Even star writers have experienced the embarrassment of a lonely book signing

Years after she started writing her debut novel, Chelsea Banning settled into Pretty Good Books in Ashtabula, Ohio, on a Saturday in early December for her first author signing.

She waited with neatly stacked paperback copies of her book, “Of Crowns and Legends”—which she calls a King Arthur reimagining that takes place 20 years after his death. She had props, including a crown, a little statue of a knight kneeling and holding a pen, and pictures of friends dressed as her characters, in medieval garb.

The 33-year-old librarian in Girard, Ohio, whose real name is Chelsea Vandergrift Podgorny, was optimistic. Friends in the area said they wanted to stop by and have their books signed, and 37 people responded to the Facebook event listing that they would attend.

During her three-hour signing, just two people showed up.

The next morning, Ms. Banning tweeted to her roughly 100 followers that she was “pretty bummed about it…upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.” She felt a little sheepish after writing the tweet and planned to remove it, she recalls in an interview. She didn’t want the no-shows to feel bad.

Then, Henry Winkler chimed in. Yes, The Fonz himself.

“That is the beginning,” the star wrote, retweeting her post to his one million followers. “Then word gets out and they come!”

She isn’t sure how, but her online confession had gone viral and was ricocheting around the arts and literary world. Thousands were retweeting it, including big-name authors. She had exposed a truth of the publishing business. Lonely events are a rite of passage for authors.

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