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A new writer tweeted about a low book signing turnout, and famous authors commiserated

Chelsea Banning watched in disbelief as authors like Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood told her of their experiences with low turnout at book signing events.
Chelsea Banning
Chelsea Banning watched in disbelief as authors like Neil Gaiman and Margaret Atwood told her of their experiences with low turnout at book signing events.

Nearly 40 people had RSVP'd to Chelsea Banning's first official book signing at an Ohio bookstore on Saturday. She told the store owner to brace himself for a full crowd. But when the doors opened for her event, only two showed up.

"For a while I felt like I was throwing my book into the void and getting nothing," she told NPR. "This felt like last straw."

Banning is the debut author of a fantasy novel, Of Crowns and Legends, the first book of a working trilogy that follows King Arthur's children during a time of war. Banning, a librarian by trade, had been working on the story for over 15 years. In August, it finally published.

But getting her novel onto bookshelves proved to be half the battle. For the past few months, Banning has been working tirelessly on social media to market her book with little luck.

Then, when her author event at Pretty Good Books in Ashtabula, Ohio, had low turnout, Banning was at her breaking point.

"I was discouraged and bummed and I felt bad that the bookstore owner opened his store for me," she said.

The next day, in the spur of the moment, Banning tweeted about what happened with the intention of possibly deleting the tweet in a few hours, she said.

Banning wrote, "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."

But that night, instead of taking down what she wrote, she stared at her tweet in shock as a mass of authors, including some of the most renowned novelists in the world, replied with their own experiences of low turnout.

"I stayed up until 1 a.m. in complete shock, just watching it happen," she said.

Among those who responded were some of Banning's favorite authors, including Neil Gaiman, Robin Hobb and Jodie Picoult.

Other widely known novelists who responded includedMin Jin Lee, Margaret Atwood, Stephen King and Cheryl Strayed.

Banning is still processing the outpouring of support she received in the past two days, but she has learned one lesson so far: "It's okay to have feelings, we're not alone in this, but don't let them hold you back."

Banning said she's looking forward to her next book signing event.

Copyright 2022 NPR. To see more, visit https://www.npr.org.

Juliana Kim
Juliana Kim is a weekend reporter for Digital News, where she adds context to the news of the day and brings her enterprise skills to NPR's signature journalism.

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