So I was on the last leg of my seven-hour, 212-mile “Use All The Crayons!” Winter Book Tour when I began to ponder the ways in which my humble little stretch differed from one involving bestseller Dennis Lehane.
He’s the award-winning Boston author and screenwriter for blockbusters like “Mystic River,” “Gone, Baby, Gone,” and “Shutter Island.” He stays at the finest hotels, eats sumptuous meals and practically anything he desires. For all I know gets his pick of the each city’s finest hookers.
Me, I got in my 2007 Saturn Vue and drove to five Pittsburgh-area Barnes & Nobles, met some store managers, signed 50 books and snagged an Arby’s Beef & Cheddar at the drive-thru on the way home.
And, man, I swear it was all great. Great!
I got the news last week that all seven Pittsburgh-area Barnes & Nobles are now selling my book.
Getting a self-published book into Barnes & Noble is the literary equivalent of a walk-on player from a Division III school making the cut with an NFL team. The odds against it happening at all are very high.
When B&N decided in August to buy my book, they didn’t buy 10,000 copies.
They bought 10.
They sent all 10 to the store nearest me -- Greensburg, Pa. -- to see how they’d do.
Well, they did great -- and thanks to each and every one of you who helped make that happen.
So last week I’m in there to sign any new copies and the store manager tells me, “Hey, I’ve got good news. They’ve started selling your book in all the Pittsburgh stores. They either noticed how well it was doing here or one of our book buyers liked your book enough to order it for all the area stores.”
Either way, it’s a heady validation. The book is following the exact trajectory it needs to become a national success.
And I’m doing all I can to goose it along.
That meant driving to the stores, introducing myself to store personnel, signing the books and thanking them for anything they can do to increase the book’s visibility.
I guarantee you, they’ve never met an author like me.
I say this because they all asked if I needed a pen.
Apparently, many traditional authors are pampered enough to show up to sign books without pens. So I’m guessing my speculation about hookers isn’t that far off.
I not only came prepared with a working pen, I brought my deluxe box of 96 Crayola Crayons with safety-tuck crayon sharpener to prevent bloodshed from careless toddlers and drunken adults.
Each store had 10 copies. I’d sit there in the cafe for about 30 minutes doing my all dandy doodling.
The store managers and employees were uniformly wonderful. They were so enthused for me and several said they’d put my book on display at the high-traffic Customer Information desk in the center of the store. That was key to elevating sales in Greensburg.
So I’m sitting there at the last store thinking about how well the day had gone.
That’s when I felt a little twinge of anxiety.
What if this is as good as it gets? What if people in other parts of Pittsburgh don’t dig my book the way they are Greensburg? What if the run stops here?
I can’t let that happen.
That brings me back to Lehane and maybe the one thing we have in common: we’re both geniuses at self-promotion.
Lehane’s been in the news for offering to name a high-profile character in his next book after whomever finds his missing beagle, his beloved Tessa. The result has been an avalanche of national news stories about his devotion to the dog and the unique way he’s instigating a search.
I hope it succeeds. Despite the fact that he’s probably a fan of both Tom Brady and Bill Belichick, Lehane seems like a great guy.
What else could I do to stir interest in my book?
Then it hit me.
I’ll pay you to read it.
I took a $5 bill out of my wallet and tucked it cozy inside so it won’t fall out.
I’ll even tell you the exact location: It’s on page 13.
That’s important because page 13 is home to Tip no. 33:
Every time you stay in a hotel, take the Gideon’s Bible out of the drawer and open it to Luke 12:22. Read it and then put a five-dollar bill in between those pages and return the book to the drawer. The passage talks about how God always takes care of our needs and we shouldn’t worry about material things. If someone is looking for inspiration, perhaps your five-dollar bill will seem like a divine reminder.
I, in fact, do this often. I did a story about the Gideons and admire their mission.
Interesting factual trivia: hotel managers told me the item they most often find bookmarking the Bibles are condoms.
I won’t tell you any more other than to say the money book’s not in the Greensburg or Cranberry stores (as of now).
But from now on it’s going to be a staple of my secret signings. It’ll be another Easter egg reason for strangers to pick up the book and give it a browse.
Tell friends. In fact, I encourage you to join the fun by pulling a random copy from the Self-Improvement section and slipping a $5 or whatever between pages 12 and 13.
And this should go without saying but, please, leave only currency.
Keep the condoms for yourself.