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September 08, 2009

My Day at the Bookstore, by Glenn Eichler

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 bloody cloth.

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 Fingerpaint.

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 abled?

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 fall.

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 key.

6:00.  You know what I hate?  Bookstores that don’t close at 6:00.

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.


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