Sunday, July 17, 2005

Day #2

I got away with only working twelve hours today. Would have gone longer, but the only bookstores I haven't yet visited close early on Sundays.

Got up at 8AM, then plotted my route for drive-bys. I wanted to visit 18 stores. I figured I could do two stores an hour---15 minutes of schmoozing, then 15 minutes of travel time.

It took longer than I figured, and I got behind schedule. When I do a drive-by, I always find my books myself and bring them up to the Information Desk.

"This is me," I'll say, smiling and pointing at my book cover. "I'm J.A. Konrath. Can I sign these for you guys?"

I always get a yes. Sometimes they ask questions. Sometimes they're busy. But I still try to pitch the books and hand out signed coasters to as many employees as possible. They are my word-of-mouth army, and I need to stick in their heads.

Sometimes it takes time to find staff, or sometimes they call for managers, and my 15 minute time frame becomes half an hour. I also often wind up talking to customers, passing out signed coasters, and pitching my books to patrons.

Plus, since I hit most of the local stores yesterday, the stores today were farther apart, sometimes by 25 miles. There were several mall stores, and it seemed I always parked ten miles away from where the store was, every time. So I didn't get as much done as I wanted to.

Here are the stats:

Barnes & Noble in Denver, signed 4 hardcovers, 9 paperbacks, sold 1.

Waldenbooks in Denver, signed 4 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks.

Borders in Lakewood, signed 3 hardcovers, 3 paperbacks, sold 1.

Barnes & Noble in Lakewood, signed 4 hardcovers, six paperbacks, sold 2.

Borders in Englewood, signed 3 hardcovers, 2 paperbacks, sold 1.

Borders in Littleton, signed 2 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.

Waldenbooks in Littleton, signed 4 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble in Greenwood Village, signed 4 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble in Lonetree, signed 5 hardcovers and 5 paperbacks.

Borders in Aurora, signed 5 hardcovers and 8 paperbacks.

Barnes and Noble in Aurora, signed 4 hardcovers and 2 paperbacks.

Waldenbooks in Aurora, signed 2 hardcovers and 6 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble in Westminster, signed 4 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.

Barnes & Noble in Thornton, signed 4 hardcovers, 7 paperbacks.

Borders in Northglen, signed 4 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.

So that's 15 stores today, and 9 yesterday, for a total of 24 signing in Colorado in two days.

Will it make a difference? I dunno. I met a lot of booksellers and fans today, and signed over a hundred coasters and plenty of books.

Several employees placed my signed books in a front-of-store display, which should help.

Plus Waldenbooks had them at 20% off, which is good news.

Other good news---today in the Chicago Sun-Times, I got a tremendous review from David Montgomery. I love that guy. In the New York Times Book Review, you can find an ad for my books that my publisher placed. Plus the latest issue of The Strand Magazine is on the newsstands, featuring an even bigger ad from my publisher, plus an original Harry McGlade story by me called TAKEN TO THE CLEANERS. Pick it up. It's funny.

So what am I learning on tour so far? Here are more tips.

TOUR TIP #12--Always allow yourself more time than you think you need. Sometimes traffic is bad, or you get lost. Sometimes you stay at a store longer than expected. Visiting two stores an hour was an unrealistic goal. Give yourself wiggle room.

TOUR TIP #13--Save time by finding your books on the shelf and bringing them to the Information Desk to sign them, but ALWAYS ask the staff to check if there are more copies. Several times today, the store had more than I'd found. And it goes without saying that you want to sign everything...

TOUR TIP #14--Stay attached to reality. By my ninth store today, I completely forgot where I was. So I took a little break and called home. Hearing friendly voices helped to take my mind away from the repetition, and made me fresh for the next set of signings.

TOUR TIP #15--Be good to yourself. I ate when hungry, drank plenty of water, and made sure I had some sleep the night before. I couldn't imagine doing this without enough sleep or nourishment---or even worse, hungover. A healthy tour is a productive tour.

