ThursdayNothing too exciting happened upon arrival at my hotel... until it was time for dinner. The incredible Deb was with me and we decided to grab a bite to eat. There were no meetings or events until Friday, so dinner and sleep sounded like a great idea... so we headed out.
We were crossing the hotel lobby when I noticed a group of men and women dressed in business attire across from us. The group was attending a different conference; almost all of them had a badge attached to their lapel. I glanced casually at one of the women's tags... and I couldn't believe what I saw. Perhaps my mind was playing tricks on me after a long day... but now. I asked Deb to wait for a second and I approached the lady in question so I could read her badge:
Joan Tesla - Wow!
I excused myself from interrupting the group and introduced us to her, quickly telling to her about the book and the reason why we were in Washington. Joan was very gracious and even posed for a photo with me. We chatted for a bit and bid each other good luck.
I'm not superstitious... but I felt great after meeting Joan. Somehow I believe that was a good omen for the upcoming events... and everything went great on the following days. Thanks!
FridayThe conference was a mad house. We got there around 1100 EDT to check on the books; they were supposed to be there for my 1530 EDT signing. Everything was in order... so we next went to the New Title Showcase, a special display of new titles. Without a doubt, the CIMEntertainment shelf was the most eye-catching in its section, displaying eight copies of The Tesla Testament. We hung out for a while and saw a couple of people eyeballing the book.
After taking 90 minutes off to relax and eat some lunch, Deb and I returned to the Conference Center. We had prepared our action plan for the first 30-minute signing... but the insecurities kicked in. What if nobody showed up? We'd seen other authors earlier, sitting lonely at their table, craning their neck at the busy lines around them, with a lonely pile of books beside them.
Damn, I'd be happy if I'd sign away 20 books. Hell, I'd be happy if at least five people showed up. These and other fatalist thoughts occurred to me as we waited for our turn at table 31 in the Author Green Room.
Deb thought it'd be a good idea to insert the bookmarks, reponse cards, and letters to the reader in a few books before we started. We headed to the autograph staging area, opened a box of books, and she stuffed all 14 books in the first box. One of the interns helping with the signing showed up a minute before showtime and took one of the large posters to the front of my signing area (a long cordoned passage leading to my table) and hung it from a clip designed for that purpose. I wiped the cold sweat off my brow, another intern nudged me forward, and I was off.
Deb had placed the other poster on our table and a nice pile of books next to me. All this was great... but the best part was that four or five people were already lining up.
That was awesome.
I began signing books away, trying to chat for a few seconds with each person. All the people in my line were very nice and supportive; some chatted with me about Tesla, some asked me details about the book; others commented on the artwork. A couple of people asked for an extra book (which I couldn't oblige - BEA organizers' rules! Only one book per person). And I kept signing, one book after another... It was very busy; my hand was getting tired but I felt exhilarated. My subconscious noticed that Deb disappeared for a while, more books kept materializing by my side, duly stuffed with the additional marketing material.
Then I felt a not-so-gentle tap on my shoulder. It was the next author's publicist.
"Your time is up," she said. "You need to wrap this up!"
I craned my neck past the woman whose book I was signing in front of me. There were at least ten people lining up behind her. Another guy was getting in line. "Please close the line," I said. "Sorry; I didn't notice that my time was up."
And so the line was closed. A lady who was picking up a book on the line next to mine asked me if I'd sign a book for her, since she couldn't get back in line. "I know I'm cheating a bit but..." I winked, asked her name, and signed a book for her son. Finally the last people in my line walked away with their copy of the novel and I stepped away from the table. The next author, not as peeved as his publicist, asked Deb what my book was about--and then asked for a copy! I thanked him for his patience, wrapped things up for the Sunday autograph session, and left the conference center to celebrate... not before tallying the books before we left. 65 books signed in 40 minutes. That was 15 books more than we had planned as the maximum for that session! Every time that Deb had disappeared she'd been on a mission to stuff more books, arrange them, and helped people to Post-It notes so they could write their correct name spellings and so on. Apparently we wound up with a full line throughout most of the signing, with more people than a good half of the authors during the same half-hour period.
SaturdayI attended the BEA session "Beyond the Code: Building the New Fact-Filled Fiction Genre" where two best-selling authors, a major bookseller, a publicist, and a literary critic for a national newspaper discussed the impact of "The Da Vinci Code" on sales and marketing. I'll save their wisdom for another posting; for now I'll just say "thanks!" for the great knowledge they shared. The best part was that they opened the floor for Q&A almost right away, so lots of us got to ask questions and participate (and of course, I subtly plugged my novel during a question). Some of the panelists walked away from there with copies of The Tesla Testament that I shared. Let's see where those lead.
Deb took the day off to play tourist, so I spent the whole day schmoozing at BEA with foreign language publishers, other authors, etc. I stopped by the New Title Showcase and discovered that someone had stolen one of the books. At first I felt a bit upset. What nerve some people have!
Then it dawned on me. Someone stole one of my books... that was cool!
SundayLast day. Deb and I got to our booth on the Exhibition Hall to discover that the books had not been delivered yet. We rushed upstairs to the autograph area, fetched the remaning boxes, and discovered that someone had opened one and taken six books from it. Damn! I wasn't sure whether to feel glad or upset. Either way we rushed downstairs with seconds to spare for the signing and got busy.
Very few people attended on Sunday. You could actually walk through the exhbit floor aisles without bumping against someone every five seconds. The booth looked great. And the insecurities kicked in again... nobody was stopping by.
Deb and Katie, one of my booth hosts, grabbed a stack of books each and went to invite people to come in to the main aisle. Other people began to trickle in to get a signed copy. And then I was busy, signing books again.
The major surprises from Sunday were the four or five people who came to the booth asking for me or the book by name. One of them had attended the fact-based fiction session on Saturday and had wanted a book, others heard from people who'd already gotten one on Friday and wanted a copy. Deb did a fantastic job in getting people to swing by the booth (so good, in fact, that she was asked by other authors to help in promoting their books!) and the morning became a resounding success. 45 books gone in 65 minutes, much slower than Friday, but still a very successful event given the much lower traffic, the location of our booth, and the fact that most people don't feel like taking One More Novel after three days of getting free books that now they'd have to carry home. Most imporant, a couple of publicists, the folks I already mentioned, and a few other people were asking Deb and me to come over, or to work with them, or for an extra book "for my friend back home", etc. Sunday rocked as well!
EpilogueI want to thank everyone who came to the autograph signing sessions for your support. I sincerely hope that you enjoy the story. Even if nothing else goes well with the novel after its publication on 10.Oct.2006, your patronage helped to make this one of the most successful events in my short fiction publishing career. As I wrote a few times during these past days... enjoy the adventure!
To Katie Jamison: you are awesome. Thanks for all your help with shipping the books, setting up the booth, and your endless and relentless enthusiasm. I'd never made it this far without your help.
To Mike, Andrew, Henry, and David: you guys are the best. Your support was invaluable and is helping to make The Tesla Testament more successful every day. And Mike... don't forget to send me a copy of the photos!
To Deb: I can't express how grateful and lucky I feel that I had you by my side during these three days. None of these fabulous things would've happened without everything you did. As I writer I've been trained to "show, not tell"... so I won't try to tell you anything else now. I'll just show you my gratitude the next time I get to see you.