Sunday, December 19, 2010

Visiting Nacogdoches

One of the problems with book signing seems to be the two types of businesses involved - newspapers for the publicity, and the bookstores themselves - are two of the businesses which have been hammered the worst in this recession.

One of the dirty little secrets of modern American businesses is how badly they under staff. Book stores are a prime example. They really don't hire enough people to do the work properly. Service suffers, and the they people they DO hire come in at a ridiculously low wage and really don't know anything about books.

Chain-owned newspapers also chronically under staff, and what's worse, they produce a workload and tell the employees they MUST do that work - when it it is a physical impossibility, therefore encouraging employees to work unpaid hours.

I saw this pattern back in the 1980s with the Harte-Hanks chain of newspapers, and they eventually had to divest of their newspapers as the state and federal government began investigating them for labor fraud.

It's not that the few employees who remain at a paper like the Sentinel don't mean well, they simply can't keep up with the work. I emailed a news release about my visit last Monday, and then made three of four phone calls during the week before actually getting the managing editor on the phone Friday. (One of the things you learn when calling these meager newspapers these days is that you hardly ever get anyone on the phone, because you probably have six people doing a dozen people's work).

She hadn't even had time to read my email. Of course, nothing ever got in the paper.

Meanwhile, I had sent the Hastings posters. When Patricia and I arrived Saturday afternoon, they didn't have my name on the sign and they never posted any of the posters. So there never was any advance notice of any kind.

Given that, I'm surprised I sold any books, but I did. Between the gas and the dinner (and some books we bought ourselves) I probably broke even.

I had called Joe Lansdale and let him know I would be in town. Joe and Karen came by the Hastings, and after Patricia and I left at 7 p.m. we all met at the Cotton Patch Cafe nearby.

Joe put his finger on the issue when he said Hastings will let you do a book signing, but they won't do a thing for you. That's why he doesn't bother with them, and I have to agree, he's right.

The week before, when I had my signing at Prospero's in Marshall, Don Falk put my posters in his window and blogged about it. He also put me near the front door (the Nacogdoches Hastings stuck me in a corner). I sold a lot more books.

Also, although the Marshall newspaper is another chain-owned plantation, they still managed to get some notice in there, which certainly helped.

Patricia and I both ate chicken fried steaks at the Cotton Patch - the outfit's speciality - and enjoyed visiting with Joe and Karen. Joe has a wealth of experience. I wish I saw him more often, but Nacogdoches is two hours away from Mount Pleasant - as far as Dallas.

The photo above is myself holding a copy of "Texas & Other Planets" with Joe and Karen inside the bookstore.

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