Ah, summer vacation in Texas! Time to enjoy the 98 degree heat every day (except on the REALLY hot days), those lovely thundershowers that drop the temperature to tolerable levels for an hour or two, then transform the whole outdoors into a giant sauna for the next three days, and mosquitos roughly the size of an F-22 Osprey lurking in the sky to inflict giant, stinging welts and occasionally carry off small children! And, of course, the fun things about summer: grilling outside, mowing the lawn (or paying someone else to do it while you sit inside and sip iced tea in air conditioned comfort), and experiencing the sweet joy of NOT having to get up at 5:30 every morning to go pound the ignorance out of young skulls full of mush on a day to day basis (this last applies only to schoolteachers, I guess).
But, when you are a schoolteacher AND a writer, like me, summer means it is time to knuckle down and hustle your rear end off to sell as many books as you can as fast as you can! You're no longer limited to just Saturdays, you have more time to call bookstores, civic groups, church groups, or anyone else who might be willing to have you come and give a talk - and set up a book table! To give you an idea of what this entails, here is an account of how the first nine days of June have gone for me:
June 1 - I loaded up my books, my wife, and two and a half tables' worth of Indian artifacts and fossils and headed down to Temple, TX for the annual Genuine Indian Relic Society's Artifact Show. Now, obviously, when I go to an arrowhead show, I am going to show and look at artifacts. But since most relic collectors are fascinated by history and archeology, I have found that my books do really well at these shows. (The presence of many bored spouses of these enthusiastic artifact hunters is another plus for selling books!) It's a 3 hour drive down to Temple, and we arrived about noon and set up my three tables. The first day is set up time, and preliminary wheeling and dealing between the exhibitors: I sold four copies of my books, walked around and looked at artifacts until my eyes were glazed over, and then we covered up our wares and went to our hotel. We checked in, ate supper on the cheap, and went for a swim before crashing for the night.
The next day we got up early, had breakfast, and then drove to the Mayborn Civic Center for the big event. Two hundred and fifty tables of Indian artifacts, fossils, jewelry - one enterprising collector even had arrowhead- shaped lollipops called "Artisnacks" for sale! It was a fascinating day, lots of killer relics on display and old friends stopping by to visit - and oh how I sold the books! My two day total at the show was nineteen books sold, plus a brisk trade in my fossils and several arrowhead sales. (I don't sell personal finds, but I do keep a small stock of points on hand that I have bought and traded for over the years to sell at these shows.) The unique bone artifact I described in my last blog post drew a lot of attention and curious commentary; many collectors seem to think it may be Paleo-Indian in age (that would mean it is over 10,000 years old - WOW!!).
All in all, it was a fun and satisfying day. When it was over, we packed up my tables and went back to our hotel - the road trip wasn't done yet! We celebrated the day's sales with a big dinner at Texas Roadhouse, home of some downright legendary rib eyes, all the free peanuts you can eat, and wonderful, friendly servers. Full of steak and the sweet taste of success, my wife and I retired back to our hotel room. Too tired to swim, she crashed early, while I stayed up till midnight to watch the Rangers beat the Angels in a 3-2 pitching duel. The next morning, we packed up and headed down to Austin, TX!
Bookpeople is the name of one of Texas' oldest and largest independent bookstores. I have been trying to schedule an event there for three years, and now it finally came to pass! The store had already purchased multiple copies of my newest novel, THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, plus a few copies of the first two books in the series, THE TESTIMONIUM and MATTHEW'S AUTOGRAPH. This place does over 300 author events a year, so my being there was not a novelty to the store's patrons. But still, I got to give a talk and read a sample chapter to my small audience, after which I sold a few copies, and left about 20 signed copies of my newest book for them to sell. Having books on the shelf in a store - especially THAT store - was a huge moral victory for me! Plus seeing my name on the marquis where writers like John Grisham, Stephen King, Anne Rice, and Dan Rather have been billed made me feel like I had really arrived as a writer!
Austin is a fun town. While we were there, I took my wife to lunch at Chuy's - the original location on Barton Springs Road is some of the best Tex-Mex food you will ever eat, plus a wonderfully fun atmosphere! We also went for a stroll along the Colorado River and watched all the young, skinny, beautiful people kayaking and swimming in the river. Other than being a sad reminder that we are no longer young or that skinny (although my wife is still very beautiful), it was a great way to kill a little time while waiting for my signing event to start.
But, we couldn't stay away from home too long. That evening we made the four hour drive back to Greenville, and I had a few days to rest and recuperate and do laundry before my next event, on Thursday, June 7. Tyler, TX is about an hour and a half away from my home, and the Half Price Books store there is a wonderful, author-friendly place. I got there a little after noon, set my table up, put my poster in the window, and started selling! It was a bit slow at first, then more and more people began coming in and I began to move a few books. One very nice older gentleman bought a copy of THE GNOSTIC LIBRARY, and took one of my new brochures with him. Each brochure has a synopsis of all five of my novels, plus a nice bio written for me by a close friend. Well, an hour later, the gentleman returned with his wife, and they bought the other four books based on what they had read in the brochure! That made for a very nice day, with twelve sales totaled. After a quick supper at Golden Corral on the way home, I drove back in one of those previously mentioned summer thundershowers.
After one day to rest and recuperate from that trip, today (June 9) I drove over to Denton, TX - about the same distance as Tyler in the opposite direction. Highway 380 is a straight shot from Greenville to Denton, but this once rural stretch has built up so much the last few years that I drove through 50 traffic lights in 70 miles (yes, I counted them, I was bored!). But I did get there safely, and then got to set up in my favorite bookstore in Texas: Recycled Books! Three stories of books, old and new, rare and common, plus movies, music, memorabilia, friendly staff, and the store is housed inside a hundred year old opera house, across the street from one of the most beautiful courthouses in Texas! It was a lovely warm day, and people were coming and going through the square and in and out of the store in a steady flow of human traffic. I sold a total of fourteen copies in a little over five hours; not a bad day at all, especially considering I hit an incredible lull with no sales at all from about 3 pm till 4:30. But that is how you do it, folks, if you want to be a writer - one copy at a time, one sale at a time, one reader at a time, one store at a time - until the world is your burrito!
Next week I have a conference call with a publicist who has been helping me out with my new website, and a dinner meeting with a screenwriter who wants to adapt THE TESTIMONIUM into a feature film. It's a very preliminary step in a very long process, but I have high hopes! After that - more signings, more speaking gigs, more bookstores and churches and civic clubs - until August 23 rolls around, and the young skulls full of mush will once more absorb a majority of my attention!
In the meantime, feel free to check out my new website, and if you have never read any of my books - or if you have read one and want to get the others! - click on the links and buy, buy, buy! Thanks again for reading my little corner of the internet, and have a great summer!!