Thursday, July 19, 2012

An event is an event is an event...

Until it isn't. It is a sad fact that I've come to realize that I don't really enjoy most author readings/events. We move tables and set up chairs and lug boxes around and, if the event is off-site, deal with parking. Events, even good ones, are a situation of bang-boom action and then sit and wait.

I've worked in bookstores for 13 years now and a general guess is that I have worked about 1,000 events. Of course that covers the good, the bad and the ugly. In any profession it is easy to become jaded about certain aspects of the job. I know chefs and waiters who no longer are excited by the very good food they are offered for free. Apathy is not a good thing, but it happens.

So it was a pleasant surprise to work an event last night that rejuvenated me and reminded my as to why author events are both important and worth something beyond attendance numbers and total sales.

It is worth mentioning, at this point, that author events have changed over the past decade or so. For one, there are so many going on that drawing a crowd has become increasingly difficult. A 'crowd' of five is not fun for the author, the publisher or the store. Sales have also dropped dramatically. There was a time when stores had a solid formula. X number of people would, generally, equal X number of sales. That is longer the case. With Amazon and e-books and every Target, Sam's Club, Costco and you name it selling books the numbers have become very muddy. In the past few years we have sold books at events with over 1,000 people yet sold less than 25 books. That math isn't good.

Back to last night. Amy Leach read from her debut book, "Things That Are". The book has a number of things going for it. It is a beautiful object and is priced at silly low price of $18 in hardcover. The illustrations are a super bonus and were done by Nate Christopherson(a St. Paul native). Amy read four small pieces book for a total of 20-25 minutes which is the perfect amount of time. She took questions and was witty. Even when I asked, "What would call these pieces? Personal essay? Nature essay?" She simply responded, "I don't know."

The book itself is something I have been talking to customers about for the past month or so. It is hard to classify. A wonderful review review was recently done by Susannah Schouweiler and she does a better job of trying to explain it than I ever could.

In the end, the event was well-attended and Amy brought her own particular style to it. It was, dare I say it, fun.

If you happen to read this today(7/19) and are in the Twin Cities you should definitely find time to go listen to her read tonight