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The travails of authorship

Opinion: John Rice

November 12th, 2019 2:36 PM

By John Rice

Columnist / Staff reporter

Authors warned me that writing a book is easy compared to marketing one. Yes, but I didn't expect selling copies of The Ghost of Cleopatra would be the toughest job I ever tackled. I've tried mightily to publicize the book. I've contacted TV and radio stations, magazines and daily newspapers. I've reached out to schools, libraries and historical societies. 

Just finding a venue for a book signing is challenging. A friend recommended a museum on the North Side of Chicago. I called and the director couldn't have been nicer. We planned a book signing for Saturday, Oct. 26. 

On October 25, the museum's manager called me. He said they were expecting 20 people and I should provide pastries for these patrons. I wanted to bring top-of-the-line baked goods, so I went to my friend Joana at Twisted Cookie and ordered a tray of pastries for $85.

It was raining when I picked up the pastries and it continued to rain all night. I was worried it might affect turnout. I was also worried about driving to Uptown. Our good car was on a road trip in Indiana, so I was forced to drive the beater — the one with the missing muffler and slipping transmission. It took me 90 minutes in the torrential rain to reach the museum.

I arrived an hour early, so I could tour the exhibits. When I entered the museum, I was shocked to see the whole facility was less than 500 square feet in size. It did not take me an hour to tour the exhibits. I could see them all by turning my head. The "manager" was not there because he is a part-time student intern who is off on Saturdays.

Meanwhile, the director and her husband set up chairs. A half-hour later, the chairs remained empty. The director explained their patrons don't go out in the rain. I was ready to give up and go home. But she reminded me that I had promised a 90-minute presentation.

Finally, my niece and my friend who recommended the museum arrived. We gathered to discuss the book and enjoy the pastries. The director asked if I had brought coffee or tea to serve with the sweets. Instead of answering, I asked her for a cup of tea. Exactly one cupcake was consumed during the signing. No one bought a book, but I donated one to the museum collection. This brought my total losses to an even $100.

The next day, I brought the platter of pastries to a family gathering, but they barely made a dent in it. So I served what was left at the newspaper staff meeting. They pronounced them delicious. 

A few weeks later, I had another signing at a North Side venue. A friend had recommended a bookstore and I sent them $50 to rent the space. The plan was to charge $5 admission, so I could recoup my expenses. It was a very charming bookstore and the room I rented was cozy.

My friend showed up on time and paid her five bucks. Unfortunately, no one else came, probably because it was pouring rain again. We discussed the book and I gave my friend a copy. The evening wasn't a total loss, though, because the owner handed me my friend's five-dollar bill. 

I finally had a successful book signing at Centuries & Sleuths. I sold nine books and had a great time with the audience. Now I'm setting my sights on the South Side. I've booked an art gallery in Bronzeville. I don't have to bring pastries. They want wine, cheese and crackers. 

 

John Rice is a columnist/private detective, who has seen his business and family thrive in Forest Park. He thoroughly enjoys life in the village and still gets a thrill smelling Red Hots, watching softball and strolling through cemeteries. Jrice1038@aol.com

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