Friday, July 23, 2010

Party Hardy!

By Deborah Sharp

I don't know what I was imagining might happen when I handed over my microphone to a drunk reveler on Fort Lauderdale Beach.

You know Fort Lauderdale, right? Famous for raucous Spring Breaks, wet T-shirt contests, and chug-a-lug nights at the beachfront Elbo Room. Literary readings? Not so much.

Okay, I was supposed to be reading from my latest ''Mama'' book, so not exactly literary ... but still. I'm not sure what my friendly local bookseller was thinking (or drinking). She brought a karaoke machine, like the kind kids at PJ parties play with, to the corner of A1A and Las Olas Boulevard and asked me to read from Mama Gets Hitched.

Harleys rumbled past. Drunks stumbled up. Bar babes peddled shots from bandoliers around their bikini-clad bodies. And, did I mention the wind was whipping off the Atlantic at gale force?

A group of women dressed for the nightclubs tottered past in high heels. "Oh, look how cute you are, trying to read out here!'' one girl said. "That's so pitiful.''

At least she bought a book, one of the very few I sold that night before the skies opened up and poured rain. And, no, I'm not above taking advantage of a pity purchase.

I thought I could talk the drunk guy into buying a book, too. But he got ugly when I wrestled back the mic after he started an impromptu, X-rated rap. Come to think of it, maybe that would have drawn an audience.

The whole experience got me thinking about the worst spots I've done signings. Here are my Top (Bottom?) Three:

1. Sitting on a hay bale in 100-degree heat right next to the cattle chute at a rodeo in Okeechobee, Fla. It was so hot, my give-away Hershey's kisses oozed out of their silver wrappers. They looked like miniature versions of the cow patties that spackled the ground behind me. I learned a lesson: Hard candy trumps chocolate in Florida's summer swelter.

2. Standing in front of a table at a chain bookstore, on launch day for the latest installment in Stephanie Meyer's saga. Fans of vampire romance elbowed past me to get to a humongous Twilight display to select their books, posters, coasters, calendars, T-shirts, coffee mugs ... whatever. Can you say, ''Humbling?''

3. And now, of course, the bar-packed, loud-music-blaring, motorcycle-revving, drunks-lurching ''Strip'' along Fort Lauderdale Beach. After my throat recovers from trying to holler out my prose, maybe next I'll try a NASCAR track or monster truck rally.

What's the worst place you can imagine for a book reading?


Elizabeth Spann Craig/Riley Adams said...

You are a very Good Sport, Deb! I think it's fantastic that you try different kinds of venues.

Those spring break kids are having waayyyy too much fun. I'm going to remember this when my now-13 year old son asks to go to FL for spring break...

Alan Orloff said...

Funny post, as usual, Deb! I spent a spring break in Lauderdale a few years ago (!) and I don't remember buying any books. Of course, I don't remember much at all.

If there's anyone who can make the best of a bad signing situation, it's you!

Deborah Sharp said...

Elizabeth: Do not, I repeat DO NOT let your son come to Fl. for spring break. As a native Ft. Laud gal, I can say that from personal experience of too many debauched springs. And speaking of debauchery . . .
Alan???? You must have been sp. breaking with the ''good kids,'' building Habitat for Humanity homes.

Sue Ann Jaffarian said...

Very funny post, Deb. Makes me glad I don't have kids.

I've never had any odd or funny signing experiences like yours, but I did have one that stands out.

The very worst - taking 2 days off of work and driving 7-8 hrs to a small book conference only to find out the book seller did NOT have my books and told me I should have brought my own. Mind you, I had called her a few days before and she assured me she had them right there in her store. When I asked why she lied to me, she got up in my face. I got up in hers right back. Seems she did the same trick to several other authors at the conference and has a reputation for doing that for signings in her store as well. BTW, many of the authors who did bring their books to the conference got stiffed on their money. That was years ago but that store is still on my shit list. In fact, it's at the top by a long shot.

Deborah Sharp said...

