Writers are shameless when it comes to book promotion. The length they will go to is one notch shy of standing curbside with a cardboard sign that says, “Will Work for Book Sales.”
I know such behavior is rampant because I recently engaged in it. I agreed to sell my latest humor book, “My Memory is Shot, All I Retain Now is Water,” at a huge Christmas Gift and Hobby show. This mammoth event ran for five days at the Indiana State Fairgrounds in the large pavilion where 4-H kids show cattle during the fair, which explained the faint parfum de manure that lingered before the crowd arrived.
This Gift and Hobby Show was three parts gifts and hobbies and two parts “As Seen on TV.” Garnering attention for books is impossible when you’re competing with Stick It! (a pet hair removal system) and Pocket Hose, the 50-foot expandable garden hose.
And, please, what vendor can compete with the guy demonstrating the Sham WOW!? He spills pop, mops it up and wrings it out with the cloth that “Works like a sponge! Works like a towel! Holds 20 times its own weight!” The shammy is a crowd pleaser that sings and dances. A book is a wallflower.
There were five of us at a time in the book booth, and we each had a draw. The romance author had beauty, the dog author had a dog, the sports author had an NFL jersey and a big personality, the TV celebrity had his face and I had a bowl full of Hershey’s Kisses.
To heighten the pain, the authors booth was across the aisle from a massive wall of colorful boxer shorts bearing animal characters and what some might consider witty sayings.
When the chocolate kisses weren’t drawing attention, I amped up my game and tried making conversation. People would stroll by and I’d say, “Do you like to read?”
“I don’t read,” came the answer. The first time, I thought it was a fluke. Over and over, hour after hour, “I don’t read. I don’t read. I don’t read.” If the Gift and Hobby show is an accurate barometer, we have an alarming illiteracy rate. And yet, I clearly saw the same people reading the boxer shorts.
A mother, a daughter and a grandmother shuffled by single file.
“Do you like to read?”
“No,” said the mother. “No,” said the daughter. “No,” said the grandmother.
A dislike for reading—the gift that keeps on giving.
I stopped asking people if they liked to read and started asking if they liked to watch television.
Finally, a positive response. It didn’t translate into a lot of book sales, but it was a positive response.
If I ever do another show, I’m dumping a soft drink on my book table, sopping it up with one of my books, wringing out a few pages and yelling, “Look how 210 pages of well-written humor absorbs an entire soft drink!”
I’m finally going to have a bestseller.