Friday, September 24, 2010

Bookseller Moment #279--The Author Stop-by on His or Her Way to Another Event. Case Study: Emma Donoghue and Room

Every bookseller in a community that has another bookstore within driving distance experiences this. The stop-by. Sometimes the publicist or author escort calls ahead of time to let you know the author is going to come by and sign books. Other times it's a surprise.

There are times when you are going through the motions. Or here's our copy. Or worse, we just sold it. And yes, that sometimes means we didn't have it in the first place. Sometimes media attention drives sales at other stores, but much of the event media is set up to drive traffic to the store hosting the talk. And the truth of the matter is that many author events don't get much attention, aside from the emails and ads and signage and social networking that the store itself is churning out.

And sometimes it just reinforces the pain that you didn't get the event yourself.

We know it's mostly to kill time in the schedule. It usually means that there are not enough interviews set up, and the author doesn't need to rest or has no plans to visit the Milwaukee Art Museum or doesn't have friends in town.

Rarely do we get an author for a stop-by where we're giddy with excitement. Yesterday, however, Emma Donoghue, author of the breakout bestseller and literary sensation, Room, stopped by in the afternoon with her author escort Bill, before her event at Next Chapter. In this case, we've had three great reads* on the book (Sharon, Stacie, and Greg) and the book has the literary and commercial momentum that will make our signed copies more valuable. For example, I think I am buying a signed copy today.

This was what a dreamy stop-by is all about:

a. We had enough stock to sign, and this wasn't one of those times that you buy five books for the stop-by and know you are going to return four of them in short order (or five. or five.)

b. She is super charming, as I remembered from a dinner a number of years ago for Slammerkin. Or was it Life Mask? I can't remember. I read the latter and really enjoyed it.

c. I also got to say I read her first novel when it came out, Stir Fry. Only I called it Scrambled Eggs at first. And Donoghue, as gracious as could be, said, "Sometimes they call it Sweet and Sour."

d. And we could even be helpful and provide space for Donoghue's phone interview with The Daily Beast.

This was just a wonderful experince and I'm very grateful. So I can only imagine what the actual author events are like. (Yes, I'm sort of kicking myself for not going, but I have a busy weekend** that I needed to rest up for.) And note to booksellers: she probably wouldn't say no to a tall latte, if you're meeting her in the afternoon.

Oh, and was I jealous that she wasn't reading at Boswell? Of course! Wouldn't you be?

*I know, not me yet. The booksellers are tired of me comparing Room to Mark Haddon's The Curious Incident of the Dog in the Night-Time. I read that somewhere and it worked for me. But I guess I better read it at one point, to know if it's really a fair comparison.

**Tonight, Friday, September 24th, 7 PM. Eric Puchner discusses Model Home, along with me previewing fall book club picks. Tomorrow, Saturday 25th, 2 PM, Joshua Ferris and Patrick Somerville. Then on Sunday we have a staff meeting and a rep night. So the store is only open on Sunday until 4:30 PM. Much apologies.

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