I’m back from Arizona. We were only there for 2 days, but we managed to do two events, visit 23 stores, sign a lot of books, meet a lot of people, and then go out for BBQ.
John put together an area map and then numbered every store in the Phoenix metro area. Then we unleashed the power of the Tom Tom and set out. Store. Store. Store. Eat. Visit. Store. Store. Store. Sign. Eat. Non stop for two days! It was awesome. I’ve gone to other states before, but I’ve never gotten this much done.
Borders has got to be hurting. Visiting that many stores that quickly was very enlightening. Every single Borders was dissapointing.
You go into a B&N. It is well lit, well stocked, the staff is friendly and knowledgable. You ask who their fantasy readers are on staff and everyone else automatically knows. They’re excited to have you sign the stock. I was either in stock at every B&N, or they could look on the computer and tell me that they’d just sold out and had more coming. Most stores had 2-4 copies, with plans to reorder 4-8 more. A few stores told me that if they’d known 2 weeks ago that I was coming they would have ordered in lots of extra copies for me to sign, because in their words “Signed copies make anything easier to sell!”
You go into a Borders. The staff doesn’t seem as happy. If my book is in stock, they have a single copy. Or their computer shows that they have a copy in stock, but they can’t find it. A few of them were downright dreary, with the lights all dim and depressing. In one store I walked up to a group of managers, introduced myself, and asked if I could sign the stock. One manager quickly warned me not to sign them all, because “If they’re signed, then we can’t return them!”
I looked at the guy for a second, trying to wrap my brain around that. “Uhmm… I’ve been out for five months, I’ve been on two best seller lists, and I’m on my third printing. It isn’t exactly a hard sell.”
Okay… I’m not just speaking as an author, I’m speaking as someone who’s been a small businessman and who has run a retail establishment… if your sales strategy is based on managing inevitable failure, you’ve got issues. No wonder the staff never seemed as happy. That has got to be a tough corporate culture. “Welcome to Borders, sigh. No, we don’t have that, and if we did, we’d probably just have to return it anyway.”
We were able to meet with fans a couple of times, and I had dinner with the guys from WTA, the Gun Counter, the Anarchangel and Smallest Minority. I think John was impressed that my readers aren’t just heavily armed red-staters, but we are philosophical heavily armed red-staters who can discuss literature and complex political issues. Plus, my people bring gifts of t-shirts, unit patches, can openers, and Cav Arms plastic stabby knives. I love my people.
John was talking about his book at one of the B&Ns. He got to the part about how in his world, humans are being ranched. A bug eyed crazy guy says “It is true! Lizard people are ranching us! IT’S TRUE!!!!” He was totally serious. John figured that my audience was made up of the well-armed gentlemen who could have profound discussions on the nature of human liberty and his audience was the guy off his meds. Sadly by pointing this out I’ve doomed this prophet of truth, as now the Reptoids know that someone in Arizona is on to them.
We had a discussion and signing at the Poison Pen in Scottsdale. It was a great shop, and our hosts were awesome. I think we drew a larger crowd than they were expecting. We had a great time. It turned out that Michael Stackpole was in the audience too. I didn’t know that until the end. It was nice to hear somebody who’s written a lot of books say that for being new guys, John and I had a clue.
It was kind of fun to be doing this trip in the immediate aftermath of Brandon Sanderson’s Wheel Of Time Mega-Tour. There were a few stores we went into where they had a giant stack of his books, and one of us would say that we were friends of Brandon’s.
Bookstore Clerk: “OH MY GAWD! YOU KNOW #1 BEST SELLER BRANDON!!! AAAAAHHHHH!”
“Yeah, you know his Podcast? John and I have both co-hosted on there… It’s not a big deal. There aren’t that many fantasy writers in Utah so we all know each other.”
“BRAAANDON SANDERSON IS SOOOOO COOOOOOL!!!!”
Oh my friggin’ hell. It was like telling people I hang out with Aerosmith, Tiger Woods, and the Queen of England. The only other way to get that kind of reaction out of store clerks was to tell them that my book was the “Anti-Twilight.” Then the clerk would usually mutter something incredibly bitter about fourteen year old girls and then buy a copy of MHI for themselves.
Here was John’s take on the trip:
Next up is Denver the first week of December, then I’m done for a bit. I still have several other places that want me to come, but I need a few weekends that don’t involve flying. (on that same note, my Southwest experience is beating Delta pretty handily).