Learning Curve

The biggest surprise in this tour remains how many people were willing to donate and really, really wanted me to come to their towns. It's been three weeks and I'm still in shock.

The second biggest surprise is how few bookstores and coffeehouses would allow me to set up on short notice.

At first I tried calling them myself. But they acted like I was spritzing them with perfume. Oh, I wasn't aiming for Barnes & Noble; it takes months to get on a bookstore's calendar and even longer to wind through the red tape of a chain bookstore. They make the V.A. look swift and efficient.

But small new/used stores and coffeehouses? All it takes is a couple of tables set aside in the corner, folks. Then I advertise your coffeehouse across the nation and (hopefully) bring in business for an hour or two.

I've never had this problem before. I began doing the coffeehouse thing a few years ago, since the formal book signing is so stiff and intimidating (and the aforementioned paperwork is a pain in the ass). I would call about a week or two before I was in a town, ask if it's okay, they'd say yes. Sometimes they'd put up my flyer, sometimes not. It's all good. People show up or they don't, and if they don't, all I lose is a couple of dollars on coffee. The coffeehouse loses nothing.

But time and again, they seemed hesitant at best or outright said no. And I certainly don't want to go where I'm not wanted. Do my books smell funny?

I called in one of my two lovely assistants and sicced her on some of them. Spud's having a little better luck. She's nicer than I am. Maybe it's because I'm totally unknown in these cities, but I'm really surprised at the resistance.

Learning curve: I should have set up the tour first and then done the Kickstarter. I didn't do that because I thought it was unfair to set up a signing and then cancel it if the Kickstarter failed. Oops.

At this point, I'm about to give up on advance notice. Look, I wanted to drive business to small, local coffehouses and bookstores. But Starbucks doesn't care about advance notice. If we don't have a firm yes from a business in a given town by tomorrow noon, I'm going to pick a Starbucks and declare that the meeting point for anyone who wants books. I'll be the one with the skull-decorated laptop and a box next to her.

For the record, the current version of the schedule is:

Carlyle, Ill. - Harvest Thyme Festival

Indianapolis, Ind.
South Bend, Ind.

Fort Wayne, Ind.
Columbus, Ohio

Pittsburgh, Pa.
Harrisburg, Pa.

New York City

York, Pa.
Baltimore, Md.

Charlottesville, Va.
Charlotte, N.C.

Atlanta, Ga.
Birmingham, Ala.

Memphis, Tenn.

I might also add that if you live along this route and I don't plan to stop in your town, drop me a line! I have absolutely no problem stopping at a given exit and meeting you. That's the whole point of this thing! :)