Thursday, December 20, 2012

A Slushy Rain Does Not Make a Boring Day When It's Five Days Before Christmas.

Because of the storm, which turned out to be rain for most of the day in Milwaukee, I decided to take the bus to work. I was surprised to find that my bus was driven by Santa Claus. I guess the Green Line has turned into the green-and-red line.

At 10 am, I had an appointment with Mary for her annual Christmas shopping. I inherited this from a former co-worker, another Dan, who inherited the honor from David himself. As the kids have gotten older, the list has gotten shorted, but it's still a fun challenge. We were looking for something for a reader who likes opera and classical music, but something a little more fast-paced than the very worthy tome, The History of Opera. We decided to go with Magnus Flyte's City of Dark Magic, which has turned out to be an easier hand-sell than I expected. I'm not breaking any records, but we've sold a respectable 17 copies. Our event is on January 15th with Magnus (otherwise known as Meg and Christina).

The rain continued as I did some event booking in the office, as we had enough booksellers to handle the floor. Today I confirmed Kevin Henkes, who'll be appearing for Penny and Her Marble on March 2, 2 pm. You may not think this is a big deal, but we've not hosting this Madison favorite since opening, and it had been years since he'd even appeared at Schwartz. He's super nice and seems to have a lot of Milwaukee connections. When I mentioned this to Doug Bradley, who with Erin Celello is appearing for a Veterans-themed evening of fiction on February 18 (7 pm), he mentioned that he knew both Henkes and his brother. With this win under my belt, I made an over-the-top proposal for Neil Gaiman, who is doing his very last author tour this summer. Mr. Gaiman has been a long-time Wisconsin resident, but has not appeared in Wisconsin's largest city in many years. A whole bunch of folks in metro Milwaukee are counting on us to make a good case.

Today I also booked local writer John Bolger for his novel The Hunters. It's published by a small press, but he's gotten quotes from Pam Houston and Ron Carlson. Did I mention that Doug Bradley had a quote from Karl Marlantes? Time Magazine had an article on blurbing, calling Gary Shteyngart king of the blurbers. They wondered why folks blurb so much. I also enjoyed A.J. Jacobs's essay on his blurb addiction. Dwight Gardner of The New York Times called for an intervention. But honestly, I bet it's tough to say no. A friend of mine once said no to a now famous audience and she got her bleep handed to her on a silver platter, and that was in the days before social media. I once read an essay by a famous writer in a galley about folks who wouldn't blurb his first book; it didn't make the finished book.

Why this aside? Oh, I was just impressed by the blurbs from these two authors we booked.

Our UPS and FedEx shipments arrived. Lots and lots and lots of books, plus one card shipment from Saturn (not really needed as we're stocked up in cards) and some banks and felt purses. Those were needed, but alas, they were out of almost everything. Hey, kitten, fish, lion, and toucan are better than nothing, and Anne was thrilled to get another shipment of felted leaf clutches, which are selling out as quickly as we can get them in.

Our afternoon rush was it's usual mix of calm, almost scientific browsing mixed with almost frenzied purchasing. And of course there were our usual share of disappointments. One customer was upset that we were out of Edward Gorey boxed holiday cards. Honestly, we're almost out of all boxed cards. She wasn't happy.

But interestingly enough, sometimes getting unexpected stock in makes folks equally angry. We had told everyone that The Composer is Dead wouldn't be available again until February, per the publisher. Well, it showed up this week, but folks who didn't choose to order it from us had little chance to grab a free copy. This happened with another title too, per one of my booksellers, which led to an unfortunate interaction that was difficult for us to resolve. The customer had decided no to put a copy on special order, and at this point, we could no longer get one for him. I was reminded of something my rep Tony used to say to us booksellers: "The lie to me, I lie to you."

Sometimes it's better to take all information with a grain of salt. Much like I don't really say anything is out of print anymore, we probably should have said, according to our sources, the book won't be available before Christmas, but honestly, we don't know.

It's just one of many things I don't know.

Just before I left, Lil Rev came in to drop off his new CD, Fountain of Uke. I'd show an image but when my laptop crashed, I never reloaded Adobe Acrobat and thus now have only the Reader, which means I can't export it to a jpg file. So instead, here's the jacket for City of Dark Magic, from earlier in the post.

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