Monday, October 30, 2006

Tales from the Road

Rick posting

The ubiquitous book tour: Belleville, Ontario.

Some have called these things “an exercise in author humiliation”.

They can certainly be that and more. It’s not much fun going into a book store (usually one of the large chain ones) only to find out that no one knew you were coming, or worse yet, they didn’t want you to come in the first place (although, thankfully, that doesn’t happen very often). The largest calamity an author usually has to worry about is that the store ordered your books but they didn’t arrive. That’s easily settled by making sure you always travel with a box or two of the things in the trunk of your car.

No, the really humiliating thing that can and does happen is when none of the customers have heard of you and have little or no interest in your book. “I don’t like mysteries.” “I only read nonfiction.” “I only came in to get a cup of coffee.” Most authors have heard these (or variations on the theme). My particular favourite is, “I don’t like to read.” Hello? Please excuse me for pointing this out, but you ARE in a book store!

Having already done 10 signings on my When Hell Freezes Over Tour, I’ve become very sanguine in my reaction to various things potential customers say when I try to break the ice by asking them, “Do you like reading mysteries?”

I do ask this question with some feeling of guilt, say as a telemarketer might when he asks the computer to dial yet another phone number, knowing that he’s breaking in on someone’s private time. But it is something an author has to do to be successful – unless your name is Bill Clinton or Dan Brown. The alternative is to stare balefully and with increasing depression as each person passes by as you sit behind your little table display, a table piled high with your latest. So engage you must!

That’s when those not interested will come up with one of the comments listed a few paragraphs above. What those folks are really trying to tell you is, “Please leave me alone; I don’t want to be bothered.” Once an author realizes that, it’s a little easier to take the rejection. They’re trying to be nice. They could just tell you to eff off.

But then there are those kind souls who ARE tempted to come over. Often, I’m sure they feel sorry for you, but some are actually interested. These are your target audience: mystery readers, and they’re the real reason you do these things. If they read your latest and like it, they’re liable to buy your other books, and quite often they have friends who also like reading mysteries, and they might also buy.

A savvy author comes equipped with The Handout, something people can take away with them and read over. You can also give them a bookmark. I know people who also have some sort of goodies: candy, cookies, fridge magnets, pens with your book’s name on it. All of these things do help, although it can get pretty expensive.

With Christmas not that far off, an author can also use the angle, “You know, Christmas is not that far off and a signed book makes a terrific gift!” With my limited skill at the craft, I’m also quick to add, “And they’re really easy to wrap!”

Probably the most gratifying thing to happen at signings, though, are those rare (for me, at least) occasions when someone actually knows who you are. That happened to me today. “What a coincidence! I came into this store specifically to look for your book.” In my case, a review in this past Saturday’s Globe and Mail was the impetus for this wonderful person to make the trip to their local store. Let me tell you, my day was made, too! That one thing totally wiped out last week’s debacle at the Indigo in downtown Montreal where I only sold one book.

So now you know why I’m sanguine about having to go on tour. I honestly do enjoy talking with readers, but beyond that, there’s the rush of meeting someone who actually knows who you are and is honestly glad to meet you and excited to get a signed book.

Maybe that will happen tonight at the Chapters store in Belleville. Wouldn’t that be nice?

Afterward: Belleville was NOT a good signing. I sold 3 books. Still, it was better than Montreal. Call me Candide...

1 comment:

Vicki Delany said...

I know who you are, Rick!