Guest Post by Amish Guys Don’t Call Young Adult Author Debby Dodds
By Debby Dodds
I’ve enjoyed the publication of my first novel, Amish Guys Don’t Call. One of my favourite parts of the experience the first few months has been the readings, signings, and book festivals. It’s so cool to connect with fellow readers and such an honour to sign their books that they’re buying with their hard-earned cash. Books I wrote! But let’s face it, there are some quiet moments when authors are just sitting at the autograph table alone, amusing themselves in their own heads. During that time, I reflected a lot about the types of people I’d just met…Some might make excellent characters in future novels. But this also gave me time to make up a list of potential attendees that both new and seasoned authors are likely to encounter.
1. Author Friends
We are a tribe. We took classes together, gave each other feedback in critique groups, and went to Open Mic nights together before publication. Now we buy each other’s books. At my first signing, my whole critique group was there (past and present members!) as well as three writers I’d only met a few nights before at a party given by a friend who happens to be a great writer herself. Cherish your author friends and try to attend as many of their readings as you can, both before and after you get published.
2. Your Friends Who Like To Read
They’ve been supportive, asking for years about your book, waiting. They’ll be some of your biggest supporters—buying multiple copies (readers have friends who read!), inviting you to Book Clubs (thanks, Sarah!), and posting about you on social media. Your students (if you teach like I do) also fall into this category. They might giggle to see you in a different light; remember running into your teacher outside of class? So weird! Voracious readers are rare flowers in today’s world.
3. Your Buddies Who “Don’t Read Much” But Love You
Make sure you write them a very special dedication—it might be the only part of your book they read! But seriously, they’re true friends and, who knows, maybe yours will be the first book they read in years. Even if they don’t, they’re proud of you. My friend Greg, a self-proclaimed “non-reader,” drove over an hour in LA traffic to see me at a reading there: he even brought a friend with him!
4. Relatives And Family Friends
My mom’s a librarian and my biggest supporter, for which I’m truly lucky. My Uncle Bill and Aunt Joan travelled from Wilmington, DE, to Philadelphia, PA, one Sunday after church to see me at a signing. My 73-year-old dad told all his peers to get my book and they did! I got a few emails from these men who wrote, “I wasn’t sure I’d like a book with a 17-year-old girl narrating, but I did!” One of my dad’s oldest friends, who is in his eighties, showed up at a reading. He’s much more politically and religiously conservative than I am. He also has Amish friends. The fact that he loved my book meant the world to me.
5. Long-Lost Friends
Having a reading in my hometown bookstore in Lititz, PA, was a highlight of the tour. The Lynne’s showed up, who I hadn’t seen since middle school. So many friends from my high school came out that it felt like a reunion. Pals from the PA Renaissance Faire came and joked around. A woman who I used to babysit for surprised me there. Two friends who I met at Whedoncon in Los Angeles, CA, drove across the state of PA to join me.
6. Local Readers
These are some of the neatest people! Make time for them. I remember before even dreaming of having a book published, I’d see an author whose book looked interesting and would go to his or her reading. Often, I’d become a life-long fan. They owe you nothing. You owe them everything. I’ve made friends with Kristin, June, and others from readings.
7. Authors You Haven’t Met Before
I’ve been attending a lot of Book Festivals and often one of the best parts is chatting with a fellow author you’re sharing a table with. Sometimes they offer to “trade” books. I love this! Yes, sometimes their book isn’t always something I’d normally gravitate towards, but you can make wonderful discoveries when reading outside your “comfort zone.” If you’re up for it, it can be the beginning of a beautiful and supportive friendship.
8. Shoppers Who Happen Upon You By Accident
It can be awkward, sitting at a table near the door of a bookstore, offering to sign copies of your book for strangers. I get that. A popular sci-fi author I know told me she felt like a “Walmart Greeter.” I recently got an email from someone who bought my book that way, thanking me for writing such a great read that also taught her so much and made her laugh and cry. Wow. Cue the waterworks. Every author’s dream!
9. The Fledgling Author Who Wants Advice
A guy once asked me about 72 questions about his writing and getting his sci-fi novel about female aliens from a doomed planet published, which I gladly answered while other shoppers walked by my table at Barnes and Noble. He was there for about a half an hour, and bemoaned that giving up his good paying job to be an author would be so hard on him. Then he walked away without buying a copy of my book. I’m guessing his novel was devoid of irony. But another woman told me about her friend’s nursing memoir and I gave her some advice. She bought three copies of my book—for herself, her daughter, and her friend!
10. The Drunks and Kooks
Okay, they probably won’t buy your book, but they will make you laugh! One guy at a signing asked, “Were you raised Amish?” I explained that I wasn’t and used it as a bridge to explain the surprising lack of attrition in the Amish communities. He interrupted me and insisted he thought I was Amish but had been put into the witness protection program. I tried again to explain but finally just gave in, winked, and said, “You figured it out. Don’t tell.” He left satisfied. Another obviously intoxicated woman looked at my book cover and read it out loud as “Amish Guys Don’t Call Debby Dodds,” not seeing that the last two words were my name as the author of the book. She nooded and slurred conspiratorially, “Yeah, those Amish don’t call me either.”
Of course, each author could probably add other types of readers. There are also those blessed anomalies, the outliers that are impossible to categorize. Those types, I’ll be greedy about and save for my narratives! For new authors, my main advise is to enjoy all the signing experiences. I know I always do. And to the readers: thank you! Keep being your wonderful supportive selves. You make the world a better place.
Who is the most interesting person you’ve met at a book signing?