Saturday, October 9, 2010

A tale of two book events

Book readings and book signings are notoriously chancy things: people may come, or more commonly, they may not. I recently heard a story of a humorist who had a book signing, and the only book he sold was to someone who mistook him for Garrison Keillor. I'm not sure what name the poor writer used to sign his book.

So far, nobody has mistaken me for Garrison Keillor.

In Albuquerque we set up a fun and creative ten-station Lost in Lexicon event for children. Alamosa Books is a beautiful, spacious bookstore, six months old, full of every book a child could want. The bookstore owner had sent out newsletters and personally invited teachers to bring classrooms of children. She felt confident because at an event the week before she had sold $1200 worth of books. The event was announced in the local newspaper. A few days before the event, I made sure to promote it when I was interviewed on Albuquerque morning radio.

Nobody came.

I finished re-reading Ralph Ellison's Invisible Man.

When the three hour non-event was over, I packed up my ten stations of activities, went off to hike among some 13th century petroglyphs, and returned for the evening talk and book signing. Alas, once more, nobody came.

I signed books anyway.

Next town: Palo Alto, where I have relatives and a few old friends. The event was at Kepler's, a famous independent bookstore with an intimidating lineup of visiting authors. Other writers coming in October include Lemony Snicket and Jimmy Carter. Kepler's promoted the event to their faithful clients, I sent out a number of personal invitations, my stepmother urged her friends to attend, and my kids at Stanford promised to drag their friends along. Before the dinner, family members met for pizza across the street, where my niece Jessica, who works at Facebook, showed me the experimental Facebook ad she had sent out on my behalf.

The upshot: Forty people came, more than filling every seat. I gave a short talk about the joys of writing children's books and read a couple of passages from the book. I enjoyed myself, and people asked good questions. A young homeschooled boy sitting in the front row complimented my "pi" pin, which most people don't even notice because it's so small. We sold out the thirty books Kepler's had ordered, and they asked me to send more books. In short, a success by every measure.

I think the take-home lesson is to have lots of relatives. Or maybe it was the Facebook ad: Jessica and I are going to do an experiment in the next stop, Minneapolis.

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