturally shy and reserved and hermit-like, and being away from my comfort zone for so long is hard enough — on top of that, I’m doing more public speaking than I’ve ever done in such a short amount of time before. It’s nervewracking, to say the least. It’s so scary to try to do something like this book tour all by myself.


Here’s the thing, though: I’m not alone. I’ve had dozens of champions throughout this tour. Some are my hosts, the friends and family who’ve been acting as hotels and chauffeurs and tour guides in the cities I’m visiting, and who do it all without complaining. Some are the baristas and servers who’ve been kind to me at the locally owned shops I’ve visited. And some are the booksellers at the bookstores where I’m doing all that public speaking. These are the people who see me right before I’m about to talk in front of their customers — a.k.a. the time my freak-outs are at their peak and I’m most likely to act like a weird, bookish zombie. Here are the stores I got an assist from since I last blogged:


Malaprop’s Bookstore/Cafe: Asheville, North Carolina


At Malaprop’s, I forgot the cardinal rule of being a visiting author: Be nice to the booksellers. Okay, I didn’t exactly forget, but they were busy and I didn’t get to be my usual charming self. (That’s a joke — I really am more zombie than charming even when I’m on my game at these things.) But that didn’t stop them from being comforting and kind to me, from welcoming the small group who came to hear me speak, or from sending me with away with gifts (including a bag of coffee from local roaster Mountain Air that came in handy the rest of the week — I’ve already polished it off). I also absolutely love that they put The Localist book not only on the shelf, but also on a display and on a staff picks shelf! I’ve never seen my book on a staff shelf before, and it was a really great moment for me. (Thank you, Cindy!)


One More Page Books: Arlington, Virginia


I heard about One More Page for the first time a few years ago when I saw pictures of THE PRESIDENT shopping in their store, so I was nervous about what to expect from this shop, so close to the cutthroat world of Washington, D.C. (Is there a bookseller equivalent of House of Cards’s Frank Underwood? If so, I’m guessing his picks shelf is stocked with Machiavelli and Sun Tzu. Also, I don’t ever want to meet him.)


IMG_0949Instead of feeling overwhelmed, I felt at home as soon as I walked in. The owner and staff at this shop could not have been more welcoming, their selection was right up my alley, and I loved the little personal touches throughout the store, especially the post-its marking book covers with personalized notes from the staff about the books. We also traded stories about our favorite author-celebrities — they told me that Obama talked to them about his first book signings where only two people came (this is especially comforting to me on tour, since not every signing is well-attended), but I won our little “contest” with the book celebrity trump card: John Green, the hero of all that is nerdy and bookish, who I met when he used to stop by my old store, Jonathan Benton, to sign copies of Looking for Alaska.


Letters Bookshop: Durham, North Carolina


My sister lives in Durham, so we were both pretty giddy about finding this wonderful little shop. It’s mainly a used bookshop, but it’s hard to tell that because they really curate their selection and all their books are in incredible condition. (They also stock a few new books so they’ll have the newest titles when customers come looking.)


The owner, Land, and his staff were incredibly kind and generous, and they even kept the doors open an hour past closing just because customers were still looking around. I loved that they were honest about which books they loved and which ones they thought were over-hyped — they saved me from diving into a 600-page book that critics loved but I suspect would’ve been much too slow for the bite-sized reading time I have on this trip. Instead, I asked for a quick-reading paperback, and Land suggested Train Dreams, which ended up being absolutely perfect — I finished it and loved it on my train ride from Durham to Philly yesterday.


Of course, there are more people to thank — some of whom I’ll get around to, and some who’ll remain unsung (or at least privately sung) heroes. But I’m grateful to these booksellers especially because they not only took a chance on me and welcomed my book into their stores (even though I don’t have the support of a big publisher), but they also welcomed me personally, calming my nerves when I needed it most.


Carrie Rollwagen is author of The Localist: Think Independent, Buy Local and Reclaim the American Dream, creator of 30 Days of Local Praise and co-founder of Church Street Coffee & Books. Find her on Instagram, Facebook and Twitter @crollwagen.

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