Having gone to my first "official" book signing yesterday (Joshua Ferris at The Tattered Cover in downtown Denver), I was a little taken aback by the whole experience. For the life of me, I don't know how anyone who has actually been to a book signing can think that publishing a book is at all glamorous.
First of all, Ferris arrived at the bookstore looking rumpled and a little tired--he had just gotten off a fairly bumpy flight and come straight to the signing from the airport. He apologized for not shaving. He was faced with a very large, mostly-empty room, and he had to read a passage from his book and then talk about himself in the Q&A afterward with a bunch of strangers. (For anyone who thinks that doesn't sound so bad, try to imagine walking the thin line between sounding like an over-rated idiot and a pretentious ass. It's not as easy as it sounds.)
He then moved to the signing table and had to make pleasant small talk with every single person who bought a copy of his book. When asked if he had advice for young writers, he said, "Just write," because what other advice can you give to the children who are our future? The whole thing lasted only about an hour, but I can imagine that he must have been drained by the end of it.
What must have been the cherry on the sundae, however, was the fact that there were about twelve people at the signing. Given that each book is about $25, I can only imagine the stress of knowing that a publishing company has paid more for your flight to a city than it made in book sales at the event.
The reality obviously doesn't live up to the hype.