Saturday, April 13, 2013

Book Store to Book Signing, in Three Easy Steps

You may already know, if you read my last post (Pulled Pork and Pearly Gates), that spent some of last week in Colorado. My friend SB and I spent one of the days I was there wandering around in Estes Park, and I wound up with a kind of a deal. 

Here's the story...

Estes Park, if you do not already know, is a little tourist town in the mountains, elevation about seven and a half thousand feet. It’s a lot like Conway New Hampshire, or Rockport Massachusets, or any other small touristy town near where you live, in that 
there’s a whole strip of town that is wall-to-wall small shops, stores and outlets.

You want hand-blown glass sculptures or ornaments?
They got ‘em.
You feel like buying a t-shirt with the world’s cutest/coolest/most snarky message written across the front in letters a foot high superimposed over a sweet/radical/insulting comic figure or caricature?

Try two doors down. Or across the street. Or the shop just upstairs from here.

You have a hankering for scented candles made from soy, beeswax, or the collected waste of various wild animals that live in the area that’s been distilled down into a clean-burning if oddly-smelling wax-like substance?

They’ve got what you need.

To prove that fact, they have, right in the middle of everything else, nestled in there amongst establishments like Everything Antlers (A furniture shop. Sort of.) and The Petrified Poo Emporium (I just can’t describe that one now), they have book shops.

You heard me. Book shops. They have what I need.

SB and I went in to one, McDonald Book Shop Inc. to browse around. By browse around I mean look at everything and try to buy nothing. I never make it. I always buy something, even if it’s just to show support for the local vendor trying to compete in a world ruled by Amazon.

“Can I help you find anything in particular?”

I’d swear the woman that appeared by my elbow as I perused the racks did just that: appeared. First there was Space, vast and empty but for the air I was breathing; Then the Lord said ‘Let there be an incredibly bubbly and helpful person’, and it was so!

“Well,” I said, “I am looking for a couple of books in particular…”

“Please,” she chirped (yup, chirped), “Come this way.”

I’d say she marched off toward the front of the store, but that wouldn’t exactly cover it. It was perky. But it was a march.

Can one be said to ‘march perkily’?

You know what? Screw it. She marched perkily toward the front of the store, leading me to her computer. She wrote down the titles I was looking for, then banged happily away at the keys.

And came up empty.


Oh, you should have seen her face. She looked so sad she had been unable to help me I actually started to feel bad. SB had come around to the counter by now, a couple of books in hand.

“Nothing?” she said.

“Nothing,” I said.

She put her purchases on the counter, ready to pay and leave, when she suddenly squatted down, staring through the glass front of the counter. She pointed to a small stand on one of the shelves in there, nearly hidden by showcased books.

“Are those bookplates?”

“Yes they are,” said the saleswoman.

Sb looked up at me.

“You were looking for bookplates, weren’t you?”

“I was,” I said, excited at the prospect of buying something from this happy, helpful woman. Happy and helpful reached beneath the counter, coming up with a small stand holding a variety of bookplates. I chose one that happened to be just about what I was looking for: ‘This book is presented to:’ followed by a few lines for names and signatures. And they were self-adhesive. I’m not sure how many packs of the other types she had, but there were an even half-dozen of the ones I liked.

I bought them all.

“Do you have a lot of books?”

I do, but that isn’t what the bookplates were for, so I sort of blanked on an answer for a moment. SB, as she occasionally does, stepped smoothly in to the conversational gap.

“He’s a writer.”

“Oh, my, well we have author signings here sometimes — right there in the back, in that reading chair — would that be something you’d be interested in? Do you have anything you’d like to promote?”

“Nothing yet,” I said… no, strike that. That’s what I was about to say, but—

“He’s in several short story anthologies at the moment,” said SB. “But he’s working on a collection of his own, as well as a novel.”

She looked at me.


“Two, actually,” I said. “But—”

“Well!” said Happy and Helpful, going full-on Happy once more. “Will you be looking to do any signings then?”


“I’m sure he will,” SB said.

“When would this be? Sometime next year then?”

I learn slowly, but I do learn. I kept my mouth shut.

“Possibly,” said SB. “Is there a way to go about setting something up here?”

“Oh, sure. Just email us here at the bookstore — you can get to us through the website— and we can set something up. We need to do it in advance, and we’ll have to check with any publisher involved to make sure we can work with them to sell the title here at the store, but then we’ll promote it on our website, advertise in the local paper, stuff like that.”

She was writing down information as she spoke, and SB was nodding appreciatively and making all the little sounds conversationalists use to show that yes, they are interested and paying attention, even though they’re keeping their mouths shut to let you talk.

I stood there and watched.

By the time we walked out of the store I had a tentative agreement to do a book signing there sometime in 2014.

So that’s how you go from Walking into a book store to walking out with a book signing, in three easy steps:

1 - Walk into a bookstore being run by a woman.
2 - Bring with you a woman who knows you’re writing.
3 - Just stand back and shut up.

It works like magic.

Now all I have to do is write a book. Whoops!

…Details, details…

Besides, I have to go back to Estes anyway. Where else am I going to find an ashtray carved out of petrified elk testicles?
Petrified WHAT!?

Talk to you later!

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