She Wrote: Publishing Kills, April 12, 2006

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

SHE WROTE: Publishing Kills

Today, Bob and I hit the wall. And apologies to everyone who came to the Lexington signing and watched us hit it in the middle of the Bob and Jenny Show. I think it was a combination of no sleep and a bad lunch for me, and too long on the road for Bob, but we were about halfway through our usual song and dance, and I could feel myself losing my grip because I was exhausted and queasy. So I turned to Bob and said, brightly, “Bob?” and he stared back at me and there was nobody home in there. Barb, our escort, said she could tell–which is why she moved fast and got us through the stock signing and out of there, she’s terrific–but she said nobody else knew. I don’t know. I think people could actually see my brains dripping from my ears. It was the first time we’ve ever spoken together that we never caught a rhythm, so listening to us must have been like going down a bumpy road in the wrong gear. We looked at each other after that and pretty much decided to never take the good shows for granted again because you wouldn’t believe how hard it is when we can’t make it work.

So of course this is when the advance news of the NYT list hits. The NYT is a phenomenon in publishing: hitting the top fifteen has huge impact in the industry, and even the top 35 is pretty damn good. But the kicker is, it’s not a true reflection of sales, which everybody knows. So everybody knows that the NYT is essentially meaningless, but everybody also knows that it means the most of all. Thanks to all of you, DLD has been kicking butt and taking names: it’s #11 on the B&N list after the first partial week, and #5 on Walden’s overall hardcover list and #3 on its fiction hardcover list. And the Bookscan numbers, which count actual sales everywhere but Walmart which for some reason won’t report to Bookscan, are terrific. But we hit the NYT at #21.

I’m pretty happy with #21 on the NYT hardcover list after a partial week. But if you look at the actual numbers—and trust me, our team is–we sold more copies than some of the books in the top five on the NYT. How does this happen? We probably sold them at stores that don’t report. This is okay with me because we’re selling books and people are reading them which is pretty much the point of publishing, and I am flat-out delighted at the numbers. So where are we now? Don’t know. Nobody knows what will happen next week (which does NOT mean that you should buy more books, you did great by us so put your feet up and have a Ding Dong), we’ve still got 3/4 of a tour to do here, the TV ads are running, anything could happen. We’re good here.

But it does make me think about the vast majority of authors who do not have TV ads and book tours, who give everything they’ve got to a story that gets shipped to the bookstores, shelved, and then lost in the mass of books out there, good stories that are written from the heart that may never find their readers. Publishing can break your heart, NOT because you don’t hit higher on the NYT list (that’s a high class problem if there ever was one) but because your book never finds its readers at all, the readers who will love it and read it over and over again, keeping your characters alive. Bob and I heard a motivational speaker in Boston who said that writers write to be read, and we really disagreed with that, the story is what matters and telling the story is the reason we write. But once we have it right, then yes, it needs readers to live. And that’s where we hit the jackpot because DLD has found readers, many of them through this blog and many more, I suspect, through Cherry Bombs out there forcing people to read it at gun point. I can’t imagine how writers without Cherries and Cherry Bombs survive in the bookstores. It’s a cold, cold world out there in print land.

So here’s the story for today. We’re wiped out, I’m sick, we did a sucky talk at the signing, and we’re #21 on the NYT next week. Which means, we’re the luckiest two authors I know, even before we factor in the fact that we have each other to tour and blog and write with (hello, Agnes).

So basically, we’ll get some sleep, I’ll feel better in the morning, we’ll hit the road for Louisville and then home for both of us for a couple of days, and there’ll be nothing but good times ahead.

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She Wrote: So Glad You Asked, April 12, 2006

Wednesday, April 12, 2006

SHE WROTE: So Glad You Asked

It’s 6:30 AM and I can’t sleep. Been up since four: Book Tour Insomnia. We had a grueling and yet terrific day in Dayton yesterday, lots of media with very good interviewers, stock signings, a small meltdown for me in Panera when we discovered the blog had disappeared, but Betsy the Cherry Mod got it back for us. It was right about then that Bob started to talk about product placement, going down the list of things we could put on jackets. I stopped him and said, “You’d wear a jacket advertising Viagra?” and he said, “Sure.” Of course, he wore a skirt for the team, so I suppose a jacket that says “Viagra” is a step up. Then we did a terrific signing at Books & Co. with my old pal, Sharon, and two new people who know how to do a booksigning, Christina and Tanya, so by the time Kathy pulled up in front of the house last night, Bob and I were both comatose. And thank God for Kathy because we’d never have made it through the day without her.

