Monday, January 30, 2012

Please Welcome Guest Blogger--Mary Ellis

My first book-signing by Mary Ellis

I often think back fondly of my very first book-signing.

I had just published a romantic suspense geared to the literary/library market. So the binding and packaging were top-notch—it would truly hold up to heavy wear-and-tear. And the cover photo was imbedded in the hardback cover, beneath the paper jacket. The only problem was the list price of $27.00 for an absolute “nobody” of a writer.

I was so tickled with getting published that I scheduled a signing at my local independent bookstore. (Borders and Barnes and Noble kept asking: Who did you say you were?) This was an adorable shop in a valley surrounded by ski slopes and quaint art galleries. Unfortunately, it is now out-of-business. I send out dozens of publicity postcards to my family, friends, neighbors and business acquaintances. I paid for ads in my local newspapers and tried every avenue of free publicity I could find.

The day of the event I wore my new dress and took extra time with hair and make-up. I brought a tray of cookies and fruit tarts from the nearby bakery. The store owner had a fire lit with a comfy armchair for me to greet my “fans.” And in they came—my neighbors, cousins, and coworkers at my day job. It was like a cocktail party minus the cocktails.

Everyone mingled and had a great time, including me. One hapless tourist wandered in and noticed the commotion. I spent fifteen minutes weaving an intriguing synopsis of my mystery. He kept thumbing through the book and nodding his head enthusiastically. Then suddenly he said: “Your book sounds good, but I’ll just check it out at the library.”And he disappeared out the door.

In the end, I didn’t sell a single copy to anyone who wasn’t related to me or knew me personally, but I did sell almost 30 books. When we were leaving with our empty desserttray, my husband said: “This obligates us to very nice wedding/shower/baby/graduation or whatever gifts to everyone for the rest of our lives.” But you know what? It was all worth it, because for one special afternoon I felt like an author instead of just a writer.

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Mary Ellis grew up close to an Amish settlement where she loved their peaceful agrarian lifestyle and strong sense of Christian community. She and her husband now live by the largest population of Amish in the country where they take weekend trips to research her books. Mary enjoys reading, traveling, gardening, bicycling and swimming. Before “retiring” to write full-time, Mary taught Middle School and worked as a sales rep for Hershey Chocolate—a job with amazingly sweet fringe benefits. All three in her Miller Family series made the Christian bestseller lists. A Widow’s Hope was a finalist in the 2010 ACFW Carol Awards and Award of Merit for the Holt Medallion. Her current release is An Amish Family Reunion.

Please leave a comment here on Seekerville for a chance to win a signed copy of An Amish Family Reunion.
And drop by her website and sign up for her future newsletter to win one of five free copies. Drawing will be held February 15th.
Find her on the web at:
New website!
And find her on FACEBOOK


  1. Hi Mary

    Thank you for sharing this part of your journey. This surely resonates with me, and others too no doubt!

    It was all worth it, because for one special afternoon I felt like an author instead of just a writer.

    Selling 30 books at a whack is no small feat. I'm sure your friends/family/co-workers etc. were SO PROUD of you and still are. Congratulations on your success!

  2. The part KC quoted resonated with me too.

    I hope I get that many people out to my first book signing ;).

    Yes. I've already made plans to bring cookies. Think that'll help?

    I would love to be entered!

    Thanks for sharing!

  3. HI Mary,
    I visited Hershey last spring. It was fun to see the kisses street lamps and check out the chocolate tour too. The place has changed completely from what it was when I was a kid. A chocolate sales rep. That sounds like a job close to perfection!

    Thirty books sold is very impressive for a first book signing! Yay for you! You made it happen. Congrats and here's to many more!

  4. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for this delightful peek into your book-signing experience. I imagine it will always be special as "the first". Congratulations on your current release. I'm looking forward to another excellent read. :)

  5. Such a lovely story. Thanks for sharing and giving us a glimpse into your first book signing.

    Congrats on your success!

  6. Mary,

    I grew up going to Hershey on a regular basis. Ah, the scent of chocolate in the air!

