Authors in Strange Situations
Nobody tells you that promoting the books you write requires you to be adaptable and have a sense of humor. We picture authors jetting all over the country, sipping champagne and telling adoring fans about their latest novel, but that's not reality for the vast majority of us. I loved the story one author told about arriving at a bookstore where he had an audience of one. The fan told him he'd really liked the book, though he admitted he might not have chosen to read it except, "It was the only one they had in solitary confinement."
I haven't met any ex-cons who are fans (that I know of), but I have ended up in strange situations. I want to state here for the record that I am EXTREMELY grateful to libraries and bookstores who allow me to come for a Sit & Sign or, even better, a talk. However, it doesn't always go the way one might imagine.
*** There was the library where they'd booked two events at the same time in the same room. The other event was a League of Women Voters meeting (in a Presidential election year), so I ended up in the children's room, with those cute little 2-foot high tables and miniature chairs.
***I spoke once in the Library Annex, a building so old I worried about the roof collapsing. And if any of my audience had allergies to mold...
***Scheduled for a Meet the Author Sit & Sign, I arrived to find the librarian who'd contacted me had retired, and no one on the job seemed much interested in her program. They'd scheduled another author to give a talk at the same time, so I got to sit and watch people file into the conference room to hear him. (They didn't even have to pass by my table to get there.) I heard every word of his speech from my table in the hallway behind the door. It was very entertaining, and when he was finished I watched people leave with his book, not even aware I was there.
***I once sat in a bookstore promoting my historicals and heard a customer ask at the front desk if they had any historical mysteries. Asked what era, the woman said she liked medieval and Tudor. The clerk led the woman RIGHT PAST ME to a section where she introduced her to a few of her favorites. Ummm, chopped liver here?
***At one library my audience was very small--three people. When I started chatting with them I realized it was the librarian's mother and her two sisters. She'd called them when it became clear no one else was going to show up!
***Recently I stopped at a library where I'm scheduled to speak and found that nobody there knew about it. The librarian had been reassigned, and yes, they'd love to have me come, but could it be Saturday, not Thursday, and in the morning, not evening.* (It's a good thing I don't have a day job!)
Ask any author who's done a book tour and they'll tell you about being asked where the bathroom is, if "you" carry the New York Times, and what books you can recommend for a fourteen-year-old who really doesn't like to read. They'll tell of events where none of the employees knew an author was coming, and a table had to be cleared really quickly for her use. Of librarians who schedule a talk mostly so they can pick the author's brain about how they might get published. And about the homeless people who attend because there are refreshments afterward. And sometimes there's absolutely no one. Time doesn't fly in those cases.
Still, it's fun. I enjoy the exchange with readers and with the people who serve as guides for reading: librarians and book store clerks. It's just that authors, like the rest of the world, have to adjust their expectations once in a while. The world doesn't revolve around us; in fact, the world doesn't ever intend to.
* The event is at the Port Tampa City Library, March 10, 2018, at 11:00 a.m. I'll be speaking on mystery writers who are very good but don't have the big name recognition.