And this is the place where I should say, “Thank God for Bob.” Somebody asked how this book tour is different from previous tours, and I can tell you in one word: Bob. I’d have been screaming by now if I had to do this alone, but having a partner on the road makes it a completely different experience. It’s not just that he carries half the load (actually maybe more because everybody’s so much more interested in seeing him which is lovely), it’s that he makes me laugh about forty times a day, checks to make sure I’m okay if I’m quiet too long, and makes me look great in interviews with that banter thing he does. I’m trying to remember how Kathy put it at dinner last night, but she said pretty much the same thing, that Bob was saving me on this tour. This guy gets Ding Dongs for life.

Someone asked: “What is proper book signing etiquette especially for those of us who will only see you along with the 1 million other fans at the RWA conference in Atlanta? Is it okay to bring all your backlist and ask you to sign it?”

It always depends on who’s selling the books. I’ll sign anything you bring me and so will Bob, but the venue might limit the number of books you bring. However, I also pretty much sign books whenever you ask, so if you find me at other times and I’m not rushing someplace to make an appointment or a talk, I’ll sign then, too. Sometimes the store just asks that you only get two signed at a time to keep the line from stopping, but you can always get in line again or wait until the end and bring the books up then. I don’t leave until everybody’s books are signed, so if the bookseller is good with the backlist, I’m happy to do it.

“Can I take a couple of minutes to tell you both how much I loved the book?”

No, we hate that. Kidding. YES, please, please do.

“Can I have someone take my picture with you both?”

Yep. I’ll look like Joker from Batman because the smile tends to freeze on my face, but it’ll be sincere.

“When does a fan cross the line from groupie (think the Beatles on tour in the 60’s) to lunatic (think Kathy Bates in Misery).”

When you bring in the ax. (Ax in the book, sledgehammer in the movie, right?)

“Do you accept gifts of food?”

I accept them and then they disappear in the direction of Bob, which is good. One thing that we have to deal with is that we’re flying pretty much everywhere, and we’re always packed to the max when we arrive, so getting larger things home is a problem. Mostly, we just want to see you, really, so gifts aren’t necessary at all. It sounds too sweet to be true, but the biggest rush authors get is people coming up and saying, “I can’t wait to read your book” or “I read it and loved it.” You can’t give a better gift than that. Hell, you showing up for the booksigning is HUGE for us, that’s all any author can ask for, and we thank everyone of you who’s come out for us so far.

“Why is this blog* so blame addictive?”

I have no idea but I’m obsessed with it. I don’t know what I’m going to do in the middle of May when the tour is over and we have to scale back to a couple of times a week so we can write Agnes. I think this is my social life. I told Kathy that I was getting a life in 2007, and Bob said, “I’m thinking not until 2008 now, we have a lot of work to do.” I said, “I can’t date until 2008?” and he said, “You can never date,” which is my fault because he and Kathy and I were talking about why authors write, and I said, “You know, I think if I ever had a successful relationship, I’d have to quit writing romance because I’d have nothing to write about.” In retrospect, that was a mistake because Bob was paying attention that time.

“What does J. T. stand for?”

Jim Taylor, who was a football star, according to Bob. Greatest player ever. Something like that. J.T.’s daddy was a football fan. And “P.L.” stands for Penelope Lucille; “Pepper” is a nickname.

“Did Bob plan the sock thing?”

Yes. He told me the next day while snickering. “Bet you looked for that all over, didn’t you?” Yes, Bob. But he gets to live because he’s being such a hero on this tour.

“Actually, just thought, why do you have a “twisted mass of wreckage that is my “clothes to be sorted and hung up later.”” in your closet? I thought that Mollie sorted you out? Oh no. Tell me that you didn’t take all that rejected stuff out of the Goodwill pile and put it back.”

I didn’t. But there was another closet upstairs that Mollie didn’t have time to get to, so I brought the stuff in that down to sort through and I hadn’t gotten to it yet. All the stuff that Mollie sorted out is now at Goodwill.

“Where’s the skirt picture after all?”

We don’t have it yet. I think it’s in the next issue of Skirt, which is about a month out, and I don’t know if they’ll be sending Bob an advance copy or not, but he swears when he gets it, he’ll post it.

“So, is it a good sign that while Bob is out – selling books – he’s starting to quote Dempseys? Who are, after all, in “sales”…”

Bob quoted the Dempseys? Was it “Nothing but good times ahead”? Because I used to say that to him all the time and then I hit a bad patch and he started saying it back to me. So it’s really a Bob-ism now. And he wasn’t out, the blog was. Disappeared right off our Dashboards because somebody at Blogger was deleting spam blogs and we got tangled up in the delete. But wonderful Blogger put us back (thank you Betsy and Gerald) and Bob kept blogging in the background as they searched for it. (I was most grateful for getting the comments back for the blank blog. You were all brilliant on that one. Not that you’re not always brilliant, but that one was stellar.)

I can hear him moving around upstairs, so later for you guys. Oh, and the dawn is gorgeous here. I usually miss that completely, so there’s another good thing about today.

Blog is He Wrote She Wrote, not Argh

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