Wednesday, January 20, 2010

Jeannette Walls Wrap Up--I Attend with Special Guests

A little backstory to recap our event with Jeannette Walls for Half Broke Horses. I was speaking to one of my customers from Eastcastle, who was interested in attending our event at Alverno College. She had two problems--getting there and who to go with. She'd already asked a couple of people who weren't interested.

Solving problem one, I said that if she didn't mind getting early and leaving late, I could give her a ride as I was renting a car anyway. For problem two, I suggested another customer, who I remembered had enjoyed the book enough to buy a couple more as Christmas presents for two of her relatives. The answer was yes and she knew of another enthusiastic attendee, and soon enough, our car was full. We're going to tour as Three Bettys and a Miriam. I'd be their Reuben Kincaid.

I panic about this stuff a lot, but it turns out our event with Jeannette Walls went about as well as it could go. Relocated to Alphonsa Hall on Alverno's campus, we had a crowd of about 150 fans, and because of the way the ticketing is set up, we had a very nice attendee-to-book-sold ratio.

As an aside, folks use three-to-one as a baseline. Straight signings are usually better; literary generally does better than issue books, that tend to attract folks looking for a free lecture. That's one of the many reasons why you see less authors with serious nonfiction touring bookstores. Our ticket-with-book program (inherited from Schwartz) gets the number high enough for the event to be considered a success, especially considering the book has been out for three months. It didn't hurt that it was recently lauded (yes, another link) as one of the top 10 books of the year by the New York Times Book Review.

Jeannette Walls is just about the perfect speaker. For one thing, she's funny and smart and bit self-deprecating. For another, she's just about as gracious as she can be to fans. She's one of those authors where you think, I wish I were her friend and then you remember, no, it wouldn't work out. I'd just disappoint her.

Just one little detail we learned at the talk. This is not a picture of her family, though at one point, the Scribner cover had a picture of her grandmother. It's a stock photo from Dorothea Lange. Doesn't it totally capture the mood of Half Broke Horses?

Thanks again to David and Rory at Alverno Presents, for all your hard work.

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