Saturday, June 1, 2013

Got any ...grapes?

ROSEMARY HARRIS: The title of this post may (or may not) make sense when I finish writing and you finish reading, but the video cracks me up and it seemed like a fun start to this post about non-bookstore sales. (Or in the case of the video, asking for grapes at a lemonade stand.)

Back in the day, when I was in the video business, I was in what they called Special Markets Sales. I sold hiking videos to EMS, fishing videos to  Bass Pro Shops and pregnancy videos to health clinics. I went to golf shows, library conferences and Super Show, the gigantic sports show held in Atlanta. What I didn't do was sell videos to the likes of Blockbuster.

So perhaps it's not surprising that now that I'm in the book business I've done gigs at garden shows, wineries, a health club, women's clubs, farmer's markets and the like. Let's face it...sitting in a bookstore, next to a stack of James Patterson's latest, I'm not exactly the hot issue.  But it's kind of fun for me to be standing next to the heirloom tomato lady and talking about gardening mysteries. Talking about poisonous plants at the San Francisco conservatory. Or Bosch's Garden of Earthly Delights at The Philadelphia Flower Show.

On June 9, I'll be at The Rosemary House in Mechanicsburg, PA. I'd like to say they named it after me, but in fact it's one of the oldest and coolest herb and tea shops in the country, and I'll be giving a talk on Mischief and Mayhem in the Garden.  I was delighted to be asked and hope some of you in the Harrisburg/New Cumberland area may make it there for a talk and a Victorian tea in their beautiful garden (details on my website.)

So...lots of questions...have you ever gone to a book event at some place other than a bookstore or mystery conference/book festival? If you're a writer have you done events at non-bookstore venues?

As bookstores - sadly - disappear, what alternative venues can help to pick up the slack?

And...oh any grapes...?


  1. I think I can claim one of the most unusual settings--Cara Black, David Corbett and I spoke at a naturist resort, i.e. nudist colony. Luckily it was a very cold night and most of them were clothed (expect for one large man who was wearing only a beard and a small back pack and who walked right in front of me when I was talking, causing me to somewhat lose my train of thought.

  2. At 1:15, the room was still empty.

    My daughter/assistant Jane says, “Why would you do a book signing at a nursing home, Pop?”

    I’d been asking myself the same question. “Well, it’s more than a nursing home. There’re lots of independent living people here–folks in their seventies. And the marketing director is a friend of mine. She sent out flyers to all the families, had a big story written for their newsletter.”

    Jane glanced around the empty room. It’s twenty minutes past my start time. “Must have been some story,” she says.

    Someday scientists will discover a gene that passes on sarcasm.

  3. Rhys, Rhys, Rhys! Funniest ever sales story! I keep seeing your little scene... god I can't stop laughing... as a cartoon with captions I don't dare say here...!

    omgthankyou hahahahahahaha...

  4. Love the duck, Ro!

    We have a faculty book signing at our school's commencement reception. I guess that entices some of the professors to attend. The food is pretty good too. Plenty of grapes.

  5. I'm fortunate to have a farming mystery launching at the start of summer! So I have several farmers' market and farm store signings lined up, as well as a talk next week at the Whittier Society annual Garden meeting (which ties into not only the farming mystery but also my Quaker series). I think you've had appearances at the Big-E, Rosemary, which I should check into. But the nudist community? That's an interesting one!

  6. Once again I'm having issues posting...grrrrr...
    I love the Big E, Edith! I've always had a great time there, both as a visitor and as an author. I was in the Connecticut Building as part of the CAPA booth (CT authors and publishers)They are a very supportive group and have a presence there every year. Not sure if individual authors appear on their own.

  7. Love the garden stories, and yes, of course, the nudist story!

    Yesterday a pair of local gallery owners suggested that they invite some of their artists to do a painting of our town, related to food, and host a signing and show with me during our summer art festival in August. Super-excited -- hope we can find a date that works.

    I'm actually looking for gift and gourmet food shops that would be interested in my Montana-based Food Lovers Village Mysteries, so if you have suggestions, please drop me a line! leslie at drbeans dot com

  8. Rhys, oh, I would love to have been at that one. (And I can just imagine David's running commentary...)

    Ro, what fun to do garden/herb events!

    I was going to get to do an event at a Tuscan wine shop in Chicago (don't have a clue what my books have to do with Tuscany or wine, but, hey) but it got snowed out. I was very disappointed.

  9. And the good news..there are more bookstores opening now than ever--or, something like that. But at BEA the buzz was that booksellers are happy. Ish.

    RO, I so wish I culd go to that event! It sounds are such a renaissance woman!

  10. Deb, I was disappointed, too, as I planned to be there. But I love the idea of a book signing at the wine shop. Who doesn't want to sip wine & talk about books?

    The oddest place I can think of for a book signing... In the 90s I was the office manager for a Chamber of Commerce. We organized an annual home show in the field house of a university. Someone thought it would be a great idea to have a celebrity book signing to help draw the crowds. So that weekend, you could browse for replacement windows, home spas & landscaping ideas and have a former baseball player sign his autobiography. Even the baseball player wasn't sure what he had to do with home improvements, but he was very gracious. ☺

  11. Marianne in MaineJune 1, 2013 at 2:56 PM

    Oh, Rhys, I am still laughing. How, umm, distracting for you. I can imagine trying so hard NOT to look. Hysterical.

    I would so go to a book signing at a wine shop or winery. There aren't many opportunities for me where I live and the only signing I've ever been to was for BOOKS TO DIE FOR with John Connolly and Red Julia. It was a 2.5 hour drive but SO worth it!

  12. Probably the most unusual place I've done a signing was at a pow-wow. Done assisted-living facilities, farmer's market, craft shows, art galleries, and lots of other places. Have pen, will sign. Though I think I'd have passed on the nudist colony, Rhys, for fear of exactly what happened to you.

  13. Yes Rhys, you win, hands down. Was there ever any question of whether the writers would be clothed or nude? Now that would make for some Facebook post! (The same reason I will not ever march in body paint only in the Fantasyfest parade--Key West of course.)

    I did lots of golf events with my first series. Women golfers were huge supporters of Cassie! But I have to say going to an event where folks are not expecting to find and buy books can almost always be disappointing...

    Hank, YAYAYAYAY bookstores!!

  14. Hank... that would be so great for everyone if bookstores are making a come back!

  15. Good heavens, I hope bookstores are making a comeback! It's been a bit...stressful...these past few years. (For those who don't know, I'm with Seattle Mystery Bookshop.)

    And none of you would be seated next to stacks of Pattersons in our shop! Pinky-swear!

    But we've done off-site sales for authors as well, and sometimes those are the most fun because you just never know who's going to march up to an author and ask something off-the-wall. Fortunately, with mystery authors, you lot are gracious and smart enough to think on your feet!