Saturday, August 18, 2007

"Don't let anyone stop you from writing."

One of the nicer venues for selling books in Las Cruces is Coas Books in the downtown pedestrian mall, particularly on a Saturday morning when shoppers wander in from the twice-weekly Farmer's Market. They sell a mix of used and new books, and are hospitable to local authors. The owner, Mike Beckett, sets up a table by the entrance to maximize the author's exposure.

Today I set up shop there for the third time and had a good day chatting with dozens of folks and selling a half dozen copies of When Pigs Fly. Early on, a stranger stopped by to say she'd already read the book, loved it, and planned to read it again. No sale for me this time, but the compliment was satisfying. It took nearly an hour to get my first sale of the day, but business improved. Some people picked up the book, asked about the price, and said they couldn't afford it. Many folks come into Coas looking for bargains and finding them. There were plenty of people saying they'd "think about it," and I'd send them away with a bookmark to remember me by. Maybe I'll meet them again; sometimes, the people who buy from me have heard about the book a few times before.

Plenty of people just walked on by the table, giving me the chance to just watch them. A very large number of folks down here, men and women alike, have tattoos. Young men in shorts with purple art on their calves, arms, necks -- young women with flowers decorating their shoulders or just below their collarbones, sometimes well below. The weather gets warm down here -- mid-90s today -- and maybe the resultant bare skin encourages the body art that seems so common here. It seems generational, though; tats and wrinkles don't go together often.

Getting people's attention required me to be active, though some folks walked right up to my table. Others would look at my display and walk on by. Whether they stopped or not, I'd always try to make eye contact and say hello. If they showed the slightest interest, I'd say, "It's a humorous crime caper." (Pause.) "It's gotten great reviews everywhere except in Alamogordo." That typically raised an eyebrow or two. They'd look at the book and then at me, then ask "Why?" Then we had the makings of a conversation. "Well, I sent chapter one to the Friends of the Library," I'd say, "and it starts out with the villain. They objected that the villain has bad moral character and uses bad language, and that readers in Alamogordo wouldn't like it."

At this point, much eye rolling ensued. Many folks knew about Alamogordo's reputation (though I'm still not sure how to characterize the city myself). Yes, that's Alamogordo, they'd say. One gentleman who bought my book shook my hand and said on his way out the door, "Don't let anyone stop you from writing."


philipspires said...

Dear Bob

Thanks for the link to the blog article. I had toyed with the idea of taking a market stall to try and sell a few copies of my own book. I will toy a little more.. You may be interested in a three sentence review of a recently read book on "How to market your book" that I just posted on

Best wishes

Philip Spires

Bob Sanchez said...

Hi Philip,
I recognize you from the event at Coas. Nice to hear from you! It's crossed my mind to set up a table at the Farmer's Market instead of indoors at Coas. The FM is cheaper, since Coas charges 25% of the take if you bring your own stock, while I believe a table costs you about $3. But Coas is really a fine venue, and I'll go back there.

I read your blog entry. The Alison Baverstock comment about the correlation between author appearance and the saleability of a book leaves me skeptical. In any case, Philip, your looks are no impediment to your sales.

BookClover said...

I like what the gentleman told you. It's sweet and positive. Not many people would do so unfortunately. I have met quite a few willing to push you down and point out that writing is not a job, really ...