Sunday, October 29, 2006

Publicity Terror Tale #1

For Halloween every year, I send around true book publicity horror stories that I collect from authors, publicists and booksellers. Here is the first, by the self-proclaimed Queen of Bad Signings. Feel free to email me your scary (scarring) story: {bella at bookpromotion101 dot com}.

My Anonymous, Harrowing Horror Story About Booksignings
Once upon a time, a long time ago, an author traveled many, many miles to read and sign books at a bookstore that had called her up and asked her to be the guest of honor at the Saturday morning story hour. When the author arrived, there was no sign announcing her appearance in the window, or on the door, or by the cash register. The author's books were not in the front window. Instead, they were stacked on a tiny table at the back of the store, behind a bookcase, adjacent to the bathroom.

After settling in, the author went to the kiddie korner, where she read to a small group of cavorting kids and caffeine-swilling parents. The author sat, waiting for someone to announce the store's super-duper special guest. But eventually, she gave up and began reading on her own. The owner, of course, wasn't there to do it, and the employees up front were busy with whatever they were busy with... Anyway, after a breathtaking performance of all the book titles on said signing table, the story-hour crowd was so enthralled they immediately went over to the media tie-in titles and stuffed animals and comic books, and bought those instead of the author's books.

Because the story hour was early in the morning, the bookstore owner had asked the author to stay longer than her standard two-hour signing time, so the author did. The next two-and-a-half hours consisted of meeting folks who were intrigued by the author's books, asking all sorts of questions about them, and paging through all the cute illustrations, and then declining to buy one because: "Oh? This is for a child up to 8 years old? My nephew is 7 already, and I can't buy a book that will be no good in just one year." Or, "My niece just LOVES books about kitties. But, she has too many. Don't want to buy her any more!"

After three hours and three books sold, it was time to call it a day. The author said her goodbyes and thank-you's, and went out the door to the parking lot where she'd been told to park her trusty van upon arrival. And...HORRORS! EEK! What was there on the windshield but...a PARKING TICKET?

The author rushed back inside, in tears, certain that the store would make things right. The employees were already loading the author's books into boxes for return to some warehouse Never-Neverland. When asked about the parking ticket, said employees didn't really seem surprised, having apparently watched the ticket being placed there earlier in the day. As they informed the author, people get tickets there all the time. It's only 90-minute parking and very strictly enforced. "No kidding!" the author exclaimed.

The author asked if they were going to reimburse her for the ticket, since the owner had instructed her to park in that very spot, while fully aware that the author would be there for three-plus hours. "No way!" they replied. A phone call to the owner seconded their opinion. In fact, she said, the author should have known better.

And that, dear reader, is how one struggling author managed to spend a tank of gas AND a hefty parking fine in order to earn royalties on three hardcover picture books one fine spring day!


Anonymous said...

The author should have consulted JAKonrath before that disastrous event. You've got to attempt to befriend the booksellers and/or get the hell out of there. Also, duh, send your light-fingered friends back to the store to shoplift enough Star Wars action figures to pay for the gas and parking ticket.

Anonymous said...

This is my life! Too many booksellers coax authors to comne and do nothing to promote the event. It's like having a party and inviting noone. So sad.

Eric Riback said...

The only solace is that such an unprofessional operation is sure to fail in this inclement retailing climate. It's difficult enough for a pro to prosper as an independent, but having seen the ranks of indy bookstores decrease by thousands over my career I will also say that so many of them had no business being in business. "I like books" ain't good enough.

Anonymous said...

Oh my dog...

My deepest sympathies.