When only a few people showed up to author Chelsea Banning’s signing event for her new novel on Saturday — a disappointing turnout that she’d hoped would be in the dozens — she left feeling defeated.
Like so many others, Banning, a librarian from Warren, Ohio, turned to social media the next day to vent about the experience.
“I was pretty bummed about it,” she wrote on Twitter. “Especially as 37 people responded ‘going’ to the event. Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.”
But then the unexpected happened, and it’s left Banning feeling like she’s caught in a dream: People from across the country this week — including celebrities and some best-selling authors — responded to her tweet, sharing their own bad experiences at book signings in a show of solidarity with the debut author.
“I’m still processing. I’m in shock. It feels like a dream I’ll wake up from,” Banning, who had originally planned to delete the tweet, said in an email to the Globe. “It’s been amazing. ...My takeaway is how amazing and supportive the writing community really is.”
As of Tuesday, Banning’s tweet about the event for her novel, “Of Crowns and Legends,” a King Arthur retelling that follows his children 20 years after his death, had been shared nearly 6,000 times. More than 65,000 people “liked” it.
“[I] came back Sunday evening to it blowing up and seeing all these big name authors responding — and even Henry Winkler,” she said.
Among those who relayed stories of book-signings gone wrong was Maine resident and master of horror Stephen King — a response Banning said made her husband freak out.
“At my first SALEM’S LOT signing, I had one customer,” King said. “A fat kid who said, ‘Hey bud, do you know where there’s some Nazi books?’”
King’s second novel, published in 1975, would gain recognition worldwide. A new movie version will hit theaters next year.
One Twitter user could attest to King’s lack of followers early on in his career, writing, “I went to a signing for Stephen King in 1978 in downtown Minneapolis. I was the only one there.”
Other best-selling writers who responded to Banning included Margaret Atwood, author of the dystopian novel “The Handmaid’s Tale,” Neil Gaiman, Cheryl Strayed, and Jodi Picoult.
For his part, Gaiman said he did a signing with Terry Pratchett in Manhattan when the pair released their book “Good Omens” in 1990. But much as others had shared, “nobody came to [it] at all,” he said.
“So you are two up on us,” Gaiman said to Banning.
Strayed, author of “Wild: From Lost to Found on the Pacific Crest Trail,” a book that has sold millions of copies and was later adapted into a film starring Reese Witherspoon, said an experience like Banning’s is common for many writers, and she shouldn’t let it deter her.
“I know how awful it feels, as it has happened to me too,” Strayed wrote. “Almost every author I know has had this experience at some point in their career. It isn’t a reflection of you or your work!”
Banning, of course, has been floored by the responses.
“I can’t keep up with all the replies and retweets, but THANK YOU ALL SO MUCH OMG,” she tweeted Monday, as the story got picked up by news outlets around the country.
And while she has been using the exposure to promote the work of other writers, it’s also given her own work a bit of a lift.
“My book is now sitting at #1 in Arthurian fantasy and the sales ranks are climbing on Amazon,” she said. “This is definitely a dream come true.”
Read some of the responses to Banning’s tweet below:
Terry Pratchett and I did a signing in Manhattan for Good Omens that nobody came to at all. So you are two up on us.— Neil Gaiman (@neilhimself) December 5, 2022
I once did an event for CHOCOLAT in Glasgow, where the only person who turned up was an old man who had come in out of the rain.— Joanne Harris (@Joannechocolat) December 5, 2022
I did a book reading where only my husband’s cousin showed up. One person. I’ll never forget that reading. ✊— Min Jin Lee (@minjinlee11) December 5, 2022
I have sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach…and ask me where the bathroom is.— Jodi Picoult (@jodipicoult) December 5, 2022
1st reading, 1st book, a bookstore in Milwaukee. Maybe 15 people show up. I do my reading, answer some Qs. Then, the very nice bookstore clerk says, “Peter’s book is available for purchase at the register.” Guy sitting at the front yells, “Well, how much does it cost?”— Peter Sagal (@petersagal) December 5, 2022
Oof, the worst. My favorite game to play with other authors is "Describe your worst reading." One of my favorites involves kids with water guns, and another involves the author getting sprayed by a feral cat.— Rebecca Makkai (@rebeccamakkai) December 5, 2022
Join the club. I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help. :)— Margaret E. Atwood (@MargaretAtwood) December 5, 2022
My first signing for my first book ever was at a street fair attended by thousands of people. I was the local bookstore’s featured author.— Jen A. Miller (@byJenAMiller) December 5, 2022
I sold zero books.
Arrived once for a signing at Harrod’s, thrilled at the long line outside the book section — only to find they were all there for Monica Lewinsky, who was doing a signing at the same time. Sold zero books. Then Harrod’s made me pay a pound to use the restroom.— Bob Ortega (@Bob_Ortega) December 6, 2022
YOU WROTE A BOOK.— Shaun Cassidy (@shaunpcassidy) December 5, 2022