FUN FACT ABOUT COLORADO: It has mountains.

THINGS I WOULD HAVE DONE DIFFERENTLY--Spent more time introducting myself to the audience at High Crimes, visited the stores that closed early first, and eaten someplace other than that burrito stand.

THINGS I NEED TO DO--Plan my attack for Arizona. I'm leaving tomorrow at 6AM, which means I have to pack tonight, plot an itinerary for drive-bys, and contact my wife to have her send me more coasters and give-away magazines--I didn't bring nearly enough.

That's all for now. See you in the desert...

Day #1

Sixteen hour day today, and I'm exhausted.

Got into Denver yesterday after a flight delay, and picked up my rental car at the airport, along with a GPS Navigation System.

The GPS is the coolest thing ever invented. It's a cell phone, and you call Dispatch and give them an address, and then the speaker phone tells you when to turn left and right, along with showing arrows on the display. Finding stuff in a strange city has never been easier, and since I'm going to visit 30 bookstores in two days in Colorado, the GPS is a godsend.

TOUR TIP #1: Use a GPS.

My publisher booked me into the Brown Palace Hotel. I was skeptical (Wasn't I good enough for the Gold Palace or the Silver Palace?), but once I arrived I changed my tune.

This is a seriously beautiful hotel. See for yourself at www.brownpalace.com.

Since most bookstores were having Harry Potter parties, I refrained from drive-by signings that night. Instead I plotted a course of action for the next day, prepared my give-away items, and got a full night of sleep.

I woke up this morning at 7AM, shaved and showered, and had a decent breakfast with plenty of water.

Then I set my GPS coordinates and began.

First stop, a Barnes & Noble in Denver. I do my standard drive-by. It consists of:

1. Finding all of my books in the store and bringing them to the Information desk.
2. Introducing myself to the employee at the desk, and signing the copies.
3. Handing the employee a signed WHISKEY SOUR coaster, and explaining what my books are about.
4. Tracking down all the other employees in the store, giving them signed coasters and the book talk.

Simple enough. Takes about fifteen minutes. They had 3 hardcovers and 9 paperbacks.

Next stop, another Barnes & Noble, in Littleton. Drive-by signing. 2 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks.

Next stop, a reading and signing at Murder by the Book in Denver at noon. Besides my stack of coasters, I have some copies of Ellery Queen as give-aways, and airline bottles of Jack Daniels signed in silver marker. The Owner, Lauri Ver Schure, gets a warm greeting and a bottle of Jack.

TOUR TIP #2: Always have something to give the owner and employees.

MBTB is a very cool store, with extensive signed and OOP books, and I browse while waiting for people to arrive. About ten do, and I greet them all before beginning my presentation. I also give away freebies to fans I've met before, or heard from online.

TOUR TIP #3: Give each person in the room a handshake and warm welcome---and more if you know them.

Lauri brings out a large cake, decorated like the cover of BLOODY MARY, which is lovely. We all have cake, then I do my thing.

My thing consists of a Q & A with myself, asking myself things that I'm often asked. It's funny, informative, and I tailor it to audience reaction.

This audience is very receptive, laughing in all the right places, maintaining a high level of interest. By the end of the talk it's hard to tell who is happy, me or them.

TOUR TIP #4: Rehearse your presentation, but pay attention to your response. Monologues are boring and can be done in an empty room. Storytelling is an active, dynamic thing that requires the audience to participate. If they aren't involved, get them involved by changing tactics.

An author friend of mine, Jim Hansen, came by to see me. I signaled him out and talked a little about his book, NIGHT LAWS, which is a damn good debut.

TOUR TIP #5: Give props to your peeps. If you have published friends in the audience, let the crowd know. Publicity is hard, and writers should help each other.

After the talk, I did a reading, which was met with a positive response.

TOUR TIP #6: When reading, be brief (no more than ten minutes), and if possible, funny. Practice until you're good enough, and make sure the passage you read won't offend anyone (or gross them out).

I signed books after the reading.

