I love The Onion. But just last week the comic geniuses at my favorite faux news service really put their finger on a new novelist's worst fears with: "Author Promoting Book Gives It Her All Whether It's Just 3 People Or A Crowd Of 9 People."
All effective humor is based in truth.
A few months ago I got an unexpected phone call. A bookstore events manager in northern Massachusetts invited me to do an event for Ski House Cookbook at her store. I nearly fell out of my chair, because as much as I love my book, it's been out for more than three years.
Of course I said yes, even though this lovely independent bookstores was more than two hours away, and even though it would require my cooking a a hot meal for the crowd to taste. But I believe in saying yes to lovely independent bookstores whenever possible.
But the night before the event, as I tossed paprika, cayenne pepper and brown sugar together for a dry rub, it began to snow. By the next morning, as I set a giant piece of pork shoulder into the slow cooker, there were twelve new inches of snow on the ground. All morning the pork filled my house with tantalizing smells while the snow continued to fall. I thought the event would be cancelled.
But the snow stopped by 3pm, just as I loaded 7 pounds of Spicy Pulled Pork (page 127!) into the back of my car and hit the road, my husband at my side. As we drew closer to the store, the snow banks grew even higher. I turned to my husband and said “this is going to be a disaster, right? Nobody will come out in this weather.”
"More pulled pork for me," was his only comment.
As I arrived with my vat of meat, there was a man standing at the counter, buying my book. I put down the crock pot and signed it for him. And the events manager was a super person, as I knew she would be. The store was adorable—with a crackling fire, serving plates and a tablecloth all set up and ready. The store was perfect, but it was also empty. The bell tinkled on the door as my customer departed, leaving no others in the shop except my own husband. As the time drew nearer, I signed piles of my book—piles as high as the snowdrifts outside—and tried not to worry about it. My one friend in the area called the store to say she couldn't dig out her car in time to make the drive.
At 7pm, five people turned up to sit on folding chairs and listen. I put on my apron and my game face. And I pulled pork while talking about spice rubs, food photography and recipe testing. Of course it was fun. Who wouldn't enjoy the chance to play the expert? And while I talked and took questions, one more woman ran through the door and sat down. She had my book in her lap. When I happened to mention something about the White Chicken Chili (page 124) she spoke up. “I made that dish tonight. In fact, while I made it my husband was reading the newspaper. He said ‘look honey! You can meet the author if you want to.’ So here I am. I cook from this book all the time. And I’m not a cook. I hate to cook. But I really love your book.”
And there it was—that one person who made the whole effort worthwhile.
Even though the events manager was disappointed by the turnout, even though the visit had required over four hours of cooking and driving, and even though my husband spent more on the books he bought at that store than I could ever hope to make on it, it wasn't a waste of time.
As we cleaned up afterwards, the events manager thanked me for coming and added “and we will sell these books for you. I promise.”
And she did. The Boston region was at the tippy top of my Bookscan numbers for an entire month.
And my husband did, in fact, enjoy an oversized portion of pulled pork.