Ina, who has long held the American record for uninterrupted monotonic exposition in the novel, has just published a new book, yet another homage to her favorite author.
The latest practice among some of our local self-published authors, including Ina, is not selling their books in bookstores but holding day-long signings in the ice cream store; teaming up with each other in the bagel restaurant, where Ina snags diners who naively thought they could have a peaceful coffee and a nosh without fear of being accosted, and drags them by the wrists to meet the author; and sitting together in the wintry lobby of the Smith's supermarket in White Rock, among the stacks of ice melt, bales of firewood, and cranky, frozen shoppers who just want to pick up the eggs and get the hell back home to the fire and some hot cocoa before the storm hits.
You may sell some books that way and get to keep all the profits. But eventually you're going to come to the realization that people aren't going to say, "Hey, I just heard about the new Elizabeth Gilbert. What say we head down to the fro-yo parlor and pick up a copy?" You're going to have to go to a place that sells books as its primary commodity. You're going to have to go to a bookstore.
So Ina came into the store to discuss arrangements for her signing. Actually, she came in to tell me when, where, and how she'd be signing in my store, and she said that she'd be happy to invite her friend Minty as well.
Minty, another member of the writers' group, had written a children's book about 120 pages long and had it published by one of the companies that does printing on-demand and self-publishing. It's a beautiful paperbound book, physically much larger than the usual trade paperback, and priced to move at $34.00.
We had told Minty that the book wouldn't sell at that price except in her immediate circle of friends but that we'd buy copies from her at the standard industry discount. She blanched and clutched her head. "I spent six months of my life on that book! You can't ask for such a discount! I won't make a penny on it!"
I told her them's the breaks.
She sold a few in the fall. Eventually Minty had her publisher change the dimensions of the book from gargantuan to something that could be held in one hand, eliminated the 4-color cover and illustrations in favor of black and white, and changed the price to something that wouldn't require a reader to scrimp and save. Then she and Ina hit the ice cream store and the supermarket.
So, Ina told me, even though Minty had already done a signing at the store with the original version of the book, technically she wrote a new book because it was reformatted and cheaper. I said that Minty's book was not new, and that I was in charge of signings. No Minty.
Unfazed, Ina said that she'd take care of the press release and all the publicity for the event, and assured me warmly that she'd bring in some posters that we could display throughout the store. As usual, before she left, she turned all the copies of her books face out.
A few days later Minty came in. She stared balefully at the display of books by local authors and asked, "Where's my book then? I'm a local author."
I checked the inventory and told her that we were sold out. She said, "How can that be? I brought you a book in December."
She returned her gaze to the display. "I see that you classify this woman as a local author. I know for a fact that she lives in Santa Fe. Well, I guess your definition of local is quite, quite liberal then." She turned to me. "So why isn't Michael McGarrity here? He's from Santa Fe. And John Nichols is from Taos. I suppose you'd classify him as 'local,' too, then. Why didn't you put his books here?" She sighed. "It's a shame that books by true local authors aren't displayed here, isn't it?"
I'm looking forward to the return of Margaret Coel and Richard Rhodes to the store. They're really nice.
Minty and Ina hoping to sell their books on public transportation