Frankie Says READ (Cuz Authors Need Places To Sign Books)
Posted on July 18, 2011
I started this morning off popping in an old unmarked VHS tape I recently came across that turned out to be episodes of VH1 Bands Reunited. Does anybody else think host Aamer Haleem comes across as a complete tool? Seriously, the guy’s a tool on the show. Anyway, beyond that, I did a book signing in Milwaukee for Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell this past weekend and you won’t believe how the trip started even before I left Detroit. Leave it to TSA…
My guy was able to join me in Chicago prior to driving to Milwaukee and asked if I’d bring a couple of items with me. One of them was a PC for a friend of his who needs a new system. Now, I went through the scanner system in Detroit and the TSA agent asked if I had a game system in my bag. I told her it was a PC and she said she needed to remove it and run it through separately. Naturally, I agreed. And upon opening my suitcase, she found a second item I was asked to bring for another friend; a bottle of Propecia. She looked at me, looked at the bottle, looked at me and repeated this several times.
“Do I look like I’m losing my hair?” I ask her.
“No. It’s really working!”
Oh, hell to the no! That’ll make it into a scene in the next Gaylias book.
Now, I hadn’t realized that the store hosting the signing, Outwords Books, was celebrating its 18 anniversary. 18 years! Owner Carl Szatmary has managed to do almost the unthinkable in keeping a gay store open that long. He’s one of the few left. Out Word Bound Books in Indianapolis? Closed. A Different Light in LA? Closed. A Different Light in San Francisco? Closed. The store in Sacramento I did a signing at years back whose name escapes me? Closed. NYC gay bookstores? Closed. Toronto’s oldest gay bookstore? Closed. Do you see a pattern here?
There aren’t many left. Aside from Outwords and Giovanni’s Room–where I’ve never had an opportunity to sign yet–there’s Common Language in Ann Arbor, QTrading in Palm Springs and Outwrite in Atlanta. Even Borders in the Boystown area of Chicago brought me in four different occasions to sign and they closed. What’s left? Barnes & Noble? I’ve never had any luck setting anything up with them.
The truth is that electronic books are a mixed blessing. They’re convenient for folks who like to read on the go and don’t like to carry thick books with them, there’s no going from store to store to see who has what they want in stock and no waiting for what isn’t in stock and has to be ordered. The bad is that authors don’t do book signings for e-books. There’s nothing for us to sign. There’s also no business for the mom and pop stores with e-books. Now, if there was a set-up where these stores could make sales if they sold e-books on their site and have access to the same catalogs places like Amazon does, I’d be a little more in favor of it. Maybe even make a special file that could be inserted in an e-book that would allow a page to be autographed using a tablet. Even better.
The signing at Outwords turned out to be a fabulous time! It was a smaller group and those tend to be the best ones for us getting a better feel for each other. Folks feel more inclined to say what they think, ask questions and open up a bit more about themselves to boot. Ralph and I originally thought we’d be there for an hour and a half or so and we stuck around for 3+ hours. Carl also went the extra mile and had an assortment of snacks and beverages for everybody. The only other place I know that does this is Common Language.
A huge thank you to Carl Szatmary and the gentlemen who attended. Also, a huge thank you to the other stores still bringing authors in and trying to keep their heads above water. I know the struggle to keep a store afloat doesn’t always seem worth the constant fight, but you have the support of myself and every author I know.
Kristoffer Gair (who formerly wrote under the pseudonym Kage Alan) is the Detroit-based author of Honor Unbound, A Funny Thing Happened On The Way To My Sexual Orientation, Andy Stevenson Vs. The Lord Of The Loins, Gaylias: Operation Thunderspell, several short stories featured in anthologies (to be combined in a forthcoming book), the recently re-published novella Falling Awake, its sequel, Falling Awake II: Revenant and Falling Awake III: Requiem.
2 Responses to “Frankie Says READ (Cuz Authors Need Places To Sign Books)”
William Myers says:
July 20, 2011 at 3:48 am
Interesting post here. It strikes me that the reason why all those gay book stores that you mention have closed is not because they’re gay but because they sold only books printed on paper. It’s a sign of the times (please permit the cliché), the big bad new world of IT, don’t you think?
July 20, 2011 at 7:27 am
Yes and no. They’re smaller stores (minus Borders) and they’re also niche stores, which doesn’t help them either. Sort of a double whammy going on. I really think that one way to keep them in business would be to develop a way for someone to download a book using an online market place and give the sale to that store. There has to be a way for them to compete and that’s one way that might work.
Just my thoughts anyway. =)