Gumption: Relighting the Torch of Freedom with America's Gutsiest Troublemakers has just come out this week and we are grateful that Milwaukee was one of the tour cities.
These large events are really hard to get. Every city in the country is clamoring for them, and many bookstores putting them together do a great job. Plus you're competing with libraries, clubs, museums, and festivals. And while Milwaukee may have some advantages, most notably its proximity to Chicago while still being a distinct market, it also has disadvantages, like its underdog status. So thank you Dutton! I have noticed that an author having some Chicago connections does help--both Offerman and last fall's headline Rainn Wilson had lived in Illinois at some point.
One advantage we do have is the amazing Pabst Theater Group. Both the check in and book distribution and signing organization had me quite tense, and the logistics for both wound up going smoothly. Thanks to Matt who knows his venues so well that he suggested we consider the Riverside when the Pabst wasn't available, Simon who was running the theater, and Paul, who handles hospitality. And all the way to Lauren and Karen who helped us stuff 2000 books with a Nick Offerman bookmark that promoted his the upcoming fall woodworking book, Good Clean Fun: Misadventures in Sawdust at Offerman Woodshop. And what the heck, since we were already stuffing a bookmark, we also included one of ours too. And I must say, it was pretty swell when someone waiting to get his book signed complimented us on our bookmark.
A lot of folks on the signing line were woodworkers. Just because a book category isn't hot anymore doesn't mean there isn't a book out there that can explode expectations. During the signing, we chatted about Matthew Crawford's Shop Class as Soulcraft: An Inquiry Into the Value of Work, which was a surprise hit at Boswell (and everywhere else) several years ago. Did I mention that Offerman was about as nice as a star author could be?
This time we wound up doing the signing on stage, at Dutton's suggestion, and it really worked well, partly thanks to Per Mar Security. And of course nothing wouldn't work without a team of booksellers, so thanks to Chris, Todd, Caroline, Peter, Teasha, and Teasha's friend Lena. I am also grateful to the late Next Chapter Bookshop, who trailblazed this partnership, as Boswell was content to just sell books in the lobby for touring acts (which is what we're doing for David Sedaris on April 23).
With our biggest event to date having been completed, it's time to move on. Who knows, maybe one day we'll sell out the Riverside? But for now, we're just hoping that some of those people will look at that Boswell bookmark and think about dropping by to browse.