Friday, April 28, 2006

Guest blogger Mark Barnes

I welcome guest blogger Mark Barnes, fellow writer and author of The League. Barnes will take the helm here at the Owner's Manual while I frost cupcakes, muse over which dryer sheet has the most attractive scent and service my Dearly Beloved.

So I am at this book signing, seated next to Erin O’Brien and Grant Bailie, which is strange enough. But I noticed some other very unusual things while signing books (or, more accurately, not signing books).

The event included such Cleveland luminaries as Sam Fullwood, Bob Dolgan, Connie Schultz and Dennis Kucinich – all known for their work in a metropolitan newspaper or political circles. In their effort to get close to these celebs, the throng galloped hurriedly past Cleveland’s best-kept secrets (namely, me, O'Brien and Bailie). After all, we secrets are not buoyed by the power of the press or Capitol Hill. And to make matters worse, O'Brien was cackling like a she-devil all day long. Bailie and I couldn't do a thing with her.

Some readers, though, did stop, and it was at this time that the theater of the bizarre turned up the lights.

First, to get a clear image of these encounters, you have to visualize the would-be book buyer. They approach by stealth, sauntering furtively toward the author, as if eye contact would blow their cover. When they’re finally close enough for conversation, their reluctance continues, until the author speaks.

"Hello," says O'Brien to one woman as she peers down at the stack of books in front of O'Brien.

"So, is this a romance?" she asks, picking up a copy of O’Brien’s Harvey & Eck and sniffing.

"I suppose you could call it that," says O'Brien.

"Oh, well in that case," says the woman, tossing the book back onto O'Brien's table, "forget it. I don’t like romances."

She glides over to me (Bailie garners none of her lush attention). "Oh, your book must be about baseball," she says, despite the football helmet on the cover.

"Um, not really," I say, "although many people ask that." (They don't.)

"It’s sort of thin, isn’t it?" she says, gauging the book betwixt thumb and index finger. "I like thick books."

"Perhaps Harry Potter is a better option for you," I offer.

"Or you could buy two of Mark's books and hold them together," says Bailie.

"I’m sorry," says the would-be buyer. "I didn’t mean to be mean to you guys."

"Don’t worry," I say. "We’ll say mean things about you when you leave." (We do.)

Another prospective buyer approaches and hovers silently over Bailie’s table, apparently contemplating something far more profound than actually buying his book Cloud 8.

Bailie swallows and politely averts his eyes while waiting patiently in the awkward silence for a question or any sign of intelligent discourse.

"This book must be about Abe Lincoln," says the buyer, tapping the cover, which features picture of Lincoln on a billboard.

"Not really," offers Bailie. "Well, there are some references to Lincoln, but it’s really about-"

"Nevermind,"says the man, waving a hand in Bailie's face as he turns to walk away. "I thought it was about Lincoln."

But perhaps the best performance comes from a man who recognizes O'Brien as the author of an essay about an adult website that appeared in a local paper. "And will I find any pictures of you on that website?" he asks O'Brien with a lascivious smile and arched eyebrows.

"No," she says. " ... erm... Sorry to disappoint."

In total, I sell one book. O'Brien sells two, as does Bailie.

Bailie buys one book (mine). I buy one for me (Bailie's) and one for my wife (O'Brien's).

"We need to work on our pyramid scheme," observes Bailie.

"It is not based on the sort of architecture the Egyptians had in mind," adds O'Brien.

"Our pyramid wouldn't last ten days," I say, "much less ten thousand years."

Book sales were vigorous for the local celebs. Obviously, me and the other best kept secrets couldn't say the same, but at least I scored a couple of new buddies.

Photos: upper left, Barnes and O'Brien looking good but not selling many books. right, Barnes and Bailie. Barnes holds a copy of Bailie's novel, Cloud 8


josh williams said...

I was in the Maritime museum in Beuafort NC this August. There was a lonely author sitting at her station and I heard her explaing to a couple her book, I tried to avoid eye contact but it happened.
The book was about Black Beard the Pirate, I bought the book although I new it was a romantized version of the pirates life, pity drug my wallet out of my tight pockets. I read the whole damn thing ,it was a romance!(BB killed this wife?, but not in the Novel) I have read enough about Black Beard my folks live in the area and the coast is rife with tales of BB. However I bought the novel treated her with respect and then I read the whole novel. I chose not to reveiw the book.
You made a couple of new friends and learned once again how rude people can be. I read and reviewed Erins novel, I enjoyed this Novel. But I fear book signings, as a consumer and if I had a book to sell, sitting behind a desk waiting to be judged and rejected. I go work now. Kind Regards JW

Dongley Shlongford said...

Well, high seas and angry seafaring birds forced me to turn my dingy around and return to the Casa de Shlongford, so I missed the bookapalooza, but I made it back in time to draw a nice map of New Hebrites on some drunk spring breakers that wandered by here-so it wasn't a total loss. It is really too bad, as I would have been pleased to stand in the background and waggle The Pendulum at would be book-buyers. People are such pervs.

All I know about Black Beard is this: If you get the chance for some, jump all over it. It is a crazy wild ride. Just make sure you have a snorkel handy.

The Velvet Fog said...

Have Mark Barnes and the Russian pilot from the movie Firefox ever been seen in the same room together?

I think not...

Toby said...

Wow, people really do judge books by their covers.

At least you have a sense of humor about the bleak sales. Funny stuff.

steel kisses said...

If I had been there I would have been snooty and acted rude and disinterested and asked a bunch of dumb questions like, is your character as pretty as you? but then I would have said PSYCH! and then bought like at least 3 of each one of your books. Maybe next time you guys should come to a town near me.


PDD said...

Okay, this is where you have to talk, talk, talk and laugh and talk and convince and well, persuade the potential buyer.

A very long time ago I used to work at a bookstore and was the #1 discount card seller. And let me tell you, they weren't all that cheap either. Everyone had a hard time selling the cards. And it was not easy. The operations manager used to always say, "We need to clone her". (Referring to me) But what really sold the cards was my talking and laughing and of course explaining what the discount card did. But I persuaded. And talked, and talked, and laughed and persuaded. All the other people explained also, but I have to say there wasn't that much passion nor convincing/persuasion in the explaining.

I say when someone interjects you while you are trying to explain that it's not really about lincoln, but... or I suppose you can call it a romance... you grab them by the neck and make damn sure that you get to explain that it's really not about lincoln but there are references to him and it's a GREAT BOOK! VERY IMAGINATIVE! ENTERTAINING AND WELL WRITEN! Or, IT'S FILLED WITH FABULOUS PROSE AND IT'S UTTERLY HILARIOUS AND IT'S JUST GOT SOME OF THE BEST CHARACTERS YOU WILL EVER FIND IN ANY BOOK. SERIOUSLY!

Erin, I am still pimping from Toronto in case you didn't know...

Le Chitelier said...

Those people are twits! Let me know if you are going to be anywhere near Sacramento because I want my book signed, damn it!

Hope Dangling said...

people are very dum....and maybe authors shouldn't sell thier own books - unless they are drunk. I think that would help actually. You might have answered more questions or possibly gotten into a fistfight which would have been really cool. This was an AWESOME account of your day though! I loved it Mark! Thanks!!!

Henri Banks said...

Is that JR on those Pictures ?