My first major (i.e., more than one stop) book tour of 2017 was put in motion last fall when I received a call from the President of the Spokane Canoe and Kayak Club asking if I could give a presentation on dam removal. Unfortunately, the deadline for me participating in the Humanities Washington program had passed, the opportunity for banking a $300 speakers stipend along with it. “I can’t afford to drive to Spokane without reimbursement,” I replied, and the song and dance began.
“The topic is of much interest to club members,” she said. “How much do you have to have to make the trip?”
Suspecting they had a budget for speakers (most clubs do), I replied “I could forgo my normal speaker stipend of $300 if you cover basic expenses.”
“How about $150 and we’ll put you up in our spare bedroom?”
I remembered following a lonely widow back to her home after one presentation to a small budget-strapped library. She was a patron of the rural library supporting my talk. The overnight stay turned out okay. We spent the evening discussing her extensive guitar collection and I was served a large bowl of granola the next morning. I am adaptable to most strange bedrooms (even a couch) as long as I have a decent pillow and access to a bathroom down the hall.
As the trip to Spokane approached, I began to have second thoughts. “My husband and I get up at 5:30 a.m.” the club president wrote in one email. “We leave the house at 7 a.m.” Their early departure for work put a whole new spin on things. For one, it would lead to me having to kill time for four hours before my first book-signing event at Aunties. Plus my sleep and B.M. cycles would be messed up. And for what? To save a few bucks? It wasn’t worth it.
Plan B was quickly put in place. I found a cheap motel on Priceline.com for $62 a night and Nancy agreed to let me drive her hybrid in lieu of my gas-guzzling truck. My evening presentation to the club was well received and I sold a few copies of books on the side. Thanks to the magic of MapQuest, I managed to located the no-tell motel among a cluster of fast food establishments next to the freeway. My first floor room was adjacent to a screaming baby, but the interior was clean and the pillows were not too fluffy. I loaded up on sausage links and scrambled eggs for breakfast and stole two oranges and a banana from the fruit bowl to eat during my book signing.
I had previous arranged to drop off four copies of my FISHES guidebook at the Spokane Library, a transaction that involved a small envelope and three twenty dollar bills by the Information Desk. The next stop was at Aunties. “The best signings are usually on Friday evening or sometimes Saturday afternoon when there is a convention in town,” the event coordinator told me after I spent a lonely noon hour smiling at strangers from a small table between the building elevator and the children book section. The Tuesday signing was not a bust because I fed $5 to the parking meter and only sold two books in 137 minutes. (Not that I was watching the clock.) It was a bust because Aunties had recently instituted a consignment policy in lieu of purchasing books directly.
As things turned out, a backup gig at Mainstream Books in Colfax saved the day. I’d contacted the owner, not because I was a glutton for punishment, but because Colfax was on the scenic route home. The event was well promoted, partly because I promised to bring smoked fish to share. “Worst case is, we’ll have a party,” I told the proprietor. A steady downpour did not dampen the enthusiasm of the small gathering of locals who arrived for the signing. We swapped fish stories while “Gravy” the bookstore dog begged for smoked salmon and crackers.
For those who crave such details, profits of my 27-hour, 360-mile marathon book tour can be summed up as follows:
- Evening presentation- net of $49.60 after deducting the cost of gas, food and motel from the stipend; plus a net of $35 for the sale of 5 books.
- Spokane Public Library- net of $27.65 for the sale of 4 books after deducting parking
- Aunties- net of $4.05 for the sale of 2 books after deducting parking
- Mainstreet Books- net of $43 for the sale of 12 books. (rree parking!)
All in all it was a successful trip, mainly because I am a retiree with a good pension. You might call my approach to book marketing “flock shooting” but I prefer to call it “efficient multi-tasking.”