    Thinking about where you did your signing reminded me there is another reason to more the loss of independent bookstores. They were often more willing to give new writers a platform. Sniff.

    Looking forward to reading your book!

    Peace, Julie

  7. Welcome Mary, working at a chocolate factory would be fun but I think I would get sick of chocolate after awhile. to be honest dont like hersheys chocolate not that it matters now seems I am having alergic reactions to chocolate at present and cant even eat a tiny amount without feeling sick (its not fair!)
    Im glad your first book signing went well even if it was mainly family and friends. At least the man would request the book from the library which means they would have to get it in.
    I think it would be cool to go to an author signing.
    now Im signing of it finally cooled down so I should sleep tonight.

  8. Hi Mary! Loved your post. I really thought you were going to say you didn't sell a single book. Was thrilled to see you sold 30 that day. Didn't matter if you knew all who bought the book and you had so much fun and truly felt like an Author.

    I wouldn't mind working for Hershey's! Yummy!!

    I have read and loved all your books. I would love to win a copy of "An Amish Family Reunion".



  9. Mary, what a delightful story! Thanks so much for hangin' with us in Seekerville today!

    I'm lovin' the food. Do you have some of those pastries left, because I'd take a couple right here.

    And I agree, that one sentence is a stand out: It was all worth it...


    Although I love the hermitage of my own computer, my own nook, my quiet time. I love, love, love people, but I'm uncomfortable with the idea of folks waiting in line...


    But I do love gathering with people.

    Hey, coffee service is up and running! We've got chocolate velvet from Sandra and a pot of Folger's Gourmet in the big warmer...

    I love these warming carafes! No more burnt coffee! YAY!!!

    The Keurig is fired up and a selection to your right. Flavored creamers on ice behind the mugs.


  10. Good morning Mary and welcome to Seekerville.

    What a delightful story and what great family and friends you have. They are what make a first autograph party so special.

    I love the quote also. We need those special moments. And with all the goodies our families do also. They've watched us plod along so it is a celebration for them also.

    Thanks again Mary. Have fun today.

  11. Oh Ruthy, thanks for the coffee. I needed it this early Monday morning.

    And Carol, of course the cookies are going to help. I might have to fly from Arizona. smile

    Jenny, I always forget you're in the middle of summer down under. Whew. I'll blow some cool air your way.

  12. Welcome to Seekerville, Mary! Thanks for sharing your first book signing. Definitely a "feel like an author" event! Congratulations on all your success. I'm sure these days at book signings you're selling to strangers.

    Hard to believe January has all but zipped by while we shared those sweet, and not so sweet, memories of writers' firsts.

    I brought coffeecake straight from the oven. Lovely with Ruthy's coffee.


  13. Hi Mary,

    That was a lovely story about your first book signing. And 30 books sounds great compared to other book signing nightmares I've heard.

    Thanks for sharing and congratulations on your success!


  14. Mary,

    I loved reading about your first book signing. What a blessing for you to have such a wonderful support system with family, friends, co-workers and neighbors coming by. And 30 books does sound wonderful. As has already been said, I loved, LOVED what you shared about feeling like an author for an afternoon. So well put!

  15. Hi Mary and welcome to Seekerville. Loved the story of your first signing and yes, doesn't it feel great to be viewed as an author?? LOL!

    Like your husband said, I feel eternally grateful (and semi obligated) to all the friends and family that came to my first signing and turned it into a party.

    Talk about memories that will be eternally engraved in my gray matter and of course, my heart.

    Ummmm looks like today is a day for eating in Seekerville! Since Weight Watchers has shaken their ominious finger at me, I'm bringing a gorgeous bowl of mixed berries and fat-free whipped topping...just in case anyone's holidays went a little overboard, too : )

  16. Audra, I'll take some berries and fat-free yumminess! Traveling for a week has taken its toll :(

    Mary, your book signing sounds like it was a success! A great party, at least.

    And I also love this quote: "It was all worth it, because for one special afternoon I felt like an author instead of just a writer." What a wonderful feeling!

