When I was able to book Michael Perry before the store's opening, I knew Harper Collins was taking a chance on me. Schwartz had hosted Perry before, but he tended to be placed in one of our more suburban stores, Brookfield or Mequon, not an urban store like the Downer Avenue location.
And though one of my beloved customers calls my store "downtown", we are actually located about 10 blocks from the boundary of the city, in a neighborhood that is equally single-family residential, apartments, a large university, and a hospital complex. By urban, we mean sidewalks, street parking, and a bus line. Most of our urban problems like graffiti, pulled plants, the leftovers of partying, come from college students, and according to Money Magazine, being in a college town generally improves your "best places to live ranking." Ask Madison.
There was another chance Harper Collins took (and I know it's wrong, but I can't bring myself to take out the space between the two names. My apologies). And by Harper Collins, I specifically refer to Carl Lennertz who made a pitch for us. Would we have our stuff together? Would the publicity be solid enough to draw fans? Could we hold the folks that might be attending?
Hurray. The answer was yes. 175 folks turned out at 2 PM on the Saturday of Memorial Day weekend to hear the wonderful Mr. Perry read from his new book Coop, and only one of them voted for the chicken ordinance in Shorewood. It turns out we drew folk from as far as Kenosha and Madison, and maybe further, I didn't talk to everyone. Oh, and we got five more folks at 7 PM--my apologies. At least we had a signed copy for them to buy. But not many--we only had a handful of books left.
And here's the real coup--everyone who wanted one got a seat and a sight line of the author. Finally my yapping about lower cases on casters paid off. We just kept adding chairs and moving cases as people came in. We had people sitting on our low display tables, and folks on our sturdy makeshift benches. I think they are table toppers, but we haven't yet figured out how they work. About 20 people wound up standing, or in the case of some kids, running around, but we actually had a few empty chairs, had their dogs (feet, sorry) been more tired.
So it worked. Thank you to the media for covering the event (yes, I plan to advertise a bit soon, more as a payback and support of book coverage than with the hopes that it will draw folks into the store), to Harper Collins, and to Mr. Perry and his fans. And nobody complained about parking!
Mr. Perry is as talented a speaker as he is a writer, and I think many folks would have gladly paid for the experience. And someday, they just might. Any author whose seen what happened with the music business (where touring pays the bills, not for the most part, selling your recordings) and is worried about the future of the book is either lining up teaching jobs are signing with a lecture agent.
What a transition! On Tuesday, we're hosting Greg Kot, Chicago Tribune music critic and host of NPR's Sound Opinions. We're hosting Kot for his new book Ripped: How the Wired Generation Revolutionized Music this Tuesday, May 26th, at 7 PM. Read about Mr. Kot's book in Geeta Sharma Jensen's book column. Read more about our co-promotion with 88Nine here.
You can hear Sound Opinions on 88Nine on Sundays at 7 PM. And here's Michael Perry's My 23rd appearance on Michael Feldman's Whad'Ya Know.