Author Chelsea Banning spent 15 years working on her first book, a fantasy novel Of Crowns and Legends. So when nearly 40 people RSVP’d to her first official book signing, she was expecting a full house. But when the doors opened, only two people showed up. Dismayed and humiliated, Banning took to Twitter to express her feelings. “Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it,” she tweeted. “Especially as 37 people responded ‘going' to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.”
Banning had been working hard on social media to get the word out about her debut novel. It felt futile, and the book signing incident was the last straw. Her honest tweet ended up going viral as famous writers commiserated about how they too have had poorly attended events. Not intending to keep the tweet up for more than a few hours, Banning was shocked when authors replied with their own stories of low and no-turnout signings. Even the most famous names, it turns out, have endured the painful experience of planning a (book) party and no one showing up.
Jodie Picoult, the author of popular novels like My Sister’s Keeper and Small Great Things, shared her experience. “I have sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach…and ask me where the bathroom is.” She’s not the only writer who was approached like this. Margaret Atwood, the author of The Handmaid’s Tale, wrote, “Join the club. I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help.”
The viral tweets offered solace for Banning and are a powerful reminder that everyone has to start somewhere. “You’re all amazing,” she said in a follow-up tweet. “I’m crying in a good way.”
Author Chelsea Banning was planning for nearly 40 people to attend her first official book signing, but only two showed up.
Only 2 people came to my author signing yesterday, so I was pretty bummed about it. Especially as 37 people responded “going” to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.
— Chelsea Banning Author (@chelseabwrites) December 4, 2022
Banning expressed her feelings about the low turnout in a tweet, and to her shock, many famous authors replied and commiserated with her.
I have sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach…and ask me where the bathroom is.
— Jodi Picoult (@jodipicoult) December 5, 2022
Join the club. I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help. 🙂
— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) December 5, 2022
Some didn't have anyone show up at all.
Terry Pratchett and I did a signing in Manhattan for Good Omens that nobody came to at all. So you are two up on us.
— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) December 5, 2022
I'm sorry that happened to you, Chelsea. I know how awful it feels, as it has happened to me too. Almost every author I know has had this experience at some point in their career. It isn't a reflection of you or your work!
— Cheryl Strayed (@CherylStrayed) December 5, 2022
It really is common!! Congrats on your book ❤️
— Liz Climo (@elclimo) December 5, 2022
Please don’t feel embarrassed. We’ve all been there. I’ve had signings where no-one came! But, really, nothing is wasted – you’ll have made contacts at the bookshop, signed stock etc. Onwards and upwards 😊
— Elly Griffiths (@ellygriffiths) December 4, 2022
The viral tweets offered solace for Banning and are a powerful reminder that everyone has to start somewhere.
Can't beat my record. One (1) person turned up at a signing once. We had a lovely conversation and went to coffee. Lemonade!
— Robin Hobb (@robinhobb) December 5, 2022
I did a book reading where only my husband’s cousin showed up. One person. I’ll never forget that reading. ✊
— Min Jin Lee (@minjinlee11) December 5, 2022
Oof, the worst. My favorite game to play with other authors is “Describe your worst reading.” One of my favorites involves kids with water guns, and another involves the author getting sprayed by a feral cat.
— Rebecca Makkai (@rebeccamakkai) December 5, 2022