Michael Haskins

Tuesday, July 29, 2008

Book signing adventure - part one

I’d written my book, in blood it sometimes seemed, but it was all worth it when I received the email from a small publisher informing me that there was a contract in the mail. Ah, I beamed to myself, as I danced around my crowded home-office; the gods had finally smiled on me!
(Photo: Sarah, Bobby, Michael & Linda
at The Mystery Bookstore - Westwood, Calif.)

Little did I know that the hard work hadn’t even begun. My small publisher did nothing to help with book signings, and only a little for getting reviews, so off I went on my own and soon discovered that my excitement wasn’t necessarily shared by the rest of the world.

In July of 2007, I went to Los Angeles and visited bookstores I had haunted for years when I lived there, and soon had six tentative book signings for July ’08. Everyone wanted to see an advanced reading copy. My disappointment was that Barry at Book ‘em in South Pasadena wouldn’t deal with my publisher, so there’d be no signing.

I knew going in that the distributor gave little to no discount on my book, but a store could order directly from the publisher and, using my signing code, receive a forty-percent discount. I thought that was a good deal. Most of the major bookstore chains won’t take the time because their ordering is done from the main office and it creates too much extra paperwork.

So, okay, I had promises from Heidi at Mysteries to Die For, in Thousand Oaks; from Bobby at The Mystery Bookstore in Westwood; from Sandy at Flintridge Bookstore and Café (a store that had just opened); from Christine at Mystery and Imagination in Glendale; Lise from Dutton’s in Brentwood, and, finally from Kris at the Encino Barnes & Nobel.

As soon as I had the ARCs, they went off to the five stores. My first disappointment was when I talked to Christine in Glendale, she said the store was moving away from mysteries and featuring SiFi authors. Popular local mystery authors were an exception.

More bad news came via Internet news. Dutton’s, an old, well-established bookstore I often went to for signings, was closing. Loss of both signings was sad, but Dutton’s closing was heart-rending sadness, but the other four confirmed their commitments to my signings and the dates were set up for the second week of July ’08.

It was another high in my life as a writer and, I assure you, the feeling was worth all the blood I had spilled and money it had cost me.

Oh yeah, I had long ago gone through my publisher’s advance! But that’s a whole other blog!

Fast forward to the end of December ’07, and my daughter Chela’s New Year’s Eve wedding; I arrived in the NYC area a few days early and had my son-in-law Paul Carpino (my daughter Seanan’s husband) drive me around the NY/NJ area to visit all the chain stores at malls and stand alones.

Mostly they were Barnes & Noble and Border bookstores. I left off my press kit with each store’s event coordinator and that included an ARC. I called back in February ’08 and each store declined to do a signing, mostly because I wasn’t a local author. I had thought ‘Key West author signing’ would’ve brought people into the stores, since many of the guests to Key West come from that area. If I were a marketing expert maybe I’d have a regular income.

Friend and fellow writer Megan Abbott suggested I talk to Ian at The Mysterious Bookstore in Manhattan. I called and Ian was very polite and asked me to send an ARC. I did. The Mysterious Bookstore in Manhattan is the holy grail of bookstores. When I called back, Ian said he would order my book, but unless I was able to do a release party around the publication date he couldn’t doing a signing event, but I would be welcomed to sign stock. I jumped at the offer, because having my signed book in The Mysterious Bookstore was something I wouldn’t have even considered, if it hadn’t been for Megan’s email. (Photo: Sally, Dan & Me at The Mysrterious Bookstore).

My schedule and financial situation wouldn’t let me fly to NYC for a weekend at the end of March, but stock signing was more than I had figured on and I was happy.

Check back in a few days I will tell you about the book signings. There are photos on my website: www.michaelhaskins.net.

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