A publisher’s representative calls the bookstore/bar to check up on an author event/reading:
“How many would you say attended?” she asks, cheerily.
“Oh, it was full – very full!” I say.
“Great, how many would you say exactly, or at least ballpark?”
“Well, I wasn’t actualy there, but everyone who was said what a great night they had!” I’d in fact heard that it was kind of light crowd-wise as these things are usually packed, but it was the middle of a cold, rainy spell, and in solidarity with the author in question and all authors everywhere, I lie.
“And how many books did _________(author) sell?”
“I think they must have done well, cause the stack’s looking a lot smaller than before the event,” I say, hoping my vague optimism will satisfy her.
“Could I get a definite number there?”
I’m curious now and look it up in inventory. Umm…again, in solidarity, I double that number, no wait, triple it – oh hell, I give her the tripled number quadrupled and hang up before she has a chance to ask how the other authors did at the event, so she can compare and possibly decide to drop any further promotion efforts for their author who thanks to our tiny bookstore event is either a dud or a king.
A local author with a national reputation and publisher calls regarding an upcoming library event in town:
“I need to know you’ve got my books to sell and someone to sell them! It’s going to be a well-attended event, very well-attended.”
“Let me just check on that for you-“
“I can’t talk now, I’m catching a flight, and I need to know when I land in two hours – will there be books? I need to know there’ll be books!”
I picture him, movie star handsome, dressed in tweed, running across a jetway, a laptop slung over his shoulder, books to research his next project bulging from his roller bag as he shouts into the phone: “It’s going to be a well-attended event, WELL-ATTENDED! We need books! BOTH OF MY TITLES!”
A pretty young blond woman browses the shelves. The man with her looks over his shoulder to make sure she’s occupied, out of earshot. “Do you have any copies of _________?” he asks.
“I’m pretty sure we do!” I say. “I love that book.” It’s been a New York Times bestseller for weeks.
“She wrote it,” he says in a whisper. “She’s too shy to ask.”
An older couple shuffle around the bookstore. They share one beer, look at every book in the place.
“Excuse me, do you have a local authors’ section?” the man asks.
“Sure, it’s right over-“
They’re both wearing survival wear, as if they’re spending a month in the Australian outback. Floppy hats. Hers is tied under the chin with a leather cord, his sits at a rakish angle.
“I don’t need to SEE it,” he brushes me away, literally swats at me with his hand like an outback fly. “You see, I’m publishing a book soon and thought you might like to carry it.” I start telling him to bring a copy or two in for consignment but that’s not aligning with his dream, which is me or anyone falling to their knees and saying “You brilliant, brilliant man! We’ll get carpenters in at once to erect a wing for this mighty tome, the likes of which the world has never seen!”
“Author events – do you do those?” he asks, but doesn’t wait for an answer. “I might want to talk to someone about setting one up.” He flicks through the table of new age-feel-good-impulse buy-easy-wisdom books that in the last year have started giving way to miniature copies of the Constitution and Bill of Rights. “Though I see this is a pretty wholesome spot and my book is about decadence.” I start to say how we do serve alcohol, but quickly shut up as I picture that senior Satan-worship group from Rosemary’s Baby in the all-together except for bush hats plus bifocals, socks and sandals. Then I start busily folding Curious George onesies to emphasize our family-friendly, anti-decadence atmosphere but he and his companion are already hauling their stringy khaki-encased thighs up the street to find a more amenably seedy atmosphere that will give his brilliant treatise its rightful dank platform.
A cheerful woman approaches the register. “I’m the editor of __________!” she says, almost giddy with happiness. “I see you have it up on the top shelf – how’s it doing?” I tell her it’s been selling well (in a store this size, that could mean 3-4 copies but, y’know it’s good to be positive – it definitely hasn’t been ignored!) I apologize to her for not reading it yet, but tell her it looks compelling. I love every book in the store so much, just for the sheer act of existing. If you’ve done anything to get marks on paper down and in print, you’re okay in my book – you wrote a book. Better than okay – you deserve…a reader. So sometimes it makes people a little shameless.
Author, publisher, self-publisher, bookseller. Editor, agent; reader. It’s a miracle when the right book finds its way into the right hands. But it happens all the time. I’ve seen it all my life as a reader, and for the last seven years working in a bookstore. There’s no shame in making that happen. I admire and aspire to be a person who makes a book. I love people who love books.
I navigated the world of book proposals and potential publishers with the help of an agent for the last several years and am proud and terrified to announce that my own book will be published – by me – in October. There’s no shame in it, right?
I’ll start doing pre-orders and give more info in June. In the meanwhile, come see me play in May or June if I’m in your neighborhood. Before I don my survival gear.
- Thu May 9 Catskill NY HiLo (w/Tim Higgins)
- Fri May 10 Bordentown NJ Randy Now’s
- Sat May 11 No. Andover MA Crossroads Music Series
- Thu May 23 Brighton UK Prince Albert
- Sun May 26 Malmo Sweden Folk å Rock
- Fri June 7 Philadelphia PA Dawson St Pub
- Sat June 8 Montclair NJ Outpost In The Burbs