SuzAnne C. Cole.
Before my first book came out, I spent hours lining up readings and signings in the Houston metropolitan area. My first reading was perfect. The community relations coordinator promoted the event with mailings, posters, and newspaper publicity. A guitarist provided soft background music, refreshments were served, my husband sent a bouquet, the audience was warm and receptive. I sold seventy-five books and thought all readings would be that wonderful.
Unfortunately, they weren’t. The advance publicity for my next bookstore event announced I would be “singing” my book. However, I had a respectable crowd and sold thirty copies, including one to a bookstore employee for her mother. Following her instructions, I wrote a tender inscription. Three weeks later, revisiting the store to see if I needed to sign more books, I found languishing on the shelves that copy with its individualized note.
I smiled my hardest and wore my prettiest summer suit at the next signing, but no one stopped to chat, inquire, or buy. Restless near the end of my three-hour stint, I browsed nearby shelves. Later I drove home having sold no books but having bought fifty dollars’ worth of other people’s books.
With a coordinator in another city, I arranged signing dates at two stores; however, she abruptly left the chain, taking with her all records of upcoming events. When I arrived for my signing after a three-hour drive, no one at the store had ever heard of me, my book, or the signing.
Visiting San Francisco on vacation, I asked a bookstore employee if they carried my book, To Our Heart’s Content: Meditations for Women Turning 50. Checking the computer, the clerk coolly informed me they had ordered the book, but I had the title wrong, it was Mediations for Women Turning 50. In vain I protested, “But I wrote it, it’s my book.” I was only the author; the computer was the authority.
At one reading, my only audience was a young Vietnamese man. Curious about his attendance since my book is for midlife women, I asked why he was there. When he said he’d like to write better sentences, I walked him to the grammar section and sold him someone else’s book.
Community relations coordinators did not always share my ideas about appropriate atmosphere. One scheduled my reading to coincide with the in-store performance of a country western singer. Over the twangy strains of an amplified guitar, I found myself shouting my suggestions for “achieving inner tranquility” and “reclaiming silence and stillness.”
Later I sometimes found myself bribing family, writing support groups, friends, my parents’ church school class, air-conditioning repairmen, fiancés of friends’ daughters, and people I met on the street to attend my bookstore events. Still, I wouldn’t have missed it; my biggest thrill as a writer remains hearing those magical words, “Would you please sign my book?”
SUZANNE C. COLE, former college English instructor, writes in the Texas Hill Country. Both a juried and featured poet at the Houston Poetry Fest, she’s also won a Japanese haiku contest. Her poetry and fiction have been nominated for a Pushcart Prize. She also writes essays and plays. She’s pleased to have been previously published in A Long Story Short.