Tuesday, October 30, 2007

Horror Story #4: Silence at the Library

From a nonfiction author:

The new book’s been out for a year; sales are slowing. I decide to target a publicity blitz at all the libraries in the Florida area where we spend a few months each winter. One library, across the street from a famous spa, seems delighted about the idea of a real, live author coming to talk and sign books. The librarian puts up posters, announces it in the newspapers, has flyers on the checkout desk. Things look good.

I’m so confident of an overflow audience I even invite Dear Husband (who has heard this talk 12 times before) to come. We splurge and have a wonderful dinner at the spa. I feel sure I can call it a business expense and that it will be more than offset by the sales of books. We even order a good bottle of Pinot Grigio.

The talk is to be at 7:30. By the time I get to the library, there are only three cars in the parking lot – all in the “employees only” spaces. Not a good sign. The librarian has everything set up nicely and has even included coffee and cookies. She’s put my big poster of the book’s cover out by the front door. She and I and Dear Husband make small talk as we watch the clock’s hands move slowly towards eight. It’s no good thinking that the time was misprinted in the newspaper, as she shows me the announcement.

Finally we all admit defeat, put the books back in the box and head home. It’s the first time I've ever had absolutely no one show up for a signing. I try not to take it personally.

Fifteen minutes later, as we’re nearing our condo, my cell phone rings. It’s a woman who is furious to have found that, when she showed up 40 minutes late for the signing, I had left. She wants me to give her the talk on the phone and tell her how to get published. After listening briefly to her tales of woe: work, marriage, writing, I realize that she’s burning up precious minutes on my phone and politely tell her we are about to enter a “dead zone.” I hang up. She finds me via my website and writes a three-page letter. It dawns on me that I can just assign the letter to the spam folder. I do so.

Who was it that said selling books at book signings is about as effective as selling them from under a trench coat in a dark alley? They may have been right.

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