26. June 2011 · Comments Off on Rethinking Borders · Categories: Ain't That America?, General, History, Literary Good Stuff

No, not that border – the one featuring hot and cold running migrants and weaponry moving in whichever directions seems the most convenient at the moment – but Borders Books. Contra current nationwide expectations, the Borders Books in San Antonio are doing pretty darned well, being that they are on the short-list of stores doing well enough to remain open. When I was setting up book-signings and events for the latest book, I went through the motions of calling the Huebner Oaks Borders, and one of the closest Barnes and Noble outlets, not really expecting much of a response. And after the last signing event, at the Twig, I was expecting even less, but lo and behold, an email last month from the event manager at the Huebner Oaks Borders. Yea these many years ago, the-then manager was very active in getting local authors in for events; such is the turnover that he was about three managers ago, but the current manager team is very keen, and so – after a couple of false starts and reschedules, Blondie and I found ourselves sitting behind the Dreaded Author Table last Saturday afternoon. This seems to be their peak traffic time, and for sure there were a fair number of people wandering in. People who looked like they were seriously interested in books, and willing to buy books Better yet – in spite of having been placed on their calendar for the 25th of July (still kinda puzzled about how that happened!) – the staff pulled together at a couple of hours notice, and put up a table, with a tall stack of copies of Daughter of Texas, and supplied us with ice-water, a glass of iced-tea, several announcements on the store PA system, and gave every indication of noticing and welcoming my presence. The staff generally seemed full of hustle and helpfulness towards customers.

Last month, another author – and I don’t remember if this was on the IAG author group, the Historical Novel Society author group, or even if I had read it on one of the Linkedin groups – posted a kind of pep-talk and guide to doing signings. First, he said – none of this sitting at the table, staring out in space, or worse yet, sitting there reading a book. (Which I plead guilty of doing now and again – especially if there are no customers in the store, or there is a customer or two, clear the other side of the place and deliberately appearing to avoid the corner with the Dreaded Author Table.) You’ve been invited to the venue to sell books – so sell books. You have to strike up a conversation with people in the vicinity of the table, and he recommended opening it by saying, in an appropriately chipper and friendly voice, “You look like someone who is looking for a book!” – and then steering the conversation towards your own book or books, as soon as they said “Well, yes I am.” This gave me an opening to ask if they liked historical fiction, and would they consider mine – which were right here (gesturing towards stack on the table) and pointing out that I could even autograph a copy with a personal message. And I have to say, it did work out pretty well, even if half the responses were something like, “Oh, no, I’m just here for a magazine-waiting for my spouse-strafing the marked-down bin.” And of course, there was the one customer who said, “Yeah, it’s called Lone Survivor, about this Navy SEAL, but I can’t remember the author,” to which I answered, “Marcus Luttrell, and if it’s in-stock, it will be back in the military section, or possibly current events.”

Blondie found this all hilarious, BTW – but as an opening gambit, it worked very well – and I believe that I am quick enough with the witty repartee to counter any smartass who answers, “Yeah, that’s what I walked into a bookstore for.”
Four copies sold, a fair number of good conversations, passed out a boatload of Adelsverein Trilogy postcards, and business cards with the website on it, recommended a fellow indy-author’s book about the Civil War in Indian Territory to a guy who had wandered in from the Cherokee Rez in Oklahoma, and plan to do it again at this Borders closer to December, when they have a big storewide event with a chorus singing Christmas carols, and offer food samples. I can work a crowd . . . as long as there is a crowd to work!

For anyone looking to buy my books locally in San Antonio – both the Twig at the Pearl Brewery, and the Huebner Oaks Borders both stock Daughter of Texas. The upcoming hard-bound version of the complete Trilogy will also be available at the Borders late in August, and so will the sequel to Daughter of Texas . . . umm, sometime in late November.

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