"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

Monday, April 27, 2009

"Time!" was all the White Rabbit said.

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.

"James Ellroy."

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.


Mary Cunningham said...

Love this story, Gayle! We've all had that excitement of seeing/feeling our book! Nothing quite like it.

Thanks for the great account of the week. Made me smile and want to give you a big hug!


thelittlefluffycat said...

It sounds awesome! I only wish I could have been there. Jenny does andmade book thongs??? I know I wouldn't have thought of that--but do you leave the back of your bookmarks blank so if someone asks for an autograph and doesn't have a book you can sign them? I've seen that done...

Congrats! I wouldn't be surprised if your book winds up with some early reviews out of this lovely weekend. :) Now go order your stands and such for next time!

Debra said...

What a great blog post! I totally felt your joys and fears. I am doing an E Book on this very topic and this confirmed for me that I am on the "write" track! Wonderful story. Please check out my custom made bookmarks and book thongs.
Debra Owsley

Custom Orders Portfolio --showcase of customized items

Full Bookmark Catalog --full bookmarks displayed

Halfmark Catalog --half bookmarks

Book Thong Catalog --book thongs in various colors

Diana Black said...

Awesome on soooo many levels! One: Holding your book for the first time (yeah, like any newborn, you'll have to get up with it in the middle of the night just to make sure it's still there...and tend to those waking thoughts of ...did I send a PR here? did I write a thank you there?)

Oh, I could go on, but why? YOU wrote about it so brilliantly we all feel your angst and joy...

Best of luck!! (tip: catch a few winks when the "babe" naps.)


Gayle Carline said...

Thanks for all the kind words, everyone! Now my excitement can be tempered with that feeling you get when you've written something and it's out in public and you wonder if someone's going to post a whole new website devoted to saying they hated it, even though a lot of people loved it.

Fluffy Cat - my bookmarks have designs on both sides, but I could just autograph it anyway.

Diana - you don't know how many times I got up in the middle of the night to check the spellings on the names I listed in the acknowledgments. ("What if I spelled Mark's name wrong?" "Did I use Robin's last name?") The "little tyke" is quite the night owl.

Thanks again!

Nocturnal Intellect said...

I wish I was there at your book signing! I always have a sharpie in my purse. For totally different purposes of course, but it works.
camera doesn't leave my hand either, so this would be great.
Im happy for you and your accomplishment. Now, soon as I get freezer burn ( not on my meat, but the book) I know where I will be until it's all thawed out. :)



Teresa M Burrell said...

Fabulous post, Gayle. It was so much fun being there with you for your debut especially being the seasoned author that I am (I saw my book a whole two days before you did.) You were awesome the way you handled the public. You're going to do a great job with the marketing of your book.

I drink the milk, crumbs and all.

Anne Carter said...


Wonderful recount of a great weekend. You did fab. Plus your book has a good hook and a brilliant cover. It all helps!

It was truly a pleasure hanging out with you in the Echelon booth. Wishing you much success!


Nick Valentino said...

Yay Gayle! That was such a great blog I had to read it twice. I could feel the excitement! I am a little goosebumpy now.


DeAnna Cameron said...

OMG, Gayle -- That is so exciting! Huge congrats on your first sales, too :-) I wish I would've known you'd be there. This is the first year I've missed the book festival in a loooonnnnggg time, but, well, I won't get into the pregnancy related reasons it just wasn't in the cards this year. I would've made the trip and just made it a short trip to see you on the big day, though!
And, since you asked, I drink the milk with crumbs and all...

Amy said...

Congratulations, Gayle! It sounds like a wonderful, exciting weekend! Hopefully the start of many such successful selling events for you!

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