Monday, July 9, 2012

Laid Back or Lazy

By Deborah Sharp

I think I was born without the commerce gene. Does a lack of interest in selling my books make me laid back, or just lazy?

On the final day of a vacation on North Carolina's Outer Banks, I arranged for a quick swing by a bookstore in beautiful Elizabeth City, N.C. (That's the town in the picture above, right along the Pasquotank River. Motto: Harbor of Hospitality). A temperature of 104 put a damper on sightseeing. Still, I managed to meet some friendly folks at Page After Page, slurp down some watermelon punch at a downtown farmer's market, and search out some authentic Carolina barbecue  -- along with collards, hush puppies, and sweet tomato puddin.'

With a brief visit, I simply wanted to say hi in person and thank the store for selling my books a few months ago at a fundraiser for Camden County schools. I posted here about that benefit, which was an adaptation of my third mystery, ''Mama Gets Hitched,'' performed as a play.

As it happened, my husband's family gathered this summer for a reunion on the beach. Elizabeth City was only about 30 miles or so off the path back to the Norfolk airport and our flight home to Florida. I decided at the last minute to drop by on that final day.

''I'm out of your books,'' store owner Susan Hinkle told me in an email, ''but I'd be happy to do a signing if you brought any with you.'' 

I'm on vacation, I thought. Of course I didn't bring any books. But I know plenty of authors who would have. Many writers schedule signings whenever they travel anywhere. They plan vacations to coincide with commerce. Call me a slacker, but lining up sales when I'm supposed to be kicking back relaxing seems wrong. In this instance, I got tangled in the Outer Banks' notorious traffic, and spent an hour and a half driving (idling?) 15 miles to leave the island. With that time suck, I would have been a nervous wreck hewing to a tight schedule of appearances. Instead of sinking into the sand in a beach chair, I'd have been sweating in grown-up clothes, fretting about being late.

Instead, I enjoyed my casual pop-in at Page After Page. Susan had informed a few  people involved in the play. They stopped in to say hello, bringing along a handful of books for me to sign. I was touched that Adelle Drahos, Pat Cuthrell, and Lynne McLain showed, considering the sweltering heat and the fact I only confirmed the day before I'd definitely come by.

Judging by the texting, computing, and phone-calling going on among my hubby's family members at the rented beach house, mixing work and play isn't at all unusual. I even slipped away a couple of times to the Corolla public library to polish the last few chapters of my work in progress. Meeting the looming deadline for ''Mama Gets Trashed'' is a contractual obligation. That's different than setting up signings. I'm not a natural extrovert. Planning a book presentation and meeting new people  requires maximum effort. It makes me tense and nervous. That's not how I want to feel on vacation.

Even so, I did think a bit about the opportunity I missed. If I planned ahead, I could have combined my holiday with some hustle. The thought passed as I sat in the shade with a glass of sangria, reading one of Nicholas Sparks' zillion-selling paperbacks (The North Carolina-set ''True Believer,'' picked up at Corolla's library for 25 cents.)

Do you think he peddled books during vacations before he hit the big time? How about you? Do you work on holiday? Or are you a devoted loafer, like me?


Shannon Baker said...

I'm so glad to read this! I thought I was the only slacker out there. I admire the super-marketers but I fear I fall way short. I'll see your sangria and raise you a gin and tonic.

Beth Groundwater said...

I'm a loafer, too, Deb. I think a vacation should be just that, a vacation. Even when I was a software engineer, I didn't bring work with me on a vacation. I often didn't tell my office how to reach me, either. I do take cards and bookmarks on vacation, though. That way, if I get into a conversation with people and they ask what I do and are interested in mysteries, I can hand them something to remember my name with.

Deborah Sharp said...

Absolutely, Beth ... I'll talk and pass out a biz card if the chance comes up, but I don't want to plan for it. Shannon: I like the way you think!!

Lois Winston said...

Deb, I could be wrong, but wasn't Nicholas Sparks the author who crashed BEA one year and set himself up at an empty table to hawk his books back when he was self-publishing them? He had cases and cases of books stacked in his garage and used to sell them out of the trunk of his car in parking lots. If it wasn't Nicholas Sparks, maybe someone else knows who I'm thinking of.

Deborah Sharp said...

Lois: I've heard that same story about the self-starter author crashing BEA. Not sure it was Nicholas Sparks, though ... Whatever he did, it worked!

Life After Death said...

I've read your article & thanks for sharing this kind of unknown info.

Kathleen Ernst said...

That's a tough one. Vacation time is precious, but my husband and I both find it very difficult to truly leave the work stuff behind. It's a worthy goal, though!

Deborah Sharp said...

Kathleen: That's always the rub. If you totally leave everything behind, not even checking emails, you have SUCH a pile to plow thru on return.