It has rained the night before. At three or four that morning, lightning flashed and thunder rolled, and my family was wide awake. This always happens as a matter of habit when an early start is called for the next morning.
At 9 AM I’m due at Karen’s shop, which is just ten minutes away from our friends’ house. I have twenty-five copies of my book, Whom Must I Kill to Get Published?, twelve of which are still bubble-wrapped from their overseas journey from England—and one copy each of the other books from my imprint, diiarts. I’ve chosen a five-minute selection for my reading—where Detective Birdsong interrogates Wes Pennington about the events of his evening. So although there’s no caffeinated coffee in the house, I feel mostly ready for my first public book event in America—ready to sell my book, personalize copies and generally be a nice guy. With or without caffeine.
Five minutes to nine, Angela and I are circling downtown La Grange in our station wagon, the books in back, looking for somewhere to park. Of course Main Street is already blocked off, so we get a quick tour of a four-block square around the shop. But this is Angela, so ‘Road Closed’ is but a suggestion to be brushed aside. She pulls me up just feet away from Karen’s Book Barn and Java Stop, corner of Main and Walnut. There’s a tablecloth-covered table out front at the curb with two chairs behind it (one of them with a pink cardigan draped over the back), half of the tabletop already occupied by a professional-looking permanent display, two piles of books and a sort-of easel propping up a copy of one of the books.
This means my partner for the day, Lori Moore, is already there. She’s the friendly, open sort of person with a ready smile whom you feel like you’ve already known for ages on meeting her, which I am doing as I put down the DHL box and shake her hand. Around us, the parade-watchers are milling about on the sidewalk for a good vantage point. Word is, the parade starts at 10.
In the meantime, we tell each other about our books, and already it’s clear we’re most likely playing to different reading audiences. Lori has written in one book about her experience becoming a Christian in her thirties, and about learning to cope with the unexpected death of her husband. Me (in a mumble-y voice, explaining Whom): “It’s a murder mystery which morphs into a …um, er, spy romp.” (Looks down at sidewalk.)
Okay. I lay out seven or eight copies of Whom, kerfuffling over the best way to display my product, while realizing I’ve completely forgotten the U.S. retail price of my own book. About this time—roughly fifteen after nine—I also realize I’d better let Karen of Karen’s Book Barn that I’ve shown up.
So after Karen gets through with a customer at the counter, we introduce ourselves and shake hands. She doesn’t seem nonplussed or contemptuous when I don’t have an easy answer for her about how much to charge for my books. Fortunately, 7/99 works out to roughly $12.50 today, which is what we’ve established as the U.S. recommended wholesale price, I now remember. She generously prints a sign for me, and armed with the knowledge of how much my book costs and the visual means to convey this information, I head back outside.