Sunday, May 17, 2009

My version of mortification

So there's this fabulous book out there called MORTIFICATION, which is a collection of very short essyas about authors' worst public moments--signings and readings gone seriously (channeling Robert Burns here) "aglang."

Anyway. I had one of those moments yesterday. And while it wasn't as bad as the time I had to sit next to Richard Paul Evans at a Deseret Book signing right after he changed the history of the world (and also the universe) by publishing THE CHRISTMAS BOX, I'm still shaken by what happened yesterday.

I was one of the many Utah authors invited to attend the Provo Children's Book Festival, held in the beautiful old library there on University Avenue. And really it was a smashing success for all the attendees. There was so much to see and do and all the planners should be kissed on the lips.

The problem for me personally happened during the book signing. Okay. Writers of realistic fiction have glumly resigned themselves to the reality that if you're signing with fantasy authors, you'll pretty much be the ugly girl at the junior high dance again. Fantasy authors have lines all the way to Wendover while you sit on the end of the table, signing the occassional scrap of paper for a kid whose mother has made him get your autograph (and I'm the first to say my autograph isn't worth much).

On the one hand, you get used this. Fantasy has always been popular, of course, but it's hot hot hot right now. And when you have both the lovely Shannon Hale and Brandon Mull on site, well then it's like having rock stars in your midst. (BTW, if you ever decide to write fantasy and get famous, take a page out of the Shannon-and-Brandon book. They are unfailingly gracious and humble about their impressive achievements.)

On the other hand, you have this experience over and over again and you start getting demoralized even when you've taken a sacred vow to be your best and most mature self. Well, demoralization happened to me in a big way yesterday. I mean NOBODY was swinging over to my end of the table with one of my books--not even one of the pirate books in paper. What I found out later was that the booksellers hadn't even bothered to order any of my titles. And I wasn't the only author there to whom they did this. Apparently they mostly brought over fantasy. Lots and lots and LOTS and also lots (as well as truckloads) of fantasy.

In my other life as a bookseller, I understand why this may have happened. Fantasy is profitable, contemporary fiction is not (except in rare instances). When you do an event, you are faced with the dilemma of how many books you should order so you won't be stuck with stock you have to return or shelve. I get all that. But my bosses at The King's English, Betsy Burton and Anne Holman, would never NOT order books for an author because not ordering books for an author feels like disrespect.

And we hate to be disrespected because we are such delicate hothouse flowers, don't you know.

18 comments:

Lisa B. said...

Sometimes I like to imagine what hell is like, and what you describe here is one of the versions. (Another version is being forced to watch PowerPoint presentations endlessly.) Wow. All the people whose books they didn't order--you guys should have banded together with lit torches and clenched fists.

Carolyn V. said...

That is terrible that they didn't have your books there! (what were they thinking?)

I happen to have your pirate book. And it is signed.

Maw Books said...

Well, I for one loved meeting you yesterday and am thrilled that I brought a book from home for you to sign. But seriously? Shame on them.

marypearson said...

That is not only mortification and disrespect, but completely wasting a writer's time. You were INVITED to attend as an author. That means signing.

That happened to me at a bookseller event once. The guilty shall remain nameless. I was invited to speak at a rather large event which meant a LOT of preparation, but they didn't order my books or include me in the signing event that took place after I spoke. I was dumbfounded.

ann cannon said...

Seriously, Mary Pearson? That happened to you? But you are the amazing author of THE ADORATION OF JENNA FOX, are you not? Dumbounded pretty much sums up how I feel about your experience, too.

Lisa, Carolyn, and Natasha--thank you for these comments. I do think these particular booksellers will be more careful in the future, so while I'm kind of ashamed of myself today, maybe yesterday's little diva fit wasn't a completely bad thing.

Melanie said...

I can't believe they didn't have your books! I loved your last book and would have been seriously annoyed if I had come to the event and not been able to buy a copy to have signed by you right there. Good thing I have my own copy, but still!

debbiesworld said...

That's horrible! I went to my first author signing event the other week and I was surprsied that the book store didn't have more copies of the author's book. I brought my own copies of one series but she had a new series out and they had one copy. Luckily I got it but then when other people were asking about it the book store employees were wandering around saying "I know we had one copy". Ummm...shouldn't you have ordered more if you knew the author would be there signing books?

Janssen said...

I definitely would have come by to have you sign a book. Not only do I think your books are terrific, you are also the first author that ever emailed me and, well, that pretty much puts you at hero status in my eyes.

Sorry it worked out so poorly.

Bree Biesinger Despain said...

I am aghast by this. You have every right to be annoyed. I have serious nightmares about my future book signings, and this sounds almost as bad as the one that I have about getting up to speak about my book and discovering that I've forgotten to put on clothes.

My boys LOVE your pirate books. They would have loved to have met you if we'd been able to go to the event.

p.s. Loved your Mother's Day column.

Margy said...

Are you kidding me? The only acceptable explanation would be if they'd ordered books and they didn't come in, but then the bookseller seller should have been at your table apologizing profusely! (And bringing you cupcakes!)

Lenore said...

I am so sorry to hear about this major failure on the bookseller's part. That is really unforgiveable.

shelley said...

Irresponsible booksellage there. And I agree with Margy, there's no excuse for not having your books on-hand. I am truly sorry for such an awful waste of energy. If I were you, I would perhaps offer a kind suggestion to the planners of next year's event to make sure all authors have their books available.

ann cannon said...

Again, thanks to all of you for posting. I feel calmer now.

The planners of the event thought they had it covered. The booksellers were the ones who dropped the ball (something I myself have done as a bookseller, too). There were 10 authors who didn't have any books there. My guess is that this particular book store won't be making the same mistake again.

BBB said...

:( I'm sorry. I had plans to go the Library event, but then my in-laws happened.

I was going to bring copies of your books that I already have, and have you sign them. It could have made it look like for just a minute or two, that your books were available at the event. Then all the people around would have seen you signing my books, and it would have created a stir and everyone would have anxiously said, "Where did you get those???" And I would have said, "Oh, you're too late, they FLEW off the shelf. None left. Sorry."

I absolutely loved your last book. I full fledged laughed out loud hysterically a number of times while reading it. This is rare for me. I just couldn't help myself with the interactions between Ed and Quark.

Kim said...

I like Brandon Hull and Shannon Hale, but you are my favorite. I would have been the first in your line. Those fantasy people don't know what they're missing.

Anne said...

If they'd been thinking at all they would have rushed over with a copy of Mountain Man Dance Moves and asked you to sign right on the unicorn's hiney because they would have known it was your favorite book. Who loves ya baby?

angiechapiglet said...

Ann, Angie here...okay, I completely agree! I talked to Anne right after she found out about HER books not being and I could not believe it. I would NEVER not order books for an author, regardless of whether or not I thought the book would sell. Not only is it disrespectful, but downright rude and spiteful. I love you and the other authors and don't forget it!

metteharrison said...

This has happened to me twice in the last week, and I write fantasy. But apparently, not the right kind of fantasy. I have become so used to it that I just bring my own books along now to any event that I go to. Because my experience has led me to assume the booksellers are going to be idiots. (Sorry nice booksellers!)