How is everyone? Have a good weekend? Me, too.
My weekend started last Thursday, when I got home from the ranch and heard the following message on my home phone:
"Hi, this is Karen Syed. I just received 20 copies of your book today, and I was wondering if you're going to be at the L.A. Times book festival this Sunday. You said you'd try, but you might have something else to do. If you are, I'll bring the books with me for you to sell. Call me back as soon as you can."
My first thought was, my book is listed on the Echelon website as being available June 1st. My book launch party is July 19th. How can I have copies for sale now?
It took me all of two seconds to decide that who the hell cares. I called her back immediately and told her yes, YES, I'll be there on Sunday.
The next few days were spent reminding myself to breathe in, breathe out, and repeat as necessary. Thursday night, I went to sleep thinking, in three days I get to see my book. On Friday, I thought, in two days I get to hold my book. By Sunday morning, I could barely inhale from excitement.
I was, of course, early to UCLA on Sunday. In my defense, you never know what the freeways in SoCal are going to be like. The first people in the booth were the Fairy Lady, Bobbie Hinman, and her helpful hubby, who started setting up their portion of the Echelon Press booth. Soon, Jeff Sherratt came, then I think a whirlwind of Teresa Burrell, Jenny Turner, and Herself, Karen Syed. Pam Ripling and Alyssa Montgomery brought up the rear, but were quickly forgiven because they brought food.
I began the day by bribing my publisher with her favorite morning drink (hint: if you need to meet with Karen early, bring a venti decaf caramel machiato from Starbuck's with you), plus an extra little gift of herbal tea and a customized mug I ordered from Zazzle with my book cover on one side and "Get burned. It's cool." on the other side. Cute, huh?
By the time everyone was arranging tablecloths and getting out books and accessories, I looked down at an open box and saw my books. I kind of wanted to pass out, then run around squealing, but I resisted. After all, nobody else was doing that, and I didn't want to look too weird. I took my books out of their box and put them on a table, which is when I found out how truly underprepared I was.
EVERYBODY had bookstands to stand their books upright, and plastic holders to contain their bookmarks and business cards, and postcards and Jenny's got handcrafted book thongs for everyone who buys a book, and...
I had three things: 1) a bunch of bookmarks that I ordered from Vista Prints at the last minute because my real bookmarks haven't been completed yet; 2) a small amount of magnitized business cards because I appreciate the irony of having a refrigerator magnet with a picture of a refrigerator on it; and 3) a stunning realization that I had no clue what I was doing there. To make matters worse, I had forgotten to put a Sharpie in my purse, and I had forgotten my camera. I felt a little boneheaded.
So Jeff loaned me a stand for my book and a Sharpie, Teresa loaned me a holder for my bookmarks, and the little redheaded stepchild put her book display together. Here's what it looked like:
We puttered about until 10 a.m., when the festival officially opened. The first thing we noticed was a huge line forming on the sidewalk beside us. Karen said, "Oh, look, people standing still. Why doesn't someone go give them some bookmarks?"
I was planning to observe how everyone else worked the crowd, but no one moved. I'm pretty sure I had an out-of-body experience at this point - bookmarks in hand, I could feel my feet moving toward the line even though my head was wondering where we were going.
"Who are you waiting for?" I asked a couple.
There was my opening. "Oh, you like mysteries? I wrote one!" I burbled my spiel for them, handing them bookmarks before prattling my way down the line. I tried to give bookmarks to everyone, but I didn't bother the people who were too busy talking to each other. Everyone was so nice to me, they shared in my enthusiasm and promised to come by our booth after they got their books autographed. I'm not sure if they showed up or not, but it was fun talking to them.
Nevertheless, I had my first sale in no time. Here's the picture:
It was very cool, very exciting, very over the top surreal. Each sale was like that. I wanted to scream at Karen, "OMG, they're buying MY book!" But I didn't. I did get better at the spiel, throwing in some humor about what happens when Peri finds that severed hand in Benny's freezer. "Usually I throw those away when I find them," I'd say. "But she decides to call the cops." I'd say it got a laugh at least 97% of the time.
Best encounter of the day? I approached two women and asked if they like mysteries. The younger one pointed to the older one. "My mom does." I gave them my pitch, along with the comedy, and the young woman holds out her hand. "Now THAT'S worth a bookmark," she said. They didn't buy a book, but who knows? My website is listed. It'll be interesting to see what kind of hits I get.
Over the afternoon, I sat one time (to eat lunch with Karen), got slightly sunburned, and sold 17 copies of my book. I took the other three home as part of my author copies.
When the day was done, I helped pack stuff away and schlep things to the car. The good news is I found my car right away, something I'm typically not good at doing. The bad news is that I got a little lost getting back to the freeway. I recently activated the VZNavigator on my phone, so I tried it out. I had my Bluetooth earpiece on, so it was a little weird to have some woman whispering in my ear - "In 1.1 miles, turn right on National." I'm sure my hubby would like this feature.
In light of this unexpected bookselling opportunity, I've set up a new page on my website, "Where's Gayle?" I'll list all my speaking and signing engagements here. It was kind of a hard page to set up. I was going to call it "Appearances" but that sounded either like I'm singing nightly at a piano bar or I work part-time as the Aurora Borealis or some kind of apparition. Even saying it as "Where's Gayle?" has its problems. What if people think they can find my GPS location on the website? ("Oh, she's at Ralph's, get the camera!") Anyway, check it out and tell me what you think, http://www.gaylecarline.com/gayleappearances.html.
On a rather random note, I have a question for you all: when you are having milk and cookies, and the cookies are gone, so you're drinking the milk, do you drink the crumbs as well, or just drink the milk down to where the crumbs get the thickest? Just wondering.
"The notion that such persons are gay of heart and carefree is curiously untrue. They lead, as a matter of fact, an existence of jumpiness and apprehension. They sit on the edge of the chair of Literature. In the house of Life they have the feeling that they have never taken off their overcoats."
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times
- James Thurber, My Life and Hard Times