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Margaret Atwood, Stephen King rally around new author after no-shows at signing

Min Jin Lee, Margaret Atwood and Stephen King were among the well-known names that responded to first-time author Chelsea Banning’s plight with a surge of sympathy. (Kena Betancur/Jeremy Chan/Dia Dipasupil/AFP/Getty Images)

Debut author Chelsea Banning was filled with excitement ahead of her first book signing over the weekend in Ashtabula, Ohio, sharing exclamation-point-filled tweets and memes of a cheering SpongeBob. But she was quickly crestfallen when a crowd failed to materialize, despite 37 people who responded online that they would attend.

“Only 2 people came to my author signing, so I was pretty bummed about it,” she typed on Twitter. “Kind of upset, honestly, and a little embarrassed.”

The fantasy author didn’t feel down for too long, however, as superstar authors swiftly chimed in to share memories of their own book signings that had flopped — illustrating how it can be a long road to success and filling up rooms.

“Join the club,” wrote “The Handmaid’s Tale” author Margaret Atwood in response to Banning. “I did a signing to which Nobody came, except a guy who wanted to buy some Scotch tape and thought I was the help.”

Best-selling horror author Stephen King also replied: “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?’”

Korean American author Min Jin Lee, who wrote “Pachinko,” added that she had once attended a book reading where only “my husband’s cousin showed up.”

Neil Gaiman shared a memory of a signing in New York with fellow writer Terry Pratchett that “nobody came to at all. So you are two up on us,” he joked.

“One Day” author David Nicholls added his memories: “Ooh, boy, too many to share. The one where the bookshop staff kindly pretended to be customers so I wouldn’t feel too bad, that stays with me,” he tweeted.

“My Sister’s Keeper” author Jodi Picoult said she had “sat lonely at a signing table many times only to have someone approach…and ask me where the bathroom is.”

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“We’ve all been there,” said British author Malorie Blackman, offering comfort. “I once did a talk at a library and five people turned up, including a mum who planted her two infant school children in front of me and then strategically ‘withdrew’ to get some peace for a while.”

Banning told The Washington Post that her reaction to the global literary support was “pure shock,” adding, “I’m still trying to process everything.”

“I love the writing community. It is so supportive,” she added.

Her debut novel, “Of Crowns and Legends,” the first of a trilogy, was published in August and is set in Camelot, following the fate of King Arthur’s children and the Knights of the Round Table amid a war. It has some fight scenes and “light gore,” she tweeted.

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Banning began writing at age 15 and describes herself as a “writer, reader, performer, and lover of all things fantasy,” according to her official website. She works as a librarian in Ohio.

“I am working on book 2 and am hoping for a December 2023 release date! MAYBE sooner,” she told her flurry of new online fans, with more magic and new characters promised in her follow-up.

For now, another signing is in the works, she said, as people snapped up her book: “I am working out details!”

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