Last week something very exciting happened to me: my book
came out. Stuffed!, written by me and
drawn by Nick Bertozzi, was published on September 1st, and since I’m not one
of your prolific, established authors like Philip Roth or Rachael Ray, to me it
was a big day. So big, in fact, that I
decided to go down to my local Barnes & Noble so I could see for myself the
first time someone came in to buy a copy.
Naturally I took notes throughout the day – you never know what you’ll
need for your memoirs – and rereading them that night, I thought: I bet my
fans would love to see these. So here’s
my journal of Stuffed!’s first day.
Sept. 1st, 8:50 AM.
Arrive at Barnes & Noble ten minutes before it opens. Obviously I’m a little overeager, but I’m not
the only one who’s here early. There’s
also a gaggle of five 12-year-old girls and a man with his hand wrapped in a
9:00. A Barnes &
Noble staffer unlocks the door and, before they can ask, informs the girls that
there’s still no new Twilight book and they should stop coming by every
morning. They talk it over and decide
that they might as well go to school, since it’s the first day and all. Guy with wrapped hand asks whether anyone has
written a book called Finger Reattachment Surgery for Dummies, and if so, is
there an audio edition? He’s having
trouble turning pages. Without waiting
to hear the answer, I scoot upstairs to the Graphic Novels section
9:01. There they are:
two copies of Stuffed! Only two? They must not have unpacked the rest of the
order yet. But anyway, these two are
right there on the shelf!... the
next-to-the-bottom shelf. Why so
low? Then I see the little sign
explaining that the books are arranged alphabetically by title. That explains why Stuffed! is next to the
first entry in Frank Miller’s new series, Sin City Preschool: Corpse in the
But that shelf is so low… what if I just move one copy of Stuffed!
to a higher shelf where casual browsers will see it? Maybe up at the top there between Batman: The
Haunted Dark Knight and Batman: The Night of Dark Hauntings.
9:05. I realize that
it probably won’t matter where Stuffed! is shelved, because I’ll be right here
when buyers come in and I can just show them where it is. And since this is publication day, pent-up
demand means these two copies will probably sell in the next five minutes.
10:10. Okay, no
buyers have come in. One guy did stop by
and thumb through a copy of Watchmen: The Annotated Guide to the non-Dolby
Version of the Movie Trailer, but where are my fans? I know they’re a cultured bunch, so I can
think of only two possible explanations: either 1) they’ve all gone to the
opening of the new African and Oceanic sculpture exhibit at the Met, or 2) Spencer
Gifts is having a sale on Beer Pong balls.
10:38. I’m now
convinced that Stuffed!’s placement on a low shelf is not only keeping my
readers from finding the book; somehow, it’s keeping them from finding the
Graphic Novels section at all. The urge
to move the two copies up to eye level grows almost overpowering. But what if one of my wheelchair-bound fans
catches me and interprets it as an act of prejudice against the differently
11:00. I’ve got
it: I’ll leave both copies on the ‘S’
shelf where they are, but remove all the other books from that shelf and
scatter them artfully on the floor to make it look like they just happened to
1:10 PM. Because I
have to carry out my plan when no store employee is looking, it takes me two
hours to complete, but it’s worth it. Stuffed!
really stands out, now that it’s on the shelf by itself. I gaze at it proudly for ten minutes, and
then realize I’m starving. Lunch.
1:30. Halfway through
my Triple Meat Italiano pizza (no one knows true Neapolitan cuisine like Pizza
Hut), it occurs to me that my wheelchair-bound fans probably won’t love the
floor full of books, either. It’s so
hard to please everyone.
2:00. Back from
lunch feeling queasy, and not just from the 3MI pie: someone has put all the
books back on the shelf and Stuffed! is now surrounded by very menacing Spawn
covers that I’m sure are causing my characters’ testicles to retract in
fear. A B&N staffer walks by, eyeing
me coldly, and I freeze: do they suspect me for dumping the books? I decide to
do the rest of my observing from a nearby easy chair, wearing sunglasses. If anyone asks, I’ll claim pinkeye.
3:00. This has been
an extraordinarily slow day for graphic novel sales. The only customers in the section in the last
hour have been two college students loudly debating why Tintin won’t come to
terms with his sexuality. Near my chair,
a security guard looks them over. I tell
him, “This morning I saw them pulling books off the ‘S’ shelf.”
3:30. I feel pretty
confident that sales of Stuffed! will pick up, now that school’s out for the
day. It crosses my mind that those Twilight
fans from this morning may come back, and I briefly consider taking out a
Sharpie and changing the title to Stuffed – With Delicious Blood From A Hottie! But if the store catches me vandalizing the
book they’ll surely make me buy it, and I already have a copy.
4:30. Still no
sales. On the plus side, I was here for
Story Time in the children’s section. If
you ask me, they should have locked up that Peter Rabbit and thrown away the
6:00. You know what I
hate? Bookstores that don’t close at
7:15. I am still in
my easy chair, wondering how long it takes to develop bedsores, when I spot
someone coming up the aisle. Her eyes
radiate intelligence… maybe too much intelligence. Is she just passing through Graphic Novels
on her way to Twelve-Hundred-Page Important Historic Biographies? I knew I should have pursued my idea for Gerald
Ford: The LSD Years... no! She stops at the GN section… she’s looking at the
‘S’ shelf… she’s picking up Stuffed!
7:19. Is she going to
put it back? No! No!
Don’t do that! I fight back the
strong urge to buy it myself and give it to her. I read somewhere that doing that can cut into
an author’s income.
7:20. Yes! She’s taking the book downstairs to the
cashiers! I have a reader! I watch joyfully as she pays. And from what I can tell she doesn’t have a
Barnes & Noble card, so there’s no discount to mar my triumph.
7:21. In the flush of
victory, I decide there’s no reason to stay here until the store closes at
9:00. It’s obvious that Stuffed! will be
a success – hell, this store alone has already sold half its copies. I close my notebook and prepare to
leave. If I hurry, I might even catch my
reader in the parking lot and surprise her with an autograph. I can’t do that for every fan, of course, but
this one is a special case. Besides, I
forgot to send her a card on Mother’s Day.