For those aspiring cookbook writers or for those about to go on their first book tour allow me to offer some helpful advice I wish I had been given.
Shit happens. Roll With It.
I had an event where after plenty of email communication it still went to hell.
The venue insisted that they did not want to sell books themselves so I organized a third party bookseller, a locally owned mom-n-pop shop, to come in and sell the books instead.
Quick aside: Never assume anything. Always do more PR and marketing.
The day of the event I arrived and learned that the venue had completely forgotten I was coming. Of course, this means they had done absolutely no marketing of the event. I was suddenly running a book signing that no one - not even the employees - was aware of. The only sales made were to friends in the area whom I had personally invited. It didn't help that the owner was beyond rude to me and the bookseller, telling us we were taking up too much space and killing their cheese sales and asking when we would leave; all in front of customers, mind you.
Still, I was gracious, thanked everyone, and made the best of it. The bookseller bought the rest of the books, had me sign them, and I found out that they loved me so much that they made an internal PR push and sold them all of their copies in three days, which prompted them to order three more cases of books! Huzzah! As the saying goes, "When life gives you lemons, make a chocolate cake and leaves the bitches wondering how you did it."
That might just be me, though.
The next day, the venue owner called me in a huge huff. He was appalled that a third party bookstore had been making sales in their store. They then demanded recompense and a share of all sales. I pointed out that they had agreed to the arrangement and had themselves requested for the third party to sell books as they had made the point that they had not wanted to be bothered. The owner was indignant and insisted I had made an error. In reply I directed the owner to read his e-mail. As he did, I noted that the third party bookstore had purchased the copies and sold the copies. Their sales. Their money. Furthermore, there weren't that many sales because the venue had forgotten I was coming at all, done no marketing, and had even lost the posters I had sent them to promote the event.
"Well, okay…" the owner said, "that's besides the point."
"Uh huh. Find the emails?"
"And?" I asked.
"Okay, we did agree. But still!"
At that point I directed him to the publisher's PR manager and told him that to demand recompense was not only douche-y, but illegal.
You're going to deal with crap like this. Just move on, learn from it, and ensure the next event is a success.
Carry A Copy of Your Book With You. Always.
There will be many times when you will be having a conversation with a friend, co-worker, someone you've just met at a party, your ex-boyfriend's new arm candy, that dude you know you kind of probably slept with once ten years ago and you don't really remember but he certainly does and you feel guilty and a little slutty about it and somehow the topic of your book will come up. Undoubtedly, they will ask if you happen to have a copy that they could see.
Your answer should be yes. Always. Keep a copy you don't mind getting a bit beaten up in your purse, backpack, saddlebag, whathaveyou at all times. There's a very good chance you will be able to sell that copy right then and there. In the process of the conversation you've essentially sales pitched it and someone is ready to buy. The worst thing you can do is not have a product to sell.
Even worse, it could be the owner of a business who wants to stock your book, but without seeing it what can they do? Yes, you can meet up tomorrow, but you add salt to boiling water and not cold for a reason: reactions happen when things are hot.
Even better, keep a box of books in your car. You never know when you'll suddenly be able to unload them all. In a related note, invest in a Square. It allows you to use an iPhone or iPad to take credit cards as payment, create records, and generate receipts. In a world where few people have cash on hand it's a necessary tool.
I also sold my books at discount for chefs and students as these people will likely be future customers and current praise singers.
After you finish an event, thank everyone involved. The waiters, the booksellers, the managers, the event planners, everyone. In addition, send a thank you note via email or - you dapper bitch you - send a real note as that shit is classy.
Here's what, when your event is done the people who work at the event site are still there. The booksellers and waiters are the ones who will continue to sell your book, praise it to customers, and up-sell it. Act with dignity and good graces so that you leave a good impression on everyone. If they like you, they'll want everyone else to like you.
About having an event. About pitching an article. About doing a radio or television interview. About carrying your book. About teaming up. About asking a favor. About staying the night. About getting a ride. About watching your dog. About where you can park. About if they can make the samples or do the shopping ahead of time for you. About getting them a review copy.
You would be surprised how often the answer is yes. But you have to ask first.
- Cash (for making change or unexpected toll roads)
- Quarters (for parking meters)
- Business Cards
- Pain Killers
- Anxiety meds
- Bottled Water
- A copy of your book, with more in the car
- Book on tape (for when you're driving to god knows where)
Likely you're going to be doing a lot of events where you are cooking some go-to recipes from your book to use as samples. You will begin to get very tired of these recipes after you make them for the twenty-seventh time.
Do yourself a favor and cook something else totally unrelated. I made a lot of salads and fresh fish, went out for Thai food, indulged in Vietnamese pho and larb, and laid waste to many plates of nachos. I even baked a few cakes and grilled some ribs for no other reason than they weren't mac and cheese.
You will need this creative outlet as a form of respite for your mind and your mouth. Any pauses in your book tour are a perfect time to eat and cook some recipes that you've had on the back burner.
For me it was these rhubarb scones. Simple, sweet, and plenty tart. Best with black tea. No cream or sugar.
3 stalks rhubarb
1/2 cup sugar
1 tablespoons grated ginger
2 1/2 cups flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon salt
8 tablespoons unsalted butter, diced
3/4 cup heavy cream + more for brushing
1/2 teaspoon vanilla extract
1. Preheat oven to 425.
2. Slice rhubarb stalks 1/4 " thick. Toss with 1/4 cup of the sugar and the ginger.
3. Whisk together the flour, baking powder and salt together in large bowl. Cut the butter into flour mixture by hand using a pastry cutter or some forks until your hands are tired.
4. Blend in 1/4 cup of the sugar. Toss in the sliced rhubarb.
5. Add the cream and form together using your hands. Get dirty. Deal with it. Blend until a soft dough forms.
6. Transfer dough to floured surface and divide in half. Form into two discs and cut into 6-8 pieces each.
7. Place on a parchment-lined cookie sheet and brush with a bit of cream because hell yeah more cream. Bake about 20-25 minutes or until the edges brown a bit.