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.