Tag Archives: book signings

The Yeti

Last year, as I was preparing for some of my first book signings, I did a bit of research on the Internets to look for some Really Useful Information that might guide me — you know, stuff like how long to speak, where inside the book you should sign, how long to take questions, whether you should wear pants, and so on. Some place — and now, I’m sorry to say, I can’t remember where — I came across a funny article about the unusual things people say at book signings. And near the top of the list was this corker: “I have lots of ideas for books — I’ll tell them to you, you write them, and we’ll split the profits.”

I’ve gotta admit, I’d heard something like this before, though it wasn’t directed at me, and it didn’t involve books per se. When I was shilling comic books back in the 1980s, I worked with a good friend who’d had some minor success writing and drawing underground comics. And every once in a while, I would spot him cornered in a remote section of the comic shop, with some eager comic fan enthusing in a highly-animated manner about his latest idea for a comic book character or scenario, always finishing by declaring it was a sure-fire hit, and explaining that it was now up to my friend to draw the darn thing so the two of them could split the millions of dollars the project was sure to rake in for its lucky publisher.

Now, that did sound a lot like the “Split The Profits” scenario I’d been warned about, but see, this was comics we’re talking about. We comics fans (yes, I’m one of them) tend to operate under our own unspoken set of rules and protocols. So approaching some other local writer/artist about a collaboration, while ballsy, didn’t strike me . . . well, as particularly ususual.

But that was comics; when it came to book signings, I was certain that the Split-The-Profiteer was, like the Yeti or Lochness Monster, either rumored to exist or spotted only once every decade in a fuzzy photograph. And I surely didn’t think that I would ever encounter one — I mean, come on, it’s just me, right?

I’m here to report the elusive Yeti exists — and I’ve seen it multiple times now. At nearly every event, I’ve been approached at some point by an enthusiastic aspiring writer who’s stood at the table and, even as I’m signing books for others, has described the subject of their proposed book with great gusto (I’m a non-fiction writer, so I don’t generally get people pitching their science fiction novels to me ). The best I can usually do is to smile and say, “Sounds like you know your subject really well — you’re the one who should write that!” And I mean it. I find their enthusiasm flattering. It’s flattering that they think I’m the one who could do their subject justice.

But listen, Split-the-Profiteers — and I say this with affection, because I know from experience your enthusiasm for your chosen subject: this is your project. It deserves your attention and work. Do your research. Organize your notes. Then write your book — because you can write your book a whole lot better than anyone else can.

Sailing to Philadelphia

On Wednesday, March 5, I had the great pleasure of making an appearance at the Central Library branch of the Free Library of Philadelphia — a really terrific venue, as you can see in the photo below. It’s one of those old library buildings (this one dates from the 1920s) that looks like the set of an old movie.

I took the train up to Philadelphia, only about an hour and some change away from the BWI station here in Maryland. The 30th Street station in Philly also looks like something off of an old movie set, with a departures/arrivals sign that still uses rolling numbers to indicate what time and at which gates trains are arriving, and the numbers flicker past with an audible whirr.

My reading wasn’t until 7:00 p.m., so my 10:24 a.m. arrival in Philadelphia left me plenty of time to do . . . well, something. I was considering heading straight for the library and spending the day just reading when I saw hanging above the south doors an enormous black banner advertising STAR WARS: THE SCIENCE BEHIND THE IMAGINATION over at the Franklin Institute. Decision made.

I found the Franklin Institute — which happened to be cattycorner to the Central Library — paid my sheckels, and headed straight for the exhibit. C-3P0 and R2-D2 (or, as it was always spelled in the Star Wars comics, Threepio and Artoo) stared down at me from another enormous banner, practically begging me to step inside. Who am I to ignore the icons of my childhood? In I went.

And I loved it. Much of the exhibit was geared towards hands-on exhibits for the younger set (“Build your own hovercraft using electromagnets!” one sign dared — this was, after all, a science exhibit) but to me, the real goods were the models and costumes. There was the actual landspeeder from the movie (on three wheels, ready for driving!), costumes for Threepio, Artoo, Darth Vader, and a Stormtrooper, even a display of their guns (though to my disappointment, Han Solo’s way cool pistol was not included).

Oh, and there was also this:

It doesn’t get much cooler than a four-foot model of the Millennium Falcon (or “Fulcun” as Harrison Ford — and even the model builders in the accompanying video — always pronounced it). My museum experience was complete.

As for the event I came for . . . well, I couldn’t have asked for a nicer, more responsive crowd. I spoke for about 30 minutes (hey, they came on a Wednesday evening, and I wanted to give them their money’s worth), mainly about Irving’s work on A History of New York and the hoax he pulled off to promote the book, then took questions for an hour. (The first question I got: “How come they don’t teach us this in school?” I couldn’t answer it.) All in all, a good time all around.

I walked back to the train station (passing on Market Street the first adult movie theater I can remember seeing in years) and was lucky enough to catch an earlier train back to Maryland than the one I had reserved. I made the 70 minute drive back home, finally crawling into bed around 1 a.m. And I still had to get up for work the next morning.

My thanks to everyone who came out to see me on their Wednesday night — and a special thanks to Lee Fishman at the Philadelphia Library for helping make the event possible.