I’ll never forget when I saw my young adult novel, The Winning Ingredient, on a bookstore shelf for the first time. The moment wasn’t at all like it’s portrayed in the adorable movie Down with Love, starring Renee Zellweger. In the movie, set in 1963 New York, Renee plays a newbie author (Barbara Novak) who joins her publisher (Sarah Paulson) on an excursion to see Barbara’s first book on the shelves of a New York bookstore. The line she utters after seeing a single book wedged between many others still makes me laugh (mostly because of the truth in the statement):
"ONE? Just one? All that work and . . . one? If somebody buys it, well then, there will be none. It will be as if it never even existed.”
For the longest time, this was how I pictured the moment—ONE, single book tucked far away in the back of a bookstore . . . if I was lucky. Don’t get me wrong; seeing my novel on more online sites than I can name (or even know about) is great. It’s exciting to see my hardcover, paperback, and ebook widely distributed around the world. My husband is especially proud that Target sells it (the ultimate success story). But most authors agree there is something special about seeing your book in a brick-and-mortar bookstore. And that brings me to that moment . . . or more specifically, to my first book signing.
Syracuse University has held a special place in my heart since I first visited as a high school senior, recently accepted. It was four years of a fantastic education, meeting lifelong friends, and sharing unforgettable experiences. I met my husband there, followed by him proposing at the Kissing Bench and then getting married at Hendricks Chapel on campus. My love of sports deepened while cheering on my Orange. I am Forever Orange, so it was a dream to have my first book signing for my first book at Syracuse during homecoming (#OrangeCentral). And, thanks to bookstore buyer Karen Spencer and a lot of support from the University, that is exactly what happened on October 29, 2021.
All the details of the long day are a bit fuzzy. For months, leading up to leaving my traditional publisher and releasing my book, I had been swamped with work, and with very little sleep. I do remember meeting the lovely Eileen Colleens (astronaut and fellow Syracuse grad also enjoying her own book signing) and presenting her with a signed copy of my book. She was so appreciative and also signed a copy of hers for me. I also met former Syracuse basketball player, Erich Santifer, whose book signing was prior to mine. He was so sweet and offered me his card. My amazingly talented cover artist, Mike Borkowski, took time out of his busy schedule to sit with me and sign books.
During the signing, I heard from those purchasing Christmas presents and even a couple of books going up for a sports charity auction (more information on that forthcoming). The experience was a mixture of fun, strange, and surreal. One thing I did learn was that I’d prefer to wait on another signing until mask wearing has become a thing of the past. I missed seeing people’s faces, and it was difficult to interact with everyone. When the hour was over, I was floored when Karen scooped up the HUGE promotional poster Syracuse made of my book cover and wanted us to sign it. That was so nerve-wracking, especially when Mike announced, “Don’t mess up,” as I lifted my Sharpie over the glossy masterpiece.
So, flashing back to seeing my book on the shelves for the first time. We had been travelling all day and it was dark when we arrived in Syracuse and stopped by the (now closed) bookstore. I had hoped to see some signage about the event, but there it was in front of my wide eyes: a MASSIVE display with my book (dozens of them, in fact). I was squealing and pressing my nose against the store windows so hard, the students milling about the area probably rolled their eyes, thinking I was an alum in desperate need of a new sweatshirt.
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The next day, I would venture downstairs to the stacked bookshelves of the Campus Store and literally walked right into my book again: on a special display as you passed the threshold AND again on the regular shelves a few yards away (under "New & Notable"). It wasn’t JUST ONE, but many, and everywhere I turned. Now, even if someone buys it (as I’ve been told has been done already), it will still be there (including the several extras Mike and I signed). If that isn’t enough, my poster will be framed and displayed on the Wall of Fame. Best of all, Karen said she can’t wait to have me back for another signing (and even with my next publication). These are the moments when you realize all your hard work is worth it. Thanks, Syracuse. I am Forever Orange and hope my book will be forever on your shelves!
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