  17. Yep, you're obligated, darling! lol

    But I agree. Sounds like it was totally worth it. You only get one first-sale party, and you did it up in style. Regardless if they were family and friends, you can always say you sold 30 books at your first very successful booksigning!

  18. What sweet family and friends you have, Mary!

    And I'd have to agree w/your husband, you'll owe them at every event in their life. But that's what family's for.

    I've got a question for you.
    What is it about Amish stories that draw the readers? Or what is it readers expect?
    I've never been to Amish country but I have a neighbor who stays several weeks with an Amish family ever year.

  19. Great interview, thank you for doing it.


  20. I enjoyed hearing about your first book signing! Thanks for sharing.

  21. I think that's just perfect to start out with, Mary. Too bad about the little bookshop!

    I've enjoyed the month of 'firsts'!

  22. Mary you just told the story of every first book signing in the history of the world.
    Call in the friends and neighbors.

    But it sounds great. the fire. the fruit tarts. even the jerk who wouldn't buy your that would've killed him.

    Love it.

  23. At my first book signing ... well, no, let's not tell of that disasterous story.
    But very shortly after I'd published my first book a nice neighbor lady invited all the neighbhood to her house for what I think of as a 'book launch'.

    It was okay, though I gave a little speech and I still cringe when I think of it. Ghastly business public speaking. Shudder.

    But after the speech I was signing books and it was all very overwhelming and of course I was in shock from my stupid speech and one older lady whom I have known FOREVER came up to buy a book and I just utterly blanked on her name. I'm talking about a neighbor for TWENTY YEARS.
    So, because I was scrambling, trying not to have to ask a long time friend her name, I said, "How do you spell your name?"
    I'd had to ask that several times and it seemed like a good way to 'fake' that I knew her but was just trying to not mess up.

    She just gives me this look, like "You are the stupidest person I have ever known. I can't BELIEVE you got a book published and she says, "H - E - L - E - N."

    At which point I remembered her name AND how to spell it. Duh.

  24. Mary, what a memorable first book signing experience!

    And really, who better to serve as ambassadors for our books than the family and friends who support us? At least 30 readers left that party to spread the word about this fabulous debut author they just happen to know personally!

  25. Connealy,

    That IS a great way to fake it. And funny.

  26. I know exactly how you feel, Mary. It all hit me when I saw someone pick up my book at Walmart. I was there to just "see" it and there she was...a complete stranger looking, making her choice, and it was mine. (hehe)


  27. The fear of all authors.

    No one but family and friends.

    And you know what, why not be surrounded by those you love at your first signing.

    I was surrounded by Mary and Ruthy. It was just like a girls night out.

    And they're stars so that was very smart on my part.

    Next signing I will have the entire cast of The Biggest Loser with me.

  28. Great story Mary. Welcome to Seekerville from another chocolate lover. Most of my life I lived just outside of Hershey, and now only live an hour away.

    Jodie Wolfe

  29. Biggest Loser cast. Really, Tina? That's too cool. Except I'm afraid I'd be sucking in my gut the whole time I was there.

    And all this talk about Hershey. I've never been there but would love to. I'm home-schooling my son and he's reading a Famous American Childhoo Book, Milton Hershey right now.

  30. Jodie Wolfe!!! How are you!!! I've missed you. Give us a recap.

  31. Loved learning about your first book signing. How wonderful to have the support of family and friends. I'm sure they were thrilled to be able to help you celebrate your debut novel!

    Congrats on your continued success, Mary.

    I lived in Carlisle, PA, two different times and always enjoyed the PA Amish folks. Many of the ladies sold their produce and baked goods at a nearby Farmers' Market. Loved Intercouse and surrounding towns. Shopped at Zook's.

    Makes me yearn to go back to PA!

    Thanks for the memories and for being with us today in Seekerville.

  32. I also live in an area where there is a large Amish community and appreciate their industry, strong family values and faith amid a modern world.

    Some interesting local anecdotes:
    1. Recently, an overzealous sherriff gave a young Amish man a traffic ticket for going through a stop sign with his horse and buggy.
    2. At a local hardware store, I stood behind two Amish men in the check-out line. The cashier insisted on seeing their driver's license. With the horse and buggy parked out front, I wondered what planet the cashier hailed from.

