"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, November 2, 2009

The view from the Border(s)

Borders Books in Brea - I've hit the big time!

I had my first FREEZER BURN signing at a Big Box o' Books yesterday. It was an interesting experience, although, I've noticed lately that I don't ever have boring experiences. But I digress…

It may be my first large-scale signing, but I think I learned a few things, things I'd like to pass on to others.

1. You Will Never Be Prepared Enough, and It Will Not Always Be Your Fault.

Even though I gave the staff promotional material, and even though I stopped by the store twice to verify that everything was ready, when I got there on Sunday, it was almost all for naught. The good news is, they had 20 copies of my book. The bad news is, I had met with two different floor managers, neither of which was on duty that day. They had relayed the information to this manager (a darling young man named Spenser) that I would be there someday at sometime.

"We have your stuff," he explained. "But nobody told me you'd be here today."

He set up a table and brought out books and was ever so charming about whether I needed anything else, and a little apologetic that he didn't have a clue where my promo material might be. Fortunately, I had a copy of the flyer in my car and he provided an easel for it.

Lesson: Bring EVERYTHING.

2. Location Is Important.

They set the table up in the middle of the store, behind the 50% Off racks. This made it difficult to greet customers. If I stood by the table, people took alternate paths to avoid me. As a matter of fact, they maneuvered quicker than a tight end running for the touchdown. If anyone was brave enough to walk toward me, they didn't seem to "connect" me with my books on the table - my books with my flyer with my picture on it.

When I sat down, I got better results. People were curious about me, sitting at a table in the middle of the bookstore, and I was able to engage them in conversation.

In hindsight, I should have asked Spenser if we could move my table up to the front door. I didn't because I didn't want to seem like a diva.

Lesson: Sometimes it's okay to be the diva.

3. People Buy Books in Inverse Proportion to How Much They Talk.

Several people came up and asked me about my book, talked to me at length about books in general, the writing process, and even my days as a software engineer. None of these people bought my book. Not only that, but I knew they weren't going to buy it. It's just one of those things, like a sixth sense. The Salesgirl in me wanted to (gently) shuffle them off. The Curious Person in me wanted to hear their stories. The Soft Heart in me didn't want them to feel discarded. By a vote of two-to-one, the Salesgirl lost.

Lesson: Tell the Salesgirl to shut up and listen.

4. Life is Sometimes a Pleasant Surprise.

Of the two floor managers I spoke to, one of them was very friendly, always laughing and easy to talk to. The other manager was, well, not. She had a reserved nature, very cautious, and always a serious expression on her face. Some might call it dour. When it was nearly closing time and I had sold 16 of my 20 books, I asked the clerk what else they needed me to do and he called up the manager who had just come on duty.

The dour one.

I held my breath, anxious that she'd tell me they were shipping the last four copies back to Ingram's tomorrow. She came over to the table and said, "Wow, you sold quite a bit."

"Well, all but these four," I replied. "So… what will happen to these?"

"We'll keep them on the shelves for at least a couple of weeks. If they don't sell, we'll send them back." She picked up the books. "You did really well, though. Some authors don't sell any."

I couldn't believe it. "How is that possible?"

"If they're not very personable and don't talk to people, they don't sell, even if they're fairly well known. But you did great."

And then… she smiled. She even laughed a little as she thanked me. We're buds now.

Lesson: Do your job, be pleasant, and you never know what rewards you may reap.

This Friday, I'm at Barnes & Noble in Fullerton. Wish me luck!

1 comment:

dino martin peters said...

Hey pallie, thanks for a great and practical post...I believes that we always can learn thin's whether the experience is good, bad, or indifferent...and it appears you had a pretty good experience with lots to apply to future singin's....wishin' you the best at your next venue...

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