After the short drive on I-74 to Peoria, we enjoyed a long, relaxed dinner at the Olive Garden on my company's tab. We got to Borders about half an hour before my signing. Despite the morale bust of Normal, I was excited about Peoria. At least one bike club had published my invitation in their newsletter, local outdoors writer Jeff Lampe had given the book a positive review and listed my signing in his "upcoming events" column for two weeks, and a friend had said he would try to get his racing friends to come. Surely Biking Illinois would play in Peoria.
The employee who welcomed me was already familiar with the book, having looked up the Rock Island State Trail before I arrived. He was a runner who had done a lot of preparation for the Gay Games marathon (in Chicago) on that trail. I hope for his sake that next weekend is cooler; running a marathon in this heat can be miserable or even deadly (the LaSalle Banks Chicago Marathon is held in October to avoid such weather). He made an announcement at 7 PM as I prepared myself for the hordes of cyclists anxious to get a copy of my book. Half an hour later, I was still waiting for the hordes when a middle-aged couple came in. They had seen the signing in the newspaper (thanks, Jeff!). We talked for a while as both thumbed through copies, and then I signed one for them.
That turned out to be the highlight of my evening. I talked to several others briefly, some of whom seemed pretty interested, but no one was willing to pony up for a book. One guy said his son was a bike racer in Chicago, so I gave him a business card hoping for a future sale. And that was it. One book for the whole night. I had arrived confident that Peoria would easily exceed Normal, and it turned out to be even worse. At least the Borders guy let me sign six books for stock, quite reasonable as opposed to the two that I signed for Normal. He blamed the heat for my poor turnout, as well as competition from other weekend events -- a balloon festival to the west and a county fair to the east.
I hadn't expected to draw a Stephen King-sized crowd in central Illinois, but I had hoped to sell more than fifteen books. If not for Champaign, my weekend book tour would have been a complete disaster. At least my trip to the Quad Cities had paid for itself. On the bright side, I enjoyed meeting the people who did come out, and it was nice to get away for a weekend, especially since I could deduct it all as business expense (now if only I had more business income this year).
Next up: Thursday night at The Book Cellar on Lincoln Avenue. At least it won't cost me anything to get there since I can walk!