Thursday, August 17, 2006

My Night as a Star

After signing books at six other Borders locations, I thought I knew the routine pretty well. Each store has its quirks, but they are similar enough: walk in, introduce yourself, sit at the table, and sign books, answering questions along the way. Lincoln Village, my last stop on the Borders Across Illinois Tour, was much different.

I must admit I had high hopes for this signing. It was mentioned in several newspapers, most notably the area's top alternative weekly, The Chicago Reader. They even put it on "The List," a day-by-day calendar of featured events. In other words, The Reader declared it the thing to do on Wednesday, August 16.

When I arrived, I saw a display rack advertising my appearance, but I didn't see a table anywhere. So much for attracting people as they walked in the door. Then I went upstairs. Several employees were setting up chairs, a table (no black cloth this time)... and a sound system. Yikes, a microphone! When I introduced myself, I was invited into the back room, behind the "staff only" door. An ice bucket filled with bottled water was waiting for me. It was like sitting in the green room. I talked with an employee for a while, and then she made an announcement on the PA system. She escorted me out to my table and read a brief introduction. There were about 15 people there, and they applauded me!

Since I don't really have a presentation as such, I asked if anyone had questions. Fortunately, I spoke loudly enough that the microphone was unnecessary. We had a pretty good discussion that managed to stay on-topic (i.e. about the book, not about a broad range of cycling issues). On reflection, I am glad this type of event happened now instead of a couple of months ago. I have talked about the book enough that I speak much more easily and confidently than I did during my first signing.

The crowd was genuinely enthusiastic. One couple had just completed the Grand Illinois Trail, and they were anxious to explore the places in my book. Another reminded me that one of the trails in my book was just beyond the Borders parking lot (somehow I had forgotten to mention it). One highlight of the evening was talking with a man raised in Metropolis. He was looking for rides he could do on the way home. I took great pleasure in pointing out the index subheading "Along I-57" followed by six rides. He smiled. "Yep, that's me, 300 miles down I-57!" Lots of people asked questions, and there were several employees on hand to help me with everything. This was definitely the most professionally executed and organized signing I have done. I really felt like a star.

So what was my total for the night? I'm not sure. I was so busy talking that I didn't keep count very well. To my surprise, not everyone who bought a book wanted an autograph. I signed about six books but probably sold twice as many.

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