  33. Oh, my gosh, Elizabeth. I love it. What a crack up.

  34. Loved this thrill of a 'real author' story and I see from the comments, it's not a solitary one. I think I would curl up and die if someone wanted me to do a book signing! Shudder!!!!! So I think you are all braver than brave and if I could, I'd go to every one and haul in the pedestrians outside and make 'em by your books! And they'd thank me for it later!!!!

  35. Kav, you little cheerleader you!!

    Hey, how's your msc coming along??

  36. My REAL first book signing was a last minute thrown together thing. I just went into the store to ask and the manager says, "You know, we're having a signing this Saturday for (blah, blah, blah)." I'd never heard of him.
    So the manager said, "Let me call him and see if he cares if you throw in with him. We have enough time to order your books."
    Well, Bob didn't care and I showed up and guess what? It turns out that Bob Vander Platt was the candidate for Lieutenant Governor in Iowa....which equals FAMOUS.

    He sold books, and books and books and books.
    And I sat there looking like an idiot.
    I think one of the very few books I sold was to the manager's wife, out of pure pity.
    I'm over it now, though. And Bob's never written another book.
    (Or course writing isn't exactly his job)

  37. A message to the two Marys, i.e., Mary Ellis and Mary Conneally. Your journeys are amazing and put a smile on my face on a cold and snowy day. I'd love to ax out February!

  38. Hi Tina,

    Been dealing with health issues, so haven't been on the computer lots. Trying to figure out where to go next with my writing. Should I try entering the Genesis contest, work on totally re-editing again, or work on my new idea for a mail-order bride book? Decisions, decisions, and then also throw in the mix my final months of homeschooling our last child before he graduates in May. Makes for a busy and roller coaster time.

    I've missed Seekerville and hope to get back into the swing of things again. Thanks for asking Tina. :)


  39. Hello Mary! What a fun author signing story!

    As someone who has been on the OTHER side of the table, I really appreciate it when authors take the time to talk personally to their fans. It makes us feel special :) And who wouldn't want friends and family at their first book signing? I think the first one will and should be the most special, and how wonderful that your friends made it such a special memory for you.

    Love to read your book!

  40. Mary Connealy, your little trick with the spelling of the name is something we journalists do ALL the time. To be fair, we have to make sure names are spelled correctly (with all the downright weird spellings these days!) but its also a good trick when you forget.

    Although my former minister used to always give it right back when they asked him how to spell his name. "Just like it sounds."

    His name was Jim.

  41. Elizabeth, I'm laughing out loud here! I think sometimes clerks do that just to annoy the Amish. To let them know that different isn't acceptable.

    The stop sign I get...

    The license?


    I've always been fascinated by the Amish and my experiences with them are mixed. Some are very open and friendly with their customers, others shoo their children away from the produce or baked goods stands.

    Elizabeth, I must come visit. Invite me, okay?


  42. Thanks everybody who stopped by to comment. I was shocked by the sheer number of commentors to Seekerville. This blog rocks!!! now, to address a few comments: Yes, I did have a book signing where nobody showed up. not one soul even to use the restroom and ask me for directions. It was so humbling, lest my head grow too big! To Connie--I believe the popularity of Amish fiction stems from a desire to escape from too much violence on TV & in the media. And to dear Mary--you are the funniest person alive! I too have "blanked" during signings with people I've known for years. It's truly is embarrassing. I get so flustered during signings I spell by name wrong too, and can't make change to save my life! Thanks ever so much for inviting me to Seekerville. What a super group of readers & writers!

  43. Mary, what a wonderful first book signing! It sounded so cozy with the fire! Since I'm gearing up for my first book signing in March I loved this post! I hope mine goes just as well :) And I'm glad you found it all worth it!

  44. Hi Mary!

    I can't imagine my first book-signing and to sell 30 books, too! I think you did good, even if your sales were to friends and family. *g*

  45. LOL, Mary!!! Oh, my does THAT sound familiar or what??? Welcome to Seekerville, and boy, do I relate!!

    My very first book signing was the same way -- like a family cocktail party without the cocktails at my local Borders, now defunct, of course, but not because of my books, I'm glad to say!! :) I sold a ton of books, too, and boy, does that set you up for a rude awakening at the next book signing!!

