by John Hartnett
My book, “The Barber’s Conundrum and Other Stories: Observations on Life from the Cheap Seats” was published in December, 2012. It took so much time and energy just to pull the whole thing together that the idea of having to market and promote it myself was akin to be asked to run the New York Marathon 30 seconds after finishing it.
I must admit that I have not done the best job in promoting my book but did manage to set up a couple of book signings, the first of which was at the Catholic Bookstore, located on Carrollton Avenue in New Orleans. During Mardis Gras.
For anyone who has not been to New Orleans, it is a city that “brakes” for parties and virtually shuts down during Mardis Gras, arguably the biggest celebration of the year. Schools, businesses even streets are closed so drumming up a crowd for even a well know author isn’t easy. Try getting a crowd to skip a parade to meet a self published author from New Jersey. Fearing the worst, I was tempted to pick up a couple of laborers that hang around outside of the Home Depot just to fill up the room.
The reason the signing was set up in New Orleans was because my wife was born and raised there and her mother and several of her siblings live there as well. To say my wife misses New Orleans is a gross understatement and as hard as I try, there are few comparisons I can make between life in the Big Easy and New Jersey, with the exception that people from both locations have a strange way of pluralizing “you”. I believe the correct spelling for NJ is “youse” and in New Orleans, it’s “y’all”. Even with that amazing similarity, my wife has yet to fully bond with the Garden State and on some days, even me.
So facing the strong possibility of a small turnout, all I can say is thank God for my mother-in-law because she was able to get some of her friends to come and we had a nice little crowd. Many of her friends are in their 70′s and 80′s and I was asked to say a few words about my background and how the book came along and since none of us know how long they have left, particularly people who are in their 70′s or 80′s, I tried to keep it short.
Unfortunately, several of the women arrived at different times, and the store manager kept asking me the same questions I had already answered and I was forced to repeat myself to the point where many of the early arrivals, including myself, were giving serious thought to leaping out a window.
There was one woman there in her late 70′s who had written her own book about her father and we spent some time talking about it. It was a self published, large format, hard copy deal and cost something like $45, and it became clear to me that she wanted me to buy her book. I, of course, wanted her to purchase my book, which topped out at $8.99 and had, upon further scrutiny, a lot more laughs in it than her’s did.
Every time I put her book back on the table, hoping to focus on me for a few moments, the woman found something else to show me, and pointing out a photograph or an old newspaper clipping, placed the book back in my hands.
I ended up dropping the $45 for her book, in fact, if I recall correctly, she followed me right up to the cash register, and after factoring in all the books I sold that afternoon, in addition to the four or five I gave away for free to a few family members and a young priest who had wandered in, I grossed something like $3.85. Still, a good time was had by all, as they say, and more important, I learned a valuable lesson.
Never tell another author who comes to your book signing that you know how to read.
Genre – Humor
Rating – PG