Friday, September 19, 2008

A Thousand Miles and a Cloud of Dust

Earlier this week I was in Kroger buying three boxes of donuts for my lunch, when I happened upon the book and magazine rack. Suddenly, my mind hearkened back to a book-signing excursion. It was 1998, and the publisher had asked me to do a thousand mile book-signing tour around the Midwest (on my dime).

One of the places I visited was a Kroger store in Cincinnati, OH. For some reason, the publisher had set me up with signings in grocery stores, and when I arrived, the manager looked suprised, told me he'd never heard of me, and then led me to a small table that he popped up between the magazine rack and the frozen food aisle.

There were no books (luckily, I'd brought some in the trunk of my car, but I knew I would be eating the cost of every book I sold). But then, I was in a grocery store, so perhaps it was appropriate.

Of course, I didn't sell a single book, and every one who passed by asked me if I had any free samples. They thought I was sitting there because I had frozen yogurt, or snack crackers, or some other item dished out in bite-sized portions for sampling.

I'd say, "You wouldn't, by chance, be interested in buying a book, would you?"

They'd look at me and answer, "Heck no! I came in here to buy waffles! " or "Are you kidding? My wife sent me in here to get feminine products!" or "What's a book?"

It was one of the most humiliating experiences of my life and I'm still bearing the scars from it. Better yet, I also travelled to Columbus, OH, points south in Kentucky, many points in Indiana, Michigan, and several trips to Chicago, and every stop was the same. No one had heard of me, no one purchased a single book, and by the time the "tour" was over, I was a few thousand dollars in the hole from travel expenses, overnight lodging, and meals.

Book signings are a blast! Especially in grocery stores.

And that, ladies and gentlemen, is why I eat great, heaping mounds of donuts! I have to do something to forget, and donuts are my comfort food.

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