I’ve noticed lately that bookstores seem to be turning into a room full of ill tempered toddlers with only one toy between them. And, like said cranky diaper fillers, they fight over it until one of them wins, then the losers throw big screaming tantrums.
If I have intrigued you with that comment, please bear with some of the rambling that will ensue and read on. Especially if you own, run, or manage a bookstore. I promise I’ll try to keep the extraneous verbiage to a minimum for this one.
First off, let me get something important out of the way - I love bookstores, so I’m not slamming them. Hey, I write books for a living. They are sort of like my office away from home. So, let’s not go spreading vicious rumors about how I hate bookstores, because that would be a lie.
Secondly, but by no means any less important, I know that I’m a lower mid-lister, so don’t accuse me of being a prima dona, especially before you read my explanation of the above commentary. I’m painfully aware of the fact that the PTB’s who create the NYT Bestseller list are oblivious to my existence. If I were to be mentioned to them the likely response would be, “M. R. Who?”… I get that. Also, no one has optioned my books for movies. My wife still has a full time job, because my royalties alone won’t support us – much less buy us a new house, fancy cars, and expensive vacations. Again, I get that. Please make note that I am not complaining about this. I am pointing out that I am well aware that I am not Cornwell-King-Grisham-Patterson-Hamilton-Rowling-ad nauseum. I’m not even Richard Castle, although there is a preponderance of circumstantial evidence pointing to the fact that he could very well be a semi-fictionalized and much more successful version of me. But, that’s another blog.
So, here’s the thing… I made my opening statement because over the past couple of years there have been these bizarre incidents occurring. What I mean by that is this: I will be signing and speaking at a bookstore, whereupon I will discover – sometimes directly, sometimes indirectly – that another bookstore in the same town “wanted me.” The first time or two, this was actually a little heartening. I mean, after all, everyone wants to be wanted, right? Otherwise Cheap Trick would have never topped the charts with that song…
However, this eventually started happening enough that it went beyond flattering and headlong into a chronic case of WTF?itis.
Allow me to illustrate – with words, of course. Drawing really isn’t my strong suit…
I was in another state. I won’t say which because I don’t want to cause trouble for any of the parties involved. The bookstore where I was signing had not only booked me, but had provided airfare, lodging, and meals. Something that is fairly standard in the case of “we must have you on THIS date” sort of bookings that are initiated by a bookstore. It’s different if I am taking myself on tour, my publisher is sending me on tour, or if I just happen to be in the area. So, anyway, all good.
Well, not so much. In the eyes of a different bookstore, anyway. It seems that the management of the big chain bookstore in town, who shall also remain nameless, was angry. So angry, in fact, that they sent employees to the indy bookstore prior to my arrival in order to interrogate the owners about “why I wasn’t coming to their store because THEY wanted me.” Based on what I heard from the store owners AND multiple witnesses, it got a little ugly. Granted, this was all second hand info, and as always must be taken with a grain of salt, but these folks really had no reason to lie.
However, the thing is, the above is merely one incident of many like it over the past couple of years – executed not only by chain bookstores upon indies, but by indies upon other indies as well.
And now we come to the here and now…
Very recently, at the behest of some truly marvelous and hard driving fans, I booked a gig at a store in a town where I am going to be in close proximity during a quick trip for a family reunion. Trust me, it wasn’t easy to work out at my end. Doing this required some extra vacation time logistics on the part of my wife, and she guards those days very closely, so I’m going to owe her one or two – not that this is anything new. At any rate, I have now discovered that the OTHER chain store in town “wants me.” Now, in the interest of full disclosure, there have NOT been any tantrums in this case, as there have been in others. This is a good thing. But I still need to ask a simple question: How was I supposed to know you wanted me at your store? Contrary to popular belief, I am NOT psychic. That’s probably the character in my books you are thinking about there.
Like I said, I know I’m not in demand like a King, Hamilton, Patterson, etc… I get that. But, obviously there must be some demand or this sort of thing wouldn’t be happening. It’s either that, or as I said at the outset, bookstores have turned into a bunch of ill-tempered toddlers looking for something to whine about just for the sake of whining. Honestly, I have a hard time believing the latter. Maybe I’m naive, but hey, I like to think bookstores haven’t gone off the deep end.
So, attention out there bookstores, be you chain or indy. Here’s my deal…
If you are interested in having me sign books and present a reading, seminar, or Q&A at your store, you really need to let me know. If you don’t, then when I happen to be coming to your town on tour or even on a lark, I’m just going to start going down the list of bookstores in the phone book until someone answers and says yes. I’m not expecting you to call me up and beg me to come to your store, so don’t even go there. I’m simply saying, you have to let me know, and if you don’t, then you have absolutely no right to be mad at me or the bookstore where I am appearing. However, I make you this promise: If I know that you’d be interested in hosting a signing I will keep you in my database and when I’m coming to your area you’ll be the first place I call.
All it takes is an email – either to me, or one of my publicists. The info is all right there on my website.
I’m pretty sure this goes for just about any author out there, not just me. It’s the old lottery tagline: You can’t win if you don’t play.
Of course, if you want me for a specific date, then we have some discussing to do, but that’s a whole different ballgame and we’ll cross that bridge if and when we come to it.
And, readers, you also might want to take note – the upcoming gig I mentioned is happening because of some very industrious fans who let me know they wanted me to visit their city, and have been working very hard to ramp up excitement about the event now that it is booked. So, the same thing goes for y’all too. If you want me to come to your city/town, I want to hear about it. That way, when my publicist says, “Murv, where do you want to go on tour?” I can say, “Glad you asked, as it just so happens…”
More to come…