Monday, October 23, 2006

Thrills, Chills, and Leash-Training

(NOTE: The promotion machine’s flywheel spins clockwise. Grease splatters the unwary and broad shouldered immigrants shovel coal into the furnace. The analogy works on account of selling a book by an independent publisher requires brute strength to withstand being ignored. Am I a Xanax addict yet?)

Regional trade shows in the fall are different from the BookExpo America held earlier in the year. Weird promotional gimmicks are left behind for next year’s event. No one is allowed on the floor dressed like this:

(Mr. Detroit and a close personal Portuguese-speaking friend in Washington, DC at the BEA. Wearing a character costume is the high point of his publishing career.)

The Northern California Independent Booksellers Association has been held at the Oakland Convention Center on 12th and Broadway since forever, or least as long as publisher Cynthia Frank and I have been going. I started in 1988 for the pleasure of hanging out with booksellers and publishers representatives. Some have lasted in the business through the strange times and many are gone to more reasonable means of employment. For the lifers, this is what we do and likely caused by unresolved Oedipal conflicts. We’ll look into the problem as soon as we can afford a competent psychotherapist.

Autographing Area 3 is draped with green fabric made of extruded petrochemical byproducts and the table is set on Sunday at noon with stacks of THE DOG. The announcement over the PA calls the book, “The Dog That Walked Down the Street,” like I’d ever write a book with such a clumsy title. There is an immediate line and I sign 35 copies in the scant half hour afforded. Booksellers and their families grab for the publishing panacea. A ten-year-old girl asks for a copy. “Are you planning to be a writer when you grow up?” “Yes,” she says. “Marry money,” I tell her.

Publisher Cynthia Frank is cheered by the response, though she writes few orders at the show. Every year is different. This one had goodwill glad-handing as the focus. The booksellers leave bowed under bags of catalogs and free books, and orders come from distributors later in the month or next. Attendees in the booths and walking the aisles say this is a good show and we should believe each other.

Twelve days later on Thursday, October 19, Mr. Detroit drives me to the signing at the Beat Museum at 540 Broadway in San Francisco’s North Beach. Metal folding chairs clutter the main room and a few bodies paw the bookstore section. Is this all we have after sending out hundreds of postcards, e-mail zaps, and threats? The only chance I have of becoming a household name is to change “Glynn” to “Brillo.” George Young arrives, Mr. Detroit unfolds an easel and displays the cover blowup, designer Judy Hicks and her son Shane take seats, Martha Alderson of BLOCKBUSTER PLOTS: PURE AND SIMPLE has come to lend support, and fifteen others make the evening shine.

Jerry Cimino opens bottles of red wine and I start talking and only slow down to refill glasses. The question and answer period is quiet until Mr. Detroit asks about his home team’s chances in the World Series. Pretty good, I’d say. Eight books are sold to the audience of twenty and the cool people make noise down the street at Enrico’s after the reading, where Last Gasp publisher Ron Turner tells a shaggy dog story about the ant who loved an elephant. This is the literary life.


On Tuesday, November 14, I will be speaking at the Bay Area Editor’s Forum on “The Terrors of Book Publishing: One Decade Later.” Topics covered are the roles of editors in today’s publishing, who owns American publishing, the future of the book, and how Detroit fared in the World Series. Copies of THE DOG will be sold at the event and everyone who attends has to buy one for the exit doors to be unlocked.

57 Post Street
Fourth floor meeting room & café
San Francisco, CA 94104
7 to 9 PM

NEXT: Paper Training


Blogger GIRL'S GONE CHILD said...

I wish I was there. Sigh... I had a great Heintz ketchup costume all ready to rock and everything.

3:04 PM  
Blogger Sal Glynn said...

We'll always have Sunset Boulevard. Save the ketchup bottle for the BAEF rant and rave.

9:17 AM  

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