I'm still in DC, posting from a friend's house. It's been a really fun weekend. Book Expo was cool. I got eight advance copies of books that look interesting to read, and I'll post about them as I do. I only took things I actually want to read. I turned down Uncle John's Golf Bathroom Reader, The Second Coming of Christ, Dining Out Seattle, and a whole bunch more. I also got to sign some advance copies of my book, which one blogger who was there called "the single coolest title I saw today." Neat. It's strange to sign books. I'd obviously never done it before, and in retrospect, I should have practiced my signature. I was told to make sure to ask who to make it out to, partly because it's nice to offer to make it out to someone, and partly because the people who just want your name are possibly going to sell the books on eBay, which publishers frown on. Having spent a day at the convention, and seen the bags and bags and bags and bags of books some people took (there's even a set of shipping windows there, so people who take more books than they can transport can ship them home), of course they're going to sell them on eBay. Support the publishing industry and don't buy advance copies on eBay. Also, don't pirate movies, and please silence your cell phones.
It's very hard to maintain consistent penmanship over the course of an hour signing books. It's also hard to write while someone is spelling their name and not make a mistake. It's easier to let them spell the whole name, and then write it. I ended up mostly just writing "To [name]" and then signing my name. Later, I got a book signed for a friend, and the author wrote a whole paragraph about how it's too bad the political system is all screwed up (that's what her book was about). Maybe I should come up with a standard signing message. Or maybe I shouldn't. I'm thinking I shouldn't. Anything I have to say about the book is in the book. "To [person I don't know]. I wish law firms let people go home for dinner." is probably unnecessary and silly. One person said the book was for her son, who she was trying to persuade not to go to law school. So I signed that with something silly like, "Listen to your mother." I should have spent eight more seconds thinking of something better. Maybe.
They give out a lot of books at Book Expo. Most big publishers feature two or three titles and have lots of copies. So it's easy to get accustomed to taking free books. Nevertheless, it still hurts an author's feelings if, while he's signing his books, you walk by, pick up a copy, look at it, put it down, and walk away. I'm standing right there. If you pick it up, pretend you want it, let me sign it, and then put it down somewhere later. It's okay, I know you don't have to want it, but, please, for me. Like the one woman who picked it up, looked at it for a while, and then when I said, "would you like me to sign it?" said, "no thanks, I'll pass," put it down, and walked away.
Also, try not to ask me to sign someone else's book. It's probably an innocent mistake, but the sign's pretty clear. I'll sign it, but you won't be happy when you realize what you've done.
And, while I'm happy to play along, because my publisher is standing right next to me and would probably want me to play along as best as I can, asking an author to "sell me on it," when he asks you if you want a signed copy of his book is sort of irritating.
Finally, it's probably bad form to say to someone who's trying to give you a copy of his work of fiction, "I'm trying to write a history book. You know, fiction's a lot easier to write than non-fiction. Fiction's a piece of cake. You can dash a piece of fiction out in no time, but non-fiction requires real research. I have thousands of pages written, but, you know, I've just never put it all together."
That was in response to my comment, "Oh, you have a shopping basket for all your books. That's convenient."
His shopping basket was indeed convenient, compared to the people dragging four canvas bags filled with books. But not as convenient as the woman in the scooter, with a cardboard box in the back that she was quickly filling up. I bet woman in scooter didn't even need the scooter. Woman in scooter probably sells books on eBay. Woman in scooter nearly ran over two people when she backed up after taking my book. Woman in scooter seemed like the kind of person who puts non-sale items on sale racks to get the sale price.
Oddest sight while I was signing books: man with two oxygen tanks. He must really like books. (If "manwithtwooxygentanks" is an eBay seller name, now you know where those books came from.)
Before signing my books, I walked around the Expo for a little while. All of the publishers have booths filled with books. Books in piles near the desks were usually advance copies for people to take. Books on shelves were for display. Publishers send by freight dozens of books they're not even giving away. Merely for display, to prove they publish books. It's very expensive. And sometimes confusing. What can you take, and what can you not take? Some publishers had samples of their display pieces -- racks that hold 48 copies of a book, rotating shelves, big posters that hold 12 books, etc. All that freight, and they had to ship it all back too, because those were for display only, not to take.
I noticed that booths with candy, incidentally, usually didn't have free books. It was like the candy was an apology. "We don't have any free books, sorry. But we do have mini Nestle Crunch bars. Enjoy. Although you can't sell them on eBay."
There was lots of candy around. Fudge, brownies, M&Ms, cookies, Hershey Kisses, mini Milky Ways, Google Book Search gave out cookies, the publisher of a book about Twinkies gave out Twinkies, I saw some gummi worms sitting in a bowl looking pretty lonely....
Also, the food at the Washington Convention Center didn't seem to match the event. I saw funnel cake. That's not really a book expo kind of thing. Books and funnel cake. Like a day sitting on the bench waiting for your kids to finish riding the roller coasters at the amusement park.
After the book signing, I got to go to my publisher's cocktail party at a place called Zengo, in Chinatown. The food they came around with was really good. I'd go back for a real meal. It was Asian-Latin fusion. Mini Lobster Arepas, Crab Empanadas, Ceviche in a chinese soup spoon, Peking Duck Rolls. Stuff like that. I got to meet some independent booksellers who own stores in New Mexico and Salt Lake City. They seemed nice. They're the people the Book Expo is mostly for. Independent booksellers who want to see what titles will be available and what they should order. I also met some foreign publishers. I hope my book gets translated into Dutch and they sell it in the Netherlands. That would be neat.
And the friends who told me RFK Stadium is an okay place to see a baseball game but nothing special are right. I saw Friday night's Orioles-Nationals game. Not a great game, but fun anyway. The chicken tenders at the ballpark were neither tender nor chicken. They were pretty much all breading. But that's okay. Breading is tasty.