I've spent this summer marketing my new novel, Her Sister's Shadow, doing readings and signings at various venues around New England. (Actually, the driving to the various venues has consumed much more of my summer than the readings themselves.)
For years I've listened eagerly to my favorite authors read and discuss their work in independent bookstores and town halls. This summer it was finally my turn to read. Armed with an annotated copy of my book: what to say before I read, what to read, and what to say about what I've just read; a page of "For Katy" stickers (my publisher left the dedication off my book, so I apply one of these stickers to each book I sign); the clothes I'll wear, encased in plastic to prevent wrinkling; a granola bar in case I can't find a restaurant or don't have time to eat; and my poster.
My publisher sent me a poster to take with me to readings. It was a large (about 2'x3') gorgeous and glossy rendering of my beautiful book cover. It came surrounded by bubble-wrap and embraced by a sturdy cardboard box. I carried it proudly into bookstores before my readings--usually very shortly before my readings--and the bookstore owners (somewhat surprised to see an author come in clutching a poster) would put it in the window, or near the book display, and then return it to me after the reading, neatly re-wrapped and entombed.
One week I had a reading some distance away, and a friend offered to deliver it to the bookstore a few days before the reading. This could only be a good thing, I thought, and dropped it off at her house. One thing led to another: that friend deputized another friend to make the actual delivery, the instructions got garbled, and the bookstore recycled my poster's packaging, assuming that I had given the poster to them. Given them my beloved poster! What were they thinking?
After the reading, I tucked the naked poster under my arm and headed home.
The next bookstore I visited kindly fabricated another case for my poster, using brown boxboard and masking tape. I was very grateful, as I'd planned to mail the poster to the next bookstore on my route, so they'd have it a full week before my reading. I left it in my back hall so I would remember to take it to the Post Office.
Perhaps some of you noticed the past tense in the second paragraph? On Saturday of that week, my diligent husband, whose purview in our household includes solid waste management, took my lovely poster, in its new housing, to the dump. To be fair, it did look like collapsed cardboard intended for the recycling bin.
No one but me misses that poster. In truth, very few probably saw it, but I'd become very attached, and grieved its loss. The poster represented success: it was so shiny and bright and full of promise. It was bigger than life. It was, in short, what marketing is all about. Now I must rely on myself to create that shiny, bright, bigger-than-life aura for my book without visual aids. I have to do it, I suppose, with language.