The Book Table

I had a book table at the local author’s expo I attended this weekend, the first of many I imagine. I was instructed to bring my own set up. I was a little apprehensive as to what exactly that meant. I carefully collected the things I thought I would need – a tablecloth, stands for displaying my books, bookmarks, business cards that I had picked up the day before, hard candies in a cute dish and a smile. Even so, I was not as prepared as I should have been.

Dozens of times I was asked this question. “So, what is your book about?” And even though I smiled warmly and gave it my best effort, I felt like each time was awkward and each answer lacking. I was poorly representing my creative work that represents me so well. 

I learned a lot of things at this expo and realizing I needed to develop a better answer when a total stranger will ask ‘So, what is your book about?’ was one of them. 

Those of you who know me and might think I always know what to say would have been as surprised as I was when I didn’t. They didn’t know me. I didn’t know them. They certainly had never heard of Tessie (my main character). They hadn’t heard me teach a Bible Study. They weren’t my FB friend or a Twitter Follower. They hadn’t read my blog nor my magazine articles. I had never prayed for them in a moment of distress. They didn’t even know I loved to crochet. 😉 I was fully seated upon the throne of obscurity. 

There were authors everywhere, about a hundred at this expo. Just to my left was a very nice man I enjoyed meeting so much and he was the author of a book that has recently been made into a very successful movie. Not only that, the story happened in the Birmingham area, where the expo was being held. He was not unknown. Well, maybe he was, but his book, the movie, the setting of the story was WELL KNOWN and let me tell you, folks were eager to interact with him, buy his books and have their pictures made with him. I never once heard anyone ask him what his book was about. They already knew. 

I couldn’t help but think of my book-signing last month which was, in my opinion, very successful. The people who came knew me or knew of me. They never asked me what the book was about. Many of them had already read it and were excited to taste ‘Tessie’s cornflake candy’ or ask when the sequel would be out. They were there to celebrate with me because they cared about me. 

But this day, was a different scenario. This day was a day where I needed to introduce my book and myself to total strangers in about a minute. I wish I could tell you that I have had a revelation of what that answer should be. I’m still pondering it as I prepare to attend a writer’s conference this weekend where I will once again have a book table. I hope to do better. 


I’d love to hear from other authors if they have any suggestions. Perhaps readers can tell me what you hope to hear about a book when you ask that approach a book table. How can I step down from that throne of obscurity?

Do you want to know that the book is about a family with a heart for foster children and adoption? Do you want to know that the main character relies heavily on her faith when her family is faced with a crisis? Is it important to know that this family is very similar in structure and character to my own real life family? Are you more interested in the fact that it has a preparedness  influence? Does it intrigue you that the family begins to be more self-reliant and Tessie learns to can food and train her goats to pull a wagon? Do you care that I wrote this book to organize my own thoughts when I wondered how we would react if life as we knew it was disrupted? How about the matching chapter devotionals in the back? Or maybe, at the book table, you’d like to hear about me, the author? 

These are the questions that are rattling around in my brain today. And here’s one thing I know. I’m so glad I wrote this book. I’m so glad I’m growing and stretching and learning. I’m so glad that I can have a business card that says ‘Stephanie Rodda, Author’. I am enjoying every moment of this challenging adventure. I am thrilled to have my own, folding book-table (with a carrying handle, mind you). I am thankful to have the opportunity to inspire another woman, another parent, another person who may be saying, “What will will do if life as we know it, crumbles?” Because we all know this, life isn’t neat and tidy, things don’t always turn out like we expect them to. And when our expectations and what we were sure we could count on lies at our feet in crumbles, we have to decide if we are going to find our courage and rely on our faith. That’s exactly what I’m going to try to do, even at the book table. 



6 Comments Add yours

  1. Delilah says:

    I too was a participant at the B’Ham Local Author’s Expo. I have attended many signings and considered this one a promotional opportunity so people would see my face, hear my name and hopefully allow me the chance to make verbal contact with them if for only a few seconds. I believe most authors suffer the same angst when asked about a generalization of their book/s. I find myself trying to be as thorough yet brief as possible because I fear my passion may be a bit too much and those who are showing interest (at that moment) may soon be put off or looking for a means of escape.
    Thus far I have written eleven books, each with their own genre and story line. That being said, it’s often difficult to get to the actual story line unless they specifically tell me what they enjoy reading. I try to approach this dilemma in my own unique way. To engage with a potential client (customer) I greet them with a familiar smile, speak to them to bridge the ‘stranger’ gap then enlist them with, “How are you today and what type of books do you enjoy?” I always get a response. After they step through my now open door I am then able to introduce myself and made the determination as to which of my books (if any) may tickle their fancy.
    Stephanie, you are right on track with developing a web site, having business cards to give potential clients and most importantly having the open mind and drive to continue to learn from others who have been faced with like situations. You are not alone. My advice is to remain strong in your faith, be proud of your work (God given talent) and no matter the feedback use it as a tool to enhance your talent and help others learn as well. Delilah

    1. Thank you Delilah, I enjoyed meeting you and just so you know, you are indeed very warm and engaging.

  2. I would consider the type of reader you believe your book appeals to then tailor your “elevator speech” in that direction. Take a look at your reviews and see if you can pick out a recurring positive observation. I think winding up your answer with a comment about the subject being dear to your heart as it is very like your family ends it on a personal note. As a reader I would react positively to that.

    1. Thank you for these good thoughts. Another friend mentioned the ‘elevator pitch’ to me, which I’m sure is the same concept. I found a few links that give some hints for developing your own. I’m going to give it a shot.

  3. Betty Collins Smith says:

    Stephanie Rodda, it was a pleasure to have the opportunity to meet you. You are such an inspiration. Thank you for sharing your beautiful family with my sister and me. You confidence actually spilled over to my table and gave me hope. I never would have thought you felt that way. That was certainly how I felt. This is all new to me. You personality and energy made me relax. It was truly exciting to see all the authors and knowing that there was one among us that at achieved what all authors desire, to see their book on the big screen. Hope to see in Tuscaloosa. Many blessings. Betty Collins Smith

    1. Oh, Mrs. Betty! What a pleasure to hear from you. Meeting you and your sister was one of the highlights of the day. I told my mom when I called to check in that I wasn’t nearly as nervous because God has seated me next to one of His own. Yes! I hope to see you in Tuscaloosa.

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