Touring and other disasters

With two new albums to promote, my (very very small) publisher has put me on tour to promote “It was a dark and stormy night…” and “A Holiday Present!”
Mostly it’s a Rhode-Island tour, but we’re getting down to NYC next week.
It’s been interesting this time around.
The retail climate has changed dramatically.

A few weeks ago, I went to the New England Independent Booksellers Association Conference. It seemed like a good fit. I’m an author and a storyteller. I give great public appearances and I’ve got great books and spoken-word cds. But so far, we’ve managed to sell an underwhelming number of books and CDs to bookstores.

Part of that is the difficulty my publisher has tracking sales through our distributors. But part of it is the fact that the “deal” most bookstores expect/want/need is not workable for the (very very small) publisher.

You probably didn’t know this, but (almost) every single book in (almost) every single bookstore is on consignment. During the Great Depression, book publishers were having a hard time convincing book shops* to carry their books**. So they cut a deal. Booksellers would buy books, but they could return them at any time, provided that they were in re-sellable condition. In other words, there was no real risk for the bookseller. If a book didn’t sell, he*** could ship it back. After the depression, the deal stuck. It even evolved to the point where paperback books had their covers ripped off and only the covers were “returned” to the publisher****. And this arrangement continues to this day.

My (very very small) publisher can’t afford to take that risk. If a bookseller orders 20, 50, or 1,000 copies and then returns 19, 48, or 950 copies, it loses money big time.

So the terms my (v.v.s.) publisher offers don’t really work for most booksellers.

When we started making calls to bookstores that had signings scheduled, we found out that the stores wanted us to bring in piles of books and CDs and then take home any unsold ones…

Try to make a living doing that!

As a result, we cancelled most of those events. Sorry. I’d like to come, but if you can’t stock my books and CDs in advance and after I’m there, then I’m just providing free publicity and entertainment for your customers. One retailer said, “But it will be good exposure.” To which we gave the famous retort, “You can die of exposure.”

At one bookstore, they hadn’t ordered my CDs or books. They had me speaking in the front window. About fifteen minutes after the event was scheduled the audience showed up. Mom, Dad and two kids. They were great listeners and bought two CDs. Victory!

Last night I bit another bullet and went to one at a local Uber-Chain and it was half-a-disaster. There were 11 “local authors” promoting their books. We each had five minutes to shill our “product” and then hustle to stands around the store to sell books. Oh, and the Community Relations Manager who set up the gig had been fired earlier in the week. Imagine being in a herd of nearly a dozen desperately hungry hyenas each yapping for a meal. There were more authors (and their relatives) than customers in the store!

I was the lucky one. I know how to give a pitch. I told one and a half stories, and made everybody laugh. Sold half a dozen CDs and gave out fifty or more bookmarks.

Thank goodness for the truly independent bookstores who actually support new and upcoming authors and publishers.
Also, shoutouts to the toy and gift shops who understand that awesome story CDs and books make great gifts!

Thanks to all the customers who are already enjoying the new CDs.
Please, support these stores and buy (my) books and CDs. (Or, if you don’t live near them, ask your independent bookseller to order them, or order online at Amazon, iTunes and so on…)

– Bank Street Books, Broadway and 112th, New York City: Thursday, October 21 at 4pm
The best children’s bookstore in upper Manhattan!
– Wooden Midshipman, 146 Water Street, Warren, RI: Saturday, October 30 at 8pm
A new shop in historic Warren. Come by for the Halloween show!
– Books on the Square, Angel Street, Providence, RI: Sunday, November 7 at 2pm
This store is a neighborhood institution and remains vibrant, partially because they’re so awesome.
– Lizzy’s Enchanted Creamery, 1784 Mendon Road, Cumberland, RI. (Already did a signing, but go there!)
If you haven’t been, go. They have great ice cream, toys, books, and of course my CDs! An awesome place to hang out with kids.

See the rest of my tour calendar for other events…

*They weren’t “retailers” back then…
**Not called “product” back then either.
***Mostly guys back then too.
****This is why when you find a book without a cover it’s officially stolen property.