Indies First: The Freaking Upshot
The freaking upshot is that just because Joe D’Agnese worked in your bookstore on the Saturday after Thanksgiving, that doesn’t mean his presence resulted in the sale of actual books.
Denise and I enjoyed ourselves immensely participating in the Indies First event over Thanksgiving weekend, which I described briefly here. I met some local authors whom I hadn’t met before, like children’s book author Alan Gratz and Terry Roberts, whose work of historical fiction greatly impressed the booksellers at our local shop.
Early on, I spent some time behind the gift wrap station, where I wrapped exactly one gift. Then, later, feeling that I HAD to hand-sell the shit out of some books, I wandered the aisles of the store, foisting myself and my expertise on people. In a matter of seconds I discovered:
1. I don’t do well speaking to the public.
2. I have no expertise that would allow me to intelligently sell the vast majority of books. I can hold my own in fiction, children’s, and some genre categories, but don’t asking me what book you should get if you’re planning to can tomatoes or build a chicken coop.
3. People in bookstores want to be left alone. I don’t blame them. I hate when salespeople come up to me in stores, too.
In the end, I spent a good deal of time talking to the booksellers, to friends who happened to be shopping that day, and to the authors I happened to meet. I bought a bunch of books for my nieces and nephews, so it was a profitable day on the Christmas to-do list front.
But I don’t think many retailers will be clamoring for my services anytime soon, and they’d be wise not to. I will say that the bookstore, Malaprop’s, was excited to be participating in the Indies First event. Next year they hope to be organized early enough to persuade our city’s biggest-name authors—Ron Rash, Sara Gruen, Elizabeth Kostova, Charles Frazier—to participate. A lot of authors said they wanted to participate but had made out-of-town-plans for the holiday weekend. The store plans to hit everyone on its list with a save-the-date email early in the New Year.
As for Denise’s Black Friday signing in Oak Ridge, it went incredibly well. Half of the store’s stock of her title were sold by the time we arrived, and people returned to the store after shopping elsewhere to get their books signed. According to Bookscan, this region of the country is in the Top 10 for sales of her book, which should surprise no one.