Monday, May 11, 2009

Good news and... well, you know.

My first signing was Saturday at the Waldenbooks in the local Mall. It was Women’s Health Day, and there were vendors and activities and prizes you could claim by getting the signature of each vendor. The five authors were considered vendors, and we signed a lot more scavenger hunt cards than books. The five books on offer were a book about prophecy (does that counts as fiction or non-fiction?), a romance, an historical novel, an inspirational book about a family coping with HIV, and my murder mystery. I’m happy to report that I sold the most books. You can probably guess that the romance was second. Genre is a good thing, although the other books also sold enough copies to make the authors happy and the bookstore manager ecstatic. I don’t know if it’s the prize for leading in sales, but he asked me to do a second signing in two weeks and – having no idea how things in this business work – I agreed to do so. If some of you veterans think that was unwise, don’t hesitate to tell me.

Now here is the depressing news. There are currently over six hundred Waldenbooks nationwide. The new CEO of Borders (who owns Waldenbooks) has informed the store managers that they intend to reduce the number of stores to sixty. Yes, sixty (60). I know Borders is the Chrysler of bookstores, out of money, their common stock virtually worthless, and being kept afloat by publishers who basically allow them to ignore payment deadlines because the publishers want the outlets. Unfortunately, booksellers don’t qualify for a government bailout. I don’t know enough about the publishing business to offer advice about how to make bookstores work, but I think I know one part of the problem. I used the card-signing activity to make a sales pitch. As I initialed the spot next to my name, I would say, “A book makes a good Mother’s Day present.” Of the roughly two hundred people who asked me to sign their card, at least half said, “My mother doesn’t read.” After hearing this a few times, I started replying, “She’s illiterate?” in a joking fashion, and they would laugh or smile and explain that she could read but she just doesn’t. So I’d ask them if they would like a book, and they’d say they don’t read either. “Not even murder mysteries?” I’d say, pressing a copy into their hands. “Oh, I love Colombo” (or Murder She Wrote, Monk, fill-in-the-blank) they’d reply as they handed the book back to me. Grrr.

Mike Orenduff


Maryann Miller said...

Mike, how frustrating that had to be at Walden's. I crack up when people come into bookstores and then say they - or their family members- don't read. Then what are they doing in a bookstore????

I hope the economy turns around before more stores have to close. Not good news for us writers, readers, and publishers.

BillieJohn said...

Mike...I do understand how you in the great mid, I have had people tell me, with great pride, "I haven't opened a book since high school."

How sad for them!


F. M. Meredith, author said...

You could write another whole post on these people who say they don't read, or don't have time to read. That's happened to me many times at book signings. That's why I prefer book festivals and fairs. The people who come to those are actually readers. The one Sunny planned was outstanding, something anyone could put together in their hometown. I know that she did a lot of work promoting it, but it went off like a dream.


WS Gager said...

Mike it is great that you were out there. I'm just starting the process to get signings set up and so far haven't been able to find the people who make that decision but I'm still working on it. I think it is great that they invited you back. Just have to keep looking at the positives, you are selling books!


A Case of Infatuation coming out in June from Oak Tree Press

Morgan Mandel said...

That's terrible news about Borders. It seems more and more of what we're used to is disappearing with the bad economy.

Morgan Mandel