Wednesday, September 3, 2008

Selling Books, Researching Beer

Appearances and book signings are two major ways an author can improve sales. An "appearance" (these are my definitions) means giving a talk, answering questions, and, if some people in the audience brought along one of my books, signing it. I now have a speaker’s fee: $200. Sometimes I have to travel far enough to where the appearance is that expenses eat up most or all of the fee. And that’s all right, if the audience is large and happy to see me, because I make it up again in royalties.

At a signing, I’m there to sell books – or, anyway, to help a bookseller sell books. These generally happy in bookstores, but not always. I’ve done signings at quilt shows, conventions and in needlework shops.

I always dress up for these occasions, including a hat. I have a large collection of hats and delight in wearing them. They are becoming my "signature," which is wonderful. But also, dressing up makes it more of an occasion, it shows respect for the people who invited me.

I have found the most delightful store just a few blocks from where I live. It’s called The Four Firkins (a "firkin" is about nine gallons, or a small barrel that holds about nine gallons), and the proprietor sells beer, ale and wine in bewildering variety. As I probe deeper into the esoteric world of beer brewing, I am hearing about such things as gruit and barley wine. Without having to make it myself, I would very much like to taste these exotic varieties. And Proprietor Jason Alvey has them. Not just one or two, but large, broad shelves of them. Now, if you’re looking for a twelve-pack of Budweiser, you won’t find it at The Four Firkins. But if you want a Belgian saison, he has four or five brands. Also a large number of Anchor Beers – Anchor, of San Francisco, was one of the first microbreweries. And ales made without hops (one I bought was made with heather, another with juniper needles). He’s currently out of nettle beer – a very ancient kind – but will have it later. He has beer from several of the twelve remaining Trappist monasteries in Europe, whose recipes date to the dark ages. He has a German beer made from smoked (rather than roasted) barley. He has wheat beers. He has beers flavored with anise, coriander, and orange peel.

He knows the history of beer, he’s done some home brewing, he knows an enormous amount about what makes a good beer and a great beer and a stupid beer. I have signed up for his newsletter.

It’s so interesting, it’s enough to make me try harder to appreciate the taste of beer, maybe even to find a beer whose taste I really like. I hope I still have a working liver by the time I finished with Blackwork.


Betty Hechtman said...

I liked hearing about your signing and speaking. It is all still new to me and I'm trying to figure it out.

The beer part was fascinating. I'm not much of a drinker, but I'd be curious to taste all those different kinds of beer.

Kathryn Lilley said...

Great advice, Monica! I look terrible in hats, so I'll have to try to think of a different signature. I do dress up and bring cookies, but other ideas? Do you sign people up for your newsletter at your signings? I know one author who always wears some kind of animal print clothing, even if it's just her shoes. I kind of like that one!

Camille Minichino said...

I carry along a miniature scene with the books of authors I'm signing with, plus my own.
"Signatures" are fun ... Monica's is great!
And Monica seems to be having a lot of fun. I don't like beer, but I think I'll write a book where I have to research ice cream!

Linda O. Johnston said...

Fun post, Monica. I happen to like beer, the darker the better, but I really don't have enough knowledge about ingredients or breweries. Even so... Oktoberfest forever!

Dee Winter said...

I've heard lots of authors and I really loved meeting and seeing you. I love the hats, it's such a distinctive note, and you made me feel special that you took that extra time to look dazzling. And of course being a stitcher makes your books even more special. Thanks for a great series that I can recommend to my friends and customers.