Last week, the local SCBWI had a small event to celebrate local authors. Those members who wanted to participate were given the opportunity to have a group book signing at the B&N where I worked. There were about 10-15 authors who were signing books, and public participation was fairly high. I know from looking at the store's data that we sold over 50 of the authors' books. The event was a success.
What surprised me about all of it was that almost no one from the SCBWI chapter came to support the authors. The people who organized the event and the officers were there, but other than that it seemed to be just a few other people and me. We're a fairly large chapter that routinely pulls 25-50-more people to events. Why weren't they at this one?
I think the answer to my question was that they didn't have any books to sign, so they didn't feel there was a point in going. And this is wrong. On an altruistic level, this was a good time to support and congratulate other authors and illustrators. Writing is inherently a solitary activity, and this kind of thing gives authors a chance to socialize. And larger crowds bring more casual shoppers over. Sales might even have been higher if we'd had larger mingling crowds. And on a selfish level, it was an excellent time to network with other authors. We chatted about agents and publicists. The authors were swapping tips about school visits and who prints up the cheapest bookmarks. It was an information bonanza having so many skilled authors in one place at one time. It was so practical and useful, that I ended up spending over 2 hours there instead of the half-hour I had planned.
If you get a chance to go to an event like this, I strongly urge you to go. At the very worst, you get to look at some good books. I never once felt any pressure to actually buy any. And the best that will happen is that you'll help your writing career.