Author Katharine Britton: Me, My Poster & I

When Katharine Britton's debut novel Her Sister's Shadow (Berkley) was published this summer, she became acquainted with that time honored prop, the book poster: that shiny, hefty blow-up of the book's cover art which suggests "you've arrived!" I really enjoyed Katharine's poster story, and I thank her for sharing it here.
--Sarah P.

By Katharine Britton
For years I've listened eagerly to my favorite authors read and discuss their work in independent bookstores and town halls. This summer it was finally my turn to read—at venues all around New England. Armed with an annotated copy of my book: what to say before I read, what to read, and what to say about what I've just read; a page of "For Katy" stickers (my publisher left the dedication off my book, so I apply one of these stickers to each book I sign); the clothes I'll wear, encased in plastic to prevent wrinkling; a granola bar in case I can't find a restaurant or don't have time to eat; and my poster.

My publisher sent me a poster to take with me to readings. It was a large (about 2'x3') gorgeous and glossy rendering of my beautiful book cover.  It came surrounded by bubble-wrap and embraced by a sturdy cardboard box. I carried it proudly into bookstores before my readings--usually very shortly before my readings--and the bookstore owners would put it in the window, or near the book display, and then return it to me after the reading, neatly re-wrapped and entombed.

One week I had a reading some distance away, and a friend offered to deliver it to the bookstore a few days before the reading. This could only be a good thing, I thought, and dropped it off at her house. One thing led to another: that friend deputized another friend to make the actual delivery, the instructions got garbled, and the bookstore recycled my poster's packaging, assuming that I had given the poster to them.

Give them my beloved poster! What were they thinking?

After the reading, I tucked the naked poster under my arm and headed home.

The next bookstore I visited kindly fabricated another case for my poster, using brown boxboard and masking tape. I was very grateful, as I'd planned to mail it to the next bookstore on my route. I left it in my back hall, so that I would remember to take it to the Post Office.

On Saturday of that week, my diligent husband, whose purview in our household includes solid waste management, took my lovely poster, in its new housing, to the dump. To be fair, it did look like collapsed cardboard intended for the recycling bin.

So I now head off to my readings with no poster occupying the back of my Prius. On a positive note, it’s one less item to worry about delivering safely. And I do worry. Being somewhat directionally challenged, I venture off equipped with  (in addition to the articles mentioned above) a GPS and directions printed off Google maps. I don’t fully trust either, and they rarely agree, so I am inevitably faced with an anxiety-riddled decision: get off at this exit or wait for the next? Take this dirt road leading into the Vermont wilderness or stay on the main road (also in the Vermont wilderness, but paved and wider)?

The drive to the venue often takes longer than the reading itself. But it’s worth it. Because, here are two truths about writing a first a novel: 1) no one knows you’re writing it and 2) no one cares.

When your book is finally published, you are given the opportunity (and the responsibility) of letting people know about your work. I like live events, because I get to be face-to-face with readers (the self-selected audience at any book event, other than the occasional family member), to read to them, answer their questions, hear their stories. It’s like crossing the finish line at a race, collecting your ribbon, and celebrating with the rest of the runners and those who’ve been cheering you on.

My book is about sisters; a large percent of the population is one and/or has one. Many have stories about theirs. I’m a writer. I like stories. To me, these exchanges make the whole, years-long process of writing Her Sister’s Shadow worth it.

And it’s fun to inscribe books. My books.

My publisher has promised to send me a new poster: smaller, more compact, just in time for my next book signing, in a small town somewhere in Vermont. I can’t wait to see who shows up.

(Meanwhile, if you have any questions, comments, or stories, please leave them below. I’ll be happy to respond!)

Katharine Britton has a Master's degree in Creative Writing from Dartmouth College. Her screenplay, Goodbye Don't Mean Gone, was a Moondance Film Festival winner and a finalist in the New England Women in Film and Television contest. Katharine is a member of the League of Vermont Writers and PEN New England. She teaches writing at Colby-Sawyer College, and is an instructor at The Writer’s Center.


  1. Katherine,

    I truly thought your story was going to lead to the dump, with you scrabbling around in your rubber gloves to retrieve your treasure.

    Great story!

  2. A delightful post. I love your adventures, can't wait to go on them myself (dirt roads and all). I'm sorry about your poster, though. You have a great attitude about it.