Mark Terry

Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Book Tour, Day 4

October 25, 2006
I more or less finished my big book-length nonfiction business report, so today seemed like a good day to spend visiting bookstores. So after I walked Frodo, I loaded up the car, made sure I had my CD's ("Pirates of the Caribbean: Dead Man's Chest" soundtrack; "Brushfire Fairy Tales" by Jack Johnson; "Take the Weather With You" by Jimmy Buffett) and hit the road.

Borders Books & Music
8101 Movie Drive, Brighton, MI
They had several copies and gladly had me signed them.

Borders Books & Music
3527 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI
Another happy occasion, where they had copies right up front on the new paperbacks table. I signed them and away I went, for people who don't like Borders, down the street two blocks to:

Barnes & Noble Booksellers
3235 Washtenaw Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI
They weren't quite a smooth and organized, but they had several copies of THE DEVIL'S PITCHFORK and even a copy of DIRTY DEEDS (already signed), so I signed the PITCHFORKs, thanked the guy, and took off in search of the Borders downtown Ann Arbor.

It's at this point that I got lost, the directions from MapQuest being a bit vague. I tried the alternate route, which was equally vague, and finally stopped and asked a jogger, who gave me directions to:

Borders Books
612 E. Liberty, Ann Arbor, MI
I'm reminded of the line from the movie, "Harry Potter and the Prisoner of Azkaban," where Sirius Black talks about his animagus form of a dog, saying, "The tail I could live with, but the fleas--they're murder." When it comes to Ann Arbor, I'm inclined to say, "The jaywalkers I can live with, but the parking--it's murder." Anyway, I finally found a place for my truck, found three copies, signed them and headed for:

Aunt Agatha's
213 South 4th Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI
I missed this storey completely, parked about three or four blocks away, asked someone if they knew where it was, she told me she'd never heard of it. Started walking, asked a parking cop (giving somebody a ticket) if he knew where it was, and he didn't. I gave him the address and he pointed up the street and said, "Should be a couple blocks up that way, on the left, then." There's much talk about AA in AA, but they didn't have a copy of PITCHFORK and didn't act particularly interested. I gave them a copy (graciously), ignored the fishy stare of the proprietor and fled (yes, that's how it felt). I feel like three strikes is out when it comes to this store--I've had no luck whatsoever in conversations on the phone or in person three times with various people affiliated with this story. Somebody needs to share with me what the appeal is ... please. It seems like a nice little store, but...

Got lost again (it's a gift) and turned around in a parking lot of a restaurant/hotel, only to find myself going the wrong way down a divided highway. Managing to not get a ticket, arrested or killed, I finally found my way to:

Nicola's Books.
2513 Jackson Avenue, Ann Arbor, MI 48103
The woman at the counter was very pleasant and they did have a copy of PITCHFORK, which I signed and she went to put it on their autographed copies table (right next to a 'graphed copy of Barry Eisler's THE LAST ASSASSIN).

I then headed over to Chelsea, ate at Chez Wendy's and visited my Mom for a little while. I told her the kids were 13 and 8 and she told me her son Mark was 12, but she couldn't remember how old her other children were, wasn't that awful? She asked me how old Ian was about 4 times and commented that she hadn't been back to her school in a long time. When I asked her what school that was, she told me it was the same one she and I went to.

Ah well. As the great sage and philosopher Jimmy Buffett says, "Breathe in, breathe out, move on."

Drove home only to find a flurry of e-mails regarding copy edits of the nonfiction book.

Mark Terry


Blogger Aimless Writer said...

Question; Did any of these stores know you were coming? How often do you do "drop ins" and do you always get a good reception? How important do you think these random booksignings are to sales?

I'm not published...yet! but I see you and a few other authors driving around and doing random signings and I have to wonder the impact on the sales in general.

4:09 AM  
Anonymous Eric Mayer said...

Ah...your comments are working again. It sounds like you have better distribution than a small press would. You wouldn't find our books in that many Borders and Barnes & Noble. Llewellayn's looking good, whether I can spell it or not.

4:40 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

No, the stores don't know I'm coming. I've gotten an overwhelmingly positive reception except at one or two stores. One was a B&N, and although she wasn't exactly warm, she did promptly put in an order for some books (I haven't been back yet to check on that and sign), and one of yesterday's indies. Otherwise, even the stores that don't have the book in stock have been very gracious and thank me for coming by. Most say, "Autographed copies help the book sell better."

How important are they to sales? It's very hard to say. One of the things that I think you have to compare it to are formal book signings. I've done a number of those and found them to be awful. How often have you come into a store to find an author you've never heard of before doing a signing, then gone up to them and bought the book? I won't say they're a waste of time, but it seems to me that they do pretty much the same thing the "drop ins" (I prefer to call them drive-bys), but they don't put any pressure on the bookstore. You come in, do something that will help them move a couple books, and get out of their sunshine. Instead of spending 4 or 5 hours at one store and only selling a few books (I think my best signing involved selling 8 at a bookstore; best overall was a Rotary Club talk where I sold 14).

I think there's real value in these drive-bys, and there are at least 2 reasons why I think so:

1. Although my publisher has paid some co-op to get front table placement at Borders (who may or may not actually have the books out there where they're supposed to be), by autographing the books and getting the sticker on the front, it ensures placement either in the Local Author section or out on the front table. If you don't have co-op, in a way you're creating your own co-op at those stores you visit. Although bookstores can return signed copies, they're reluctant to.

2. You are making some sort of contact with booksellers. If you make a decent impression--and I think that's by being friendly, courteous, businesslike and not making too many demands (I generally ask, "Would it be all right if I signed these copies?"), you've created a force-multiplier, someone who might recommend you to readers, someone who might themselves pick up the book and read it just because they met you.

So is it worth it? Yes, it seems to be.

Is there a direct correlation between this and sales?

Jeannie, I don't know if there's a direct correlation between ANYTHING and sales, unless you happen to be on Oprah. But everybody in the industry--myself included--thinks it's cumulative. Drop-ins, mailings, e-mails, Website, reviews, publisher catalogs, conferences...

Publishing Water Torture--one drop at a time, finally getting the general reading public's attention.

4:52 AM  
Blogger Mark said...

I was convinced after being published by a small press with very limited distribution that in this business distribution is everything. You can write the best damn book ever, but if your publisher doesn't get it into bookstores it doesn't matter.

6:18 AM  
Blogger Ron Estrada said...

The People's Republic of Ann Arbor has always been a fishy town. Perhaps it was the checkered green and white blazer that turned them off?

I've actually heard of Aunt Agatha's and thought it would be fun to visit. You may have changed my mind. It's sad when a private bookstore looks down their nose at a local author.

9:24 AM  
Anonymous John McAuley said...

Re: Aunt Agatha's--I'm surprised and a little disappointed.
John McAuley

6:26 PM  
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