    I had two reader friends beg me to come to have a book signing in their town, and they set everything up for me, including contacting the Christian radio station. They both knew I love Gone With the Wind, so they arranged for a showing of it at a lovely historical Southern mansion in their town for me, them and a few family and friends, with lots of food. It was lovely, but I have to say that the book signing the next day at the bookstore was a bust. The first two people who came up to the table were church librarians who wanted to take me to task for writing Christian romance that was "too sensual." Sigh.

    I have had a number of really great book signings since, but I generally don't do them much anymore because in general, they're a lot of time and effort and to be honest, REALLY hard on the old ego!! :)


  46. Oh wow, a book signing is exciting! I have not been to one in years :)

    I'd love a copy of this book-


  47. Ruth, you are welcome anytime.

    If you are interested in the Amish, I am very good friends with a recently retired county nurse. She put in 45 years and tended the needs of the Amish regularly, including catching whooping cough. She has many stories to share and has a heart the size of Texas paired with a wonderful sense of humor.

  48. Julie said a mouthful--book signings in general are not worth the time away from your writing and the gasoline to get to the store. I still do a couple a year, only because I want to help local independent Christian stores. But I never sell as many books as that family & friends first signing. It amazes me when I'm asked to do a signing several hundred miles away from home. (and all expenses would be on me) I don't want to sound mean-spirited, but many store owners think authors are rich. I can only speak for myself but...ahem...I am not. I would love to travel around meeting great folks but the reality is writers need to stay in front of their books-in-progress. thanks again for inviting me to Seekerville!

  49. That is such a great story! I thought it was going to be you and the crickets... but all those friends and family showed up! I just love that... I don't even think I have that many friends and certainly only have about 5 family members, unless I count my husband's family, but they don't speak English.
    Waitaminute! I should change languages and THEN I'll sell books! :D Built in target audience! He must have 100 cousins alone.

  50. Mary Connealy!

    I know a woman named Helene, and she pronounces it the same as Helen.

    So THERE, mean neighbor!

  51. Good luck on the drawing, Bethany! Great seeing you in Seekerville.

  52. This post was great. I felt like I was there at the book signing with you! Thanks for a chance to win one of your books. I look forward to reading more by you!
    tscmshupe [at] pemtel [dot] net

  53. You worked for Hershey? That sounds like a great job! I hope to visit the factory some day.

    The whole booksigning with the tarts and the fire sounds great!

  54. I have never been to a book signing but have read many of you authors that are in seekerville and would love to meet you in person, I live in Statesboro Ga area so if you are ever near -shout out and I will come running, maybe not running-but I will come.
    I would love to have this book by Mary Ellis, thanks for sharing.
    Paula O(

  55. I have to be very careful when I sign books, too. It's the dyslexia. So I always ask people, even if I know their name, to spell it out on a tablet that I have laying on the table. That way, I can take my time processing the letters in my brain. Even with that tool, I've messed up! (and ended up buying the book for my personal display!)

  56. I also live in an Amish community. We tell people how easy it is to find us, we're the first farm with the truck! (Not strictly true, but it sounds good.) My Amish neighbors are good people and I enjoy the time I get to spend with them. I'm teaching a pair of sisters, age 14 and 15, to knit. They are a job to work with.

    I've read a couple of Mary's books and enjoyed them. Thanks for a chance to win another.

    twinwillowsfarm at gmail dot com

  57. Oh boy... that should say "joy to work with" but I obviously can't type at 5:00am!

  58. Hi Mary,

    Thanks for sharing your story and giving me a heads-up on what my first book signing might look like!

  59. I could picture it all so clearly. I would love to read "An Amish Family Reunion" thank you.


  60. I can't wait to read An Amish Family Reunion. I love the story about your first signing. I imagine many first time published authors could share a similar experience. Wish I had been there. I would have bought one of those "pricy" books!