On the Book Promotion Trail…A Party of None

My eighth book – Fifty More Places To Play Golf Before You Die – came out a month or so back, and as the Christmas season approaches, it’s time to head out on the promotion trail. I find this less distasteful then some writers, perhaps because I come from a marketing/public relations background – and because I’ve come to understand that if I’m not willing to beat the drum, the ring of the cash registers will be very subdued. That, because publishers simply don’t have the resources to promote mid-level books very aggressively. In the five years since my first book came out, I’ve seen diminishing returns from my modest outreach efforts – book presentations and signings, local TV appearances and the like – but I still believe it’s important to do a bit of promotion. So last evening (November 2) found me at Powell’s Books. According my mid-level status, I was assigned to the Powell’s store in the west of Portland suburb of Beaverton, not the famous downtown store. Knowing that the Intel and Tektronix workers at neighboring corporate parks – a contingency that might be mildly interested in golf – would be long gone by the time of my 7 p.m. presentation, I had adjusted my expectations accordingly. On the ride over, I realized that the fifth game of the World Series was underway – that would further cut into my audience. So be it – when one or two gather in my name, I am there.

This estimate was a bit high.

When I arrived at the presentation area in the middle of the store, there were two ladies waiting amidst the 20 or 30 folding chairs that had been assembled. As they were obviously hoping to buy books for loved ones, I spared them my drivel and signed their books and sent them home to dinner, Dancing with the Stars or what have you. Doing so effectively reduced my audience by an infinite amount. The events coordinator and I stood by the dais, each smiling nervously. Ten minutes after my designated starting time, several young ladies – 19 or 20 – took a seat in the front row. I didn’t sense ‘passionate golfer’ or ‘buying gift for loved one’ in their mien. When their legal pads came out, I guessed why they were at Powell’s – book report due tomorrow for their community college communications class. And I was right.

So instead of discussing the wonders of Stanley Thompson or how caddying can supply Thai women with a good and reliable income, I went through the who, what and where of writing a book – just what they needed for their report. I also pointed out the coffee shop on the way out of the bookstore, should they need caffeine for the long night ahead…

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