TOUR TIP #7: Always ask who they'd like the book inscribed to, and how to spell their name. Trust me on this one. I've met Aymee, Jym, Marscha, Debbera, and Chuk, to misname a few.

When the last person left, I hung around and signed the rest of the stock.

TOUR TIP #8: Don't leave without signing everything.

Then I did some more browsing and bought some books. In this instance, I bought a $50 first edition of Silence of the Lambs.

TOUR TIP #9: When signing at an indie store, always buy something before you leave. Support the folks who support you.

I was there two hours total. Ten books sold, fifteen signed. Plus, they let me keep the rest of the cake (Lemon poppy seed...mmm.)

After the event, Jim Hansen took me out to lunch (Thanks Jim! Everyone buy NIGHT LAWS this January! www.jimhansenbooks.com). Then it was off to HIGH CRIMES in Boulder.

HIGH CRIMES is another awesome store, run by the the wonderful Cynthia Nye.

This was another reading event, and I got there still hyped-up from the good time I had at MBTB. Because of that, I didn't spend time introducing myself to everyone. Instead, I went right into the Joe Konrath Comedy Hour.

Not smart. Rather than get the audience to like me before starting my talk, I went for the big laughs right away and they didn't go over well. Sensing that I was losing the crowd, I reeled in the humor and tried to be more informative and sedate.

That worked better, but trying to win an audience over from an initial bad impression is harder than entertaining a group of people who love you before you begin. Next time, I'll do more schmoozing beforehand and start the ball rolling slowly.

The reading went better than the Q & A, and some folks stuck around to buy books. I then stayed for a while and sold some books to people who came in after my event. I also bought some books that Cynthia recommended, said my thank yous, and got on the road. Ten books sold, twelve signed.

Drive-by at Borders in Boulder. 2 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks. Sold a paperback while I was there.

Drive-by at Barnes & Noble in Boulder. 2 hardcovers, 4 paperbacks.

Drive-by at Borders in Broomfield. 3 hardcovers, 6 paperbacks. Sold a paperback while I was there.

Drive-by at Waldenbooks in Westminster. 2 hardcover, 5 paperbacks.

Drive-by at Waldenbboks in Arvada---they're closed.

TOUR TIP #10--When planning your drive-by itinerary, check closing times, because some stores close at 8pm.

Drive-by Tattered Cover in Denver. 3 hardcovers, 5 paperbacks, and something cool. In the mystery section is a woman and her daughter, and when they see me grabbing copies of Whiskey Sour, they get excited because they've read it. Naturally I introduce myself, and wind up signing a copy of Bloody Mary for them, and talking for a while.

Meeting fans is always cool.

Back to the hotel, and I'm exhausted. I figure I'll order room service and a massage and put it on my publisher's tab.

Or not.

TOUR TIP #11: Pay for as much as you can on your own. Your publisher is sending you to work, not on a vacation. Hyperion is paying for transportation and lodging. Everything else I'm paying for.

I walk into the lobby with half a BLOODY MARY cake, wondering what I should do with it. As luck would have it, four ladies were having some drinks in the lobby. Still in author mode (which means I'm fearless and will approach anyone) I ask them if they want some cake.

"Hell yeah we want cake!"

One thing led to another, and soon the cake was gone and we were all on our way to Barnes & Noble up the street so I could sign copies of my books for them. Great people. They're from Memphis, here for a convention. If everyone from Memphis is this friendly and fun, I may move there.

After booksigning, we hit an Irish pub and have beer and onion rings, and then it's 1AM and I'm beat.

Back to my luxury suite, where the maid has turned down the bed and left chocolates on the pillow. Very cool.

Sleep becons, but I want to blog this so I have a record of how things are going. Partly because I want to rember this. Partly to show my publisher, so they know I'm trying my best to sell some books.

I did two signings and seven drive-bys today. Not too bad. Tomorrow I have 19 drive-bys to do. I should have enough time, if I get up early.

Time for bed. I have 11 more days of this tour...