November 4, 2010

It's Not All Oprah Appearances and Whirlwind Book Tours, You Know

I once read that the average number of books sold at a book signing is three.

That's why I steer away from bookstore events, unless they follow a school visit.

But, when a local bookstore manager was looking for a middle grade author to do an in-store event, I said, "Yes."

To prepare for the event, I created a flyer, which I e-mailed to the manager. I spread the word via my Web site, blog, FB, etc. and I corresponded with the manager several times.

She made it clear I'd have to promote the event myself. All she could do was list it on their Web site and have a display of my books in the store.

No problem.

I had modest expectations the evening of the event. None-the-less, I dressed and applied makeup (I hate wearing makeup), packed my bag with giveaways, a stuffed toy hamster, etc. and drove an hour through driving rain to get to the store on time.

I did not expect what happened next.

There was a small flyer about my event on the front door as I entered the store.

Good sign.

I asked an employee, "May I see the manager?"

"No," the employee said.

Bad sign.

"She's on vacation this week."


"Well, I'm here for the author event. You have a sign up on your front door about it."

"Wait here." She dashed out of sight.

While she was gone, I checked the children's department. Not only was there no display, no signing table, no nothing . . . there was not a single copy of my book in the store.

The woman came out and said, "Um, did you bring your own books?"

I wanted to say, "This is a bookstore. Why would I bring my own books."

I couldn't speak, though. My lower jaw was dangling.

The woman explained that the store was closing after the holidays.

I told her I was sorry, but I'd prepared for this visit. I drove an hour to get here.

She apologized profusely, saying the manager handles all store events, and no one else was aware of it. She offered to buy me a drink in the cafe. (I declined.) She told me about how many people would lose their jobs and how she would have to drive an hour each way to get to her new job after the store closed.

Then she tried to cheer me up by discussing the demise of brick and mortar bookstores and books in general.

I waited around about ten minutes in case someone showed up. No one showed up.

By the time I left, the flyer announcing my event had been pulled off the door. Only a wad of tape remained.

Why didn't this bother me?

Was it because I thought about all those people who would lose their jobs in a market where too many people have already lost their jobs? Hmm. That put my inconvenience into perspective.

Sure, it would have been nice if the manager thought to drop me a quick e-mail to let me know.

But that's how things go sometimes.

Life's too short to get pissed off over things we can't control. And frankly, there's very little we CAN control. (I'll just be a bit more careful next time about saying "Yes.")

Instead of wasting time and energy getting upset, here's what I did:

I listened to Gordon Korman's SCHOOLED on CD all the way home. Very funny.

I thought about how glad I was to be getting home early to have more time with Hubby, and how we'd settle down to watch a new episode of MODERN FAMILY.

And I reflected on the good things that happened this past week:

1. We watched our older son and his eight fellow cast members get a standing ovation for their performance in the school play.

2. Our younger son had his first drum performance in front of an audience. (And he didn't vomit, lose a drumstick or faint.)

3. Three different local schools contacted me about setting up author visits.

4. And one library.

5. I got the delightful news that I will be on the faculty at the NESCBWI conference this May, giving two workshops about writing humor and creating quirky characters. (This is especially exciting as they are celebrating their 25th anniversary.)

6. And Random House let me know yesterday that HOW TO SURVIVE MIDDLE SCHOOL just went into its FIFTH printing.

So, you win some. You lose some. And then you go watch MODERN FAMILY with Hubby.


Jill N. said...

Sorry about the event, but congratulations on all the other amazing stuff!

Wild About Words said...

Thanks, Jill!

IanBontems said...

You can't beat Modern Family - never fails to cheer me up.

Congrats on all the good stuff, and kudos for not sweating on the bad.

Wild About Words said...

Thanks, IanBontems,
Modern Family Rocks and kudos on your good news.

David LaRochelle said...

I'm glad you didn't let the book signing get you down, Donna. Just this past week I had a book signing at a college bookstore...where no one showed up. I spent the hour chatting with the manager. Fortunately this signing had been scheduled between two talks I was giving at this college, so I wasn't disappointed at all, but these things are a good way to keep authors humble.

Wild About Words said...

Humble, indeed. J.K. Rowling talked about how she knew she made it when she saw a line snaking around several buildings as she was driving toward her book signing. She said, "There must be some sale!" She was told the crowd was waiting in line to see her. She was shocked because previous book signings were hit or miss. The book signing that day was stopped and people turned away after Rowling signed 2,000 books!

Janeen Mason said...

Three books? The average bookstore signing sells three books? Well, that's information I didn't have before. I'll remember to rejoice a little more when signings are good. Thank you! And Modern Family....hmmm. I don't know anything about that. Thanks for the enlightening blog, Donna. What a great week, otherwise, though. Congratulations. Like Pete the Cat says, "Just keep walking along, singing your song, because it's all good."

Wild About Words said...

Pete the Cat is a wise feline. Thanks, Janeen!