Friday, April 29, 2016

I gave a party and no one came

With Jordan at The Gilded Cage book signing
It happens to all authors at least once and many more often. It’s not exactly true that no one came—I’d say about twelve non-family members came, but they were all people who are like family to me. Jordan’s good friend David, whom I’ve known since their high school days, wandered in first, and he, Jordan, Jacob and I sat alone, looking forlorn I’m sure, for over an hour. Just before party time we had a heck of a rainstorm—I thought my umbrella and I were going to be blown away in horizontal rain. Jacob was supposed to shepherd me but he abandoned his duty and ran for cover. Jordan came and helped me.

Jordan put this party together, and put her heart and soul into organizing it. It was at the Wine Haus but Chadra next door delivers appetizers, and she ordered a delicious assortment. I sold seven copies of my novel, The Gilded Cage, and two copies of the children’s book that started me investigating the life of Bertha Honoré Cissy Palmer—the children’s copies were a bonus and last minute thought.

Jordan, Chandry and Marj--good friends at the signing
There are several ways to look at this: some authors have parties and don’t sell any books. Seven is not great, but it’s okay. And I got lots of emails from people who were put off by the weather, by illness, travel, work, etc. So the word was out and some who wrote to me had already bought the book.

This book is, as I’ve said, a major effort on my part, my “big” book, the result of probably ten years of writing, putting it aside, writing and revising, changing the voice of the narrator. It represents hours and hours of work on my part, and I desperately want it to do well. I also hope that it gathers a national audience, not just Texas. It’s set in my hometown of Chicago, unlike my Texas-based mysteries. So I’m hoping some other measures that I’ve taken will bring it the attention I think it deserves—I’ll be on a blog tour in late May and early June arranged by the Historical Fiction Blog Tours—they know the sites for readers of historical fiction—and I’ve hired a publicist every other month for three months. We’ll see if these investments pan out—or prove to be, like tonight, a big bust.

So tonight I’m neither elated nor disappointed. It is what it was. I enjoyed the evening with friends--most of whom were Jordan’s friends who are like other children to me—and I was glad to see the close friends who went to dinner with us afterward.

A bonus to the day: this morning a lovely woman who has a used-book stall in a local antique mall came to go through my books and bought 134 books. Nope, it didn’t by any means wipe out my bookshelves but it was a start. My friend Carol Roark arranged it, was here to help, and has ideas for the rest of the books. A step forward in the long downsizing process, and it’s reassuring to know she found my books interesting.

All in all, progress and a lovely day.

2 comments:

Randy Eickhoff said...

Oh, lord! I'm so sorry for you, Judy! You are right; many (if not most) authors have had the same thing happen to them. Dick Wheeler had a real bad one years and years ago when Forge sent him out on a "tour" that turned out to be disastrous---especially at the Tattered Book in Denver! He sat there for three hours and sold only one book! I remember a couple of times when I sat, lost and forlorn, waiting helplessly for some to come by. One, when I showed up in Omaha and they hadn't even set up or announced my coming. They scrambled around to get a card table and chair and what books they had in stock. I don't think I sold any there. If I did, it was only to a passer-by who saw me sitting in Walden Books and came in out of curiosity. Another time (and I was very angry about this) happened at a Walden Book store (again!) when the manager scheduled another author at the same time---a local author who had published a vanity book. The local obviously had a leg up on the visitor and did sell quite a few books. That one pretty much sealed Walden Books for me and after that one, I refused to go to any Walden stores. I remember Bob Gleason and Tom Doherty were livid when they found out about those two events. I've never seen Tom so mad in all the years we were together! Shortly after, I withdrew from the "author's trail" and refused to do any signings except for a few friends who owned individual "little" stores. And, now, I don't do any at all. Occasionally, I get a request from someone who wants to know if I'll autograph a book if they send it to me but at that time, I autograph a book plate and send it to them. In the past, when I've agreed to do that, I'd get burned with return postage on occasion. But, I'll also admit that I very seldom go out anymore anyway. I'm pretty much a recluse.

Judy Alter said...

We all have war stories, Randy. I remember once in OK City when someone from WWA was signing with us. If anybody walking by was wearing jeans, he'd call out, "Hey, you look like you read westerns." Joyce Roach and I considered crawling under the table-and neither of us sold a book. But as I hope I said in the blog I'm fairly philosophical about last night--weather, not a Texas subject, etc. And I always had someone for company. Thanks, though, for understanding.