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Stephen King and Margaret Atwood console debut novelist

Manasi Gopalakrishnan
December 8, 2022

When Chelsea Banning tweeted that nobody turned up at her book signing event, the post went viral as literary stars shared their own humiliating tales.

Stephen King and Margaret Atwood
Although they are now among the world's most successful authors, King and Atwood also had embarrassing book signings when they started outImage: Evan Agostini/Invision/AP/picture alliance

It's everybody's nightmare: organizing a party that nobody comes to.

Something similar happened to author Chelsea Banning when nobody showed up at her book signing event.

The fantasy author recently published her debut novel, "Of Crowns and Legends," and was expecting several guests at the book signing event in a bookstore called Pretty Good Books in Ashtabula, Ohio. However, only two of her friends showed up, prompting her to vent on Twitter.

"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."

'Join the club'

Banning's tweet went viral as many prominent authors responded with kind words, sharing their own stories of rejection and failure when they had started off as writers. 

From the Beatles to J.K.Rowling, many of the world's bestselling stars have famously started out by facing rejection, but it is not every day that those humiliating moments are shared publicly with an unknown author.

"Join the club," wrote Canadian author Margaret Atwood, "I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help." Apparently, Atwood did tell the person where the Scotch tape was, she said in a reply on Twitter.

Atwood is probably best known for "The Handmaid's Tale" (1985), which was made into a popular Netflix series. She has published dozens of novels, short stories, children's books and anthologies, and has won the Booker Prize twice, in 2000 for "The Blind Assassin," and in 2019 for "The Testaments."

No takers for the 'Master of Horror'

Apart from Atwood, other celebrated authors like Stephen King also shared their tales of woe from when they were just starting out in the writing business: "At my first SALEM'S LOT signing, I had one customer. A fat kid who said, 'Hey bud, do you know where there's some Nazi books?'" 

King has written dozens of short stories and novels and is often called the "Master of Horror." Many of his books have been adapted into films.

Famous British author Neil Gaiman, whose book "Good Omens" with Terry Pratchett was recently released as a television series, said no one came to a book signing that had been organized in Manhattan. At least Banning had two guests, he wrote.

Jonathan Coe, author of books like "Bourneville" and "Middle England," also talked about a book signing where the only other person to arrive was novelist Ian Ranking, famous for his stories about the maverick detective inspector Rebus.

Sales 'skyrocketing'

Banning was very grateful for all the comments and the exposure she got after posting her unhappy tweet about her book signing.

Aside of garnering her the attention of famous and successful authors, Banning's venting appears to have a positive effect on sales of her debut novel.

As one user tweeted: "If this hadn't happened then you wouldn't have posted about it, someone else wouldn't have retweeted it, I wouldn't have seen it, and it wouldn't be in my Amazon cart."

"Sales have definitely skyrocketed and they are still coming in! It's been mind-blowing. I'm still in shock," Banning told the Los Angeles Times.

Edited by: Elizabeth Grenier


Manasi Gopalakrishnan
Manasi Gopalakrishnan Journalist and editor from India, compulsive reader of books.