Thursday, June 9, 2011
Since my current novel, Killer Cows, wasn’t exactly doing gangbusters in the sales department (despite some great reviews), how could I pass this up? And Angela, who more-or-less runs the store, has always been very supportive of my book. Of course I wasn’t gonna say no, even if my previous signing ventures have been somewhat underwhelming. And even though Klindt's isn’t exactly a local bookstore (I live in Portland, 80 miles away), my wife suggested we make a weekend of it, since her mother lives a few hours away and we always pass through The Dalles to get there.
Unlike my very first signing event on the Oregon Coast, where I was seated among 50-or-so other authors with far more promotional experience, I arrived prepared with flyers promoting Killer Cows and my upcoming second novel, Shaken. I remember that first signing; I showed up with nothing, and I was the only author who was trying to promote a young adult novel to patrons who were more interested in non-fiction and fantasy novels.
Anyway, I was really excited for the Got Books? event; I would be among several authors who write for the same audience.
Then, two days before the event was to start, Angela emailed me with alarming news: Although she had twelve copies of Killer Cows on-hand in the store, she ordered an additional twelve copies from my publisher which did not arrive. At first, I was alarmed. But, based on my previous experience, I didn’t see a problem…I only signed a few books at the other signing events. Twelve books in the store? I thought I’d be lucky to sign half of them.
I felt worse once I arrived at Klindt’s the day of the event. I was seated toward the back of the store in the young adult section, between two other authors who had actual agents and whose books were released by major publishers. Worse yet, there were only 12 copies of my book available, compared to the stacks of novels from other authors. Again, because I’m currently with a smaller independent publisher, I didn’t think running out of books would be a problem. I was instantly humbled - how could I compete with authors who had several novels with big-time publishers and oodles of copies ready to sign? Who was gonna care about this struggling author with one book to his name from a small publisher? Still, I gamely put out my flyers and hoped for the best.
Thankfully, the best is exactly what happened.
Once the event started, dozens of kids and parents came to the section where I was signing, and all of the available copies of Killer Cows sold within a few hours. Some kids and parents asked questions about the book, and I did my best to answer them, even though I wasn’t used to doing so. When the copies ran out, Angela provided order slips for people to fill out, which didn’t end up being too successful (after all, this was a signing event). Still, it did my heart good to see that my little novel sold just as many, if not more, copies than the big-time authors around me.
The best (and worst) part was when a young girl, Elizabeth, approached my table with a copy of Killer Cows she purchased long before the signing. I was actually caught off-guard, since she had already read and enjoyed the book. I had the feeling she wanted to talk about the book more, but being someone who isn’t used to such attention, I just replied that I had a sequel in the works and it was nice to meet her. After I signed her copy and she left, I got the feeling that meeting me was a disappointment. There I was, talking with someone who was an actual fan of my novel, and I didn’t know what to say.
I still have a lot to learn about PR, don‘t I?
Anyway, Elizabeth, if you ever read this, meeting you was a pleasure. It’s readers like you who make all of the hard work worth it.
I had a lot of fun, and it did my heart - and ego - good to see copies of my first young adult novel being snapped-up as quickly as those by big-time authors. In addition, I met a lot of nice people, and bought a few YA novels that have both inspired and humbled me. But most of all, I was happy to sign a lot of autographs. It’s the biggest rush in the world. Killer Cows will probably never sell a gazillion copies, but for a brief moment in in a small town, I sort-of felt like a celebrity.
Now I get the honor of trying to do the same thing with Shaken.
Fingers are crossed. Heck, they’re double-crossed.