I've had to sit on the Publish & Be Damned event for a day or so to make some kind of sense out of it. Lots of interesting things came from it, but here's the crucial one for anybody doing anything art related in the public eye: expectation.
When you decide to put your head over the wall and see what's going on, I guarantee your biggest expectation will be for the world to surprise you, buy all of your books and lots of people to show their face. Meanwhile, your biggest fear will be that nobody will show - and it won't go away no matter how hard you push it, but here's the truth: you're guessing. Call it what you will, it's nothing but guesswork and worse still, it's guesswork with no facts behind it (unless it's a paying event I guess and you can count ticket sales - in which case you're even further in the hole). It's a horrible thing and in the name of staying sane, I nailed my expectation to the floor and brought two scenarios into the equation:
1. The worst case scenario would be that I would find myself drinking coffee with Juliet (Waterstones manager of excellence - she has a blog here) after hours. I like drinking coffee in bookshops. There's not a bad ending when I write the story like this - it simply depends how you choose to look at it.
2. At the other end of the scale, I was not ready for dozens of people to show. It would have gone ahead but I think I would also have stood there and wondered what the hell was going on. Like it was some kind of set-up. We all have our own safety valves and if we don't, we soon find them.
Mostly though, a week or so ago, Neil Gaiman had posted a picture of his first book signing at which twelve people showed... and Sandman was on the shelf by then too. I think he was signing with the artist Mike Dringenberg. Anyway, that was my flag in the sand. Twelve people I would most definitely view as a major comparative success.
As it turned out, there were nine of us (plus me) and I was more than happy with that. You can get a thousand likes on Facebook in a few minutes with a picture of a cat and some peanut butter but this was nine actual real-live breathing people who got out of their chair and made an effort to either a) help themselves fix holes in their knowledge b) not to feel so alone or c), d) and e) lots of other reasons... and I thank you all for coming regardless of what those reasons were.
Even if you just wanted to get out of the house and avoid walking the dog. It's all valid.
Typically, I didn't think I would learn anything (I wasn't there to learn dammit) but I did, so I hope everybody else took at least a few gems of wisdom away with which to beat their own careers over the head with.
If you want to know what happened during the event and the things we talked about, maybe you should have been there, but the point is, you can't let the fear of nobody showing up at 'your thing' stop you from putting yourself out in the world.
That's the worst crime of all.