I don't know whether to shoot you or adopt you

Our local Friends of the Library have an annual luncheon where they invite an author – usually one who writes literary fiction – to come and speak to the group.  Bottom Shelf volunteers also show up with a selection of fine, and sometimes collectible, used books that have been set aside during the preceding months for the very purpose of offering them to luncheon attendees.  Because of the guest author – or because of the kind of books the guest author writes – these luncheon attendees are, for the most part, older women.  And because of that, the Bottom Shelf, while providing a selection of material with appeal to Civil War buffs, motorcycle enthusiasts, sports fans and the like, dedicates most of the table space to cookbooks, art books, and children’s books, which sell very well to the typical luncheon-goer who is more often than not thinking ahead to Christmas and birthdays, and is thus able to get some very nice bargains for the various children, cooks, and art lovers amongst her acquaