The book business can weigh on an author like an elevator malfunction. If you’ve ever been stuck in a metal enclosure with music that sounds like a vending machine hamburger tastes, well, you know what I’m talking about. You’re just stuck there in an enduro.
There are the bright spots and the low spots, and it’s all part of the game we play once we see our name on the spine of a book.
Sometimes, a bookstore will give an author that boost she craves. I recall a signing I did here in Jacksonville at the Books-a-Million in Orange Park. The store manager, regional public relations rep, and all the employees made me feel very welcome.
They made regular announcements, personalizing them instead of saying something like, “Author Brownie Brown is signing her book The Only Living Fat Woman in France: A Fictive and Afflicted Memoir. Meet the author at the back of the store where the poetry half-shelf is located.”
So it was a good day, and when the signing ran over an hour longer than scheduled, I apologized to the manager. “No, no,” he said with a smile. “You’re good for business. Stay as long as you like.”
Remembering that day, this author wishes all events were like that. But of course, they aren’t. Last year, I walked into a bookstore and not a single person greeted me. It was inventory day. Two customers came in during the 4 hours I was there. A festival was occurring in the immediate area, and that’s where everyone appeared to be. It was my first zero-book-sale event.
The lighter moments in an author’s life make it possible to suffer the book biz without lasting mental damage. My older daughter Jen brought a smile to my face yesterday.
I’d sent her to the bookstore for a novel my younger daughter needed for school.And I wanted to read Bernard Cornwell’s new book The Pale Horseman. Plus I wanted Kenyan coffee beans. I told her to put the charges (and the frilly frothy latte stew she likes to drink) on my debit card.
When she returned, she said, “You’ll never believe what I did.” She handed over my package, explaining that she was checking out when the clerk said, “I need to see a picture I.D.”
So my daughter starts fishing through her inadequate purse (way too small; way too crammed) for her driver’s license. Then she checked her pockets. Then she remembered she’d stuck her license into the pocket of her other jeans. She explained it to the salesperson who said, “Oh, sorry. But we’re still going to need an I.D.”
Jen thought about it for a minute. Then the fine mind my brand new college grad has served her well.
“I tell you what. You sell my mama’s new book, and my picture’s on the back of it. So if you go over to the shelf and get a copy, you’ll see I’m exactly who I say I am. My name's on the back of it too.” And Jen gave her the smile that can light up an entire afternoon.
The purchase went through without another hitch.
Being a small press author does have its bright moments. Being a mom is even better.