From the trunk of the car you extract a portable sign the size of a sandwich board and walk briskly through the parking lot into the mall.

The bookstore is off the main drag between two empty storefronts. There's a card table and a chair. Across the way, a guy dressed in a pink Easter Bunny outfit is standing outside a department store.

You stare at each other. You with your sign, he with his basket of colored Easter eggs.

Welcome to your book signing.

For the next two hours you try to make eye contact with strangers who don't want to make eye contact. You're friendly. You smile.

You say, "Hello, I wrote a book. This is what you do when you write a book. You stand around bookstores and bother people."

Most stop and listen because they're polite. You figure if they're near a bookstore they might want to buy a book.

But you could be wrong. What do you know? You're just a guy standing by a sign in the mall without a bunny suit.

Not for sissies

Here's what you need to know about writing a book: It's 25 percent writing, 75 percent marketing. And you're in charge of marketing.

I wrote a book, "Swallow Savannah." It's a pretty good book, and I'm thrilled it was published and people seem to like it.

But book signings aren't for sissies. Leave your ego at home. You're not Pat Conroy. When people do come by your table, you have 4.6 seconds to tell them who you are and what your book is about.

A South Carolina story, you say. A riveting tale about the powerful forces of civil rights and the Cold War coming to bear on a small, rural Southern town.

If you don't hook them quickly, their kids drag them off to the toy section. Unless they're ravenous readers. God made a certain number of these people. They're like sharks. They eat three, four, five books a week.

A couple of those people buy books, and you feel like you're one up on the Easter Bunny, whose right ear is starting to droop.

Somebody call Oprah

Some folks, however, are just lonely.

Lonely people see bookstores as shelters for shut-ins and friendly authors as their new best friends. Once you realize they're monopolizing your time, you move them along, politely, sadly.

Book world is an interesting place.

Truth is, many good stories never get published, and lots of good books simply die on the vine of commerce. It's just the way it is. I think Oprah is in charge.

During your appointed time, you sell a few books here, you sell a few books there. I read that if you sell four books at a book signing, it's a success. I usually do better than that, but you never know.

When it's over, you thank the nice people in the bookstore, fold up your portable sign, carry it back through the parking lot and put it back in the trunk.

For better or worse, it beats working in a bunny suit.

Reach Ken Burger at or (843) 937-5598. To read previous columns, go to