Sunday, April 29, 2007

Literary Boothing

I spent some time this weekend sitting at a booth at the LA Times Book Fair. I sat at a table with my two novels prominently displayed, ready to sign a copy for one of the thousands of people who attended the fair over the weekend.

I felt a tap on my shoulder. I turned around to a man holding a book that wasn't mine.

He asked, "How much is this book?"

"Oh, I don't know. I'm an author. I wrote these novels," I said, waving my arm to the small display in front of me.

"So, you don't know how much this book is?"

"Maybe you should ask that woman over there. She runs the booth."

A few moments later, a woman presents me with a stack of books--none of them mine--and hands me a credit card. She said, "I'd like to pay for these."

"Actually, the cashier is over there. I'm an author signing my novels."

The woman joins the line to the cashier.

A student approached my table and picks up one of my novels. Before I could say anything, he flops the book down and walks away.
So it went like that for half an hour. Then I decided to take charge. I do work for the Asian Pacific AIDS Intervention Team. I was a guy who spent a good part of the 1990's and the early 2000's in booths at community fairs coaxing people to talk about anal sex, vaginal secretions, and condon use. If I could talk to complete strangers about how to properly shoot up without getting HIV infected, I could certainly talk to someone about my novels.
I took the offensive and began chatting people up in the booth. You know, I sold a good amount of copies and made some pretty good contacts. I felt my time at the festival was well spent and the money for parking was put to good use. Of course, I loved hanging out with fellow writers Brian Ascalon Roley and Mae Respicio also selling their books.
Sitting in a booth waiting for someone to buy your book can be excrutiating, but when you have fun and just talk to people it becomes less painful.


jasonphoon said...

erm, I guess you could look at the back of the book to see how much it costs ?

Sundry said...

Yay! Good for you for making it a positive experience!

Peter Varvel said...

Proactive Noël! Lemons into lemonade!

Cheryl said...

I spent a very long weekend a few booths away. Next year I will make sure to tell people how to shoot up safely. It's sure to make the time go faster.

D. Amelia said...

I know what you mean. I've spent a lot of time as a sexuality educator at booths and in classrooms talking about topics most people giggle about, but I sometimes have a hard time applying that same assertiveness to other things. I'm happy to hear about your shift in self promotion. I'll keep looking around your blog - I'm new here - to learn more about your novels. Thanks for posting on, btw.

Liz said...

I wish I'd gone to at least part of this. Instead, I mixed one part crowd phobia with one part of laziness. And, what in the world are folks thinking to just randomly hand you a credit card? She'd better be happy you're honest! Someone could say, "Sure, I'll ring you up. I'll be right back..." and then never return.

Angelo said...

Trust me when I say that had I been there, I would have created a scene. "Oh my gawd! Oh my gawd! Is that Noel Alumit???" Hehe! Hope all is great, Noel.