Sue Ann: Haven't had any booksellers out and out LIE, though I have met a couple who acted like they were doing me a HUGE favor.
We're lucky as authors though, that the vast, vast majority are great people who work hard to sell our stuff. It's good biz for us, and for them.

Beth Groundwater said...

Oh Deb, I was howling in laughter as I envisioned you trying to wrestle that mic away from the drunk trying to do an X-rated rap. I've had some signing experiences that were humbling with little or no sales, but nothing that story-worthy!

Julie Compton said...

Deb, this is too funny. You ARE a good sport. But hey, I will say this, Rick and I had our first "date" during spring break in college. I won't say how long ago this was -- let's just go with "a few years" - as Alan said. Daytona, though, not Ft. Lauderdale. Nope, we didn't buy any books that I remember. :-)

Will you be doing an event in Orlando??

G.M. Malliet said...

Serving shots from a bandolier? Still having trouble picturing this, but I trust you, Deb. It must have happened.

I really only do group signings, to avoid the lone author thing. That way, it's sort of a party, and we don't care how many books get sold. The "crowds" at these events have been pretty well-behaved.

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, I could name a couple of bookstores who didn't really remember I was coming, who'd done no PR, and had almost no foot traffic. But I won't. BTW, I like the shades you're wearing in that photo on top of your posting.

Cricket McRae said...

Hilarious! It's great that your bookseller thinks outside the box, but that might be a bit too outside.
Hearth Cricket

Darrell James said...

Deb- I did a library event a couple of years back with another author friend. The only people who showed up was the non-English-speaking, cleaning lady and her three kids. They came in to get out of the rain.

The only inspiring thing to come out of it was that the 12 year-old boy, the oldest, had some really great questions for both of us. I "gave" him a copy of my anthology.

Kathleen Ernst said...

I once got booked for a week of mall chain store visits by a publicist who was new, and didn't realize that the little mall stores usually aren't the best place for such events. At one I arrived and no one on duty had heard of me; a couple of phone calls with the manager later, they dragged out a table and chair.

At another the store was right in front of the center commons area of the mall, where a beauty pageant was going on. It was packed. Watchers actually perched their butts on my table--back to me, of course.

After 15 books, and lots of slogs, I could go on and on...but I won't. Great post!

Deborah Sharp said...

Oh, misery loves company, y'all! Thanks for chiming in with your own book-signing debacles.
Beth G: Wrestling drunks is what we do in S. Fla INSTEAD of whitewater rafting ...
Julie: You met Rick, your wonderful hubby at Sp. Break? Can't believe you got a keeper!
GM: The shot glasses go in the little places where bullets usually go in a bandolier (being a S. Floridian, I sadly know a lot about bullet shots and tequila shots.)
Cricket: Honey, we were so far outside the box, I couldn't see it!
Kathleen: Ha! Your beauty pageant may trump my Ft. Laud. Beach ... were any of the contestants drunk?

Deborah Sharp said...

Oops, adding for Darrell and Keith:
D: What a sweet story. No books sold, but maybe that 12 year old was inspired enough to become a writer (or at least a book buyer).
K: I'm surprised you recognized me ... what do you think of the bikini
;-) ?

Keith Raffel said...

Deb, your bikini is hidden behind some of your playmates. Was it nice?

Diana said...

Deb - You are an incredibly good sport! I've arranged a number of "unique" signings for clients!
One was at a rural Midwest indie bookstore. The owner put the author outside on the sidewalk with a folding table and chair, not a sole in sight. She advised him that hundreds of bicyclists would be marathoning their way into town.
The dinky town closed off their main street to cars, erected a bandstand at the center of town(there are only 3 stoplights mind you) and vendors began hawking their wares along the sidewalk. The band played all day into the evening, the cyclists, who were to stop at this town for the night, turned out in droves!!
The author sold out of books and lost his voice for two days, but he was happy!!

Deborah Sharp said...

Keith: I ROCKED that bikini, baby! And the more we drank the better I looked. (Kidding, y'all.. my bikini days are 25 years past)
Diana: Ah-ha .. BiCYCLISTS... not BiKERS! So, that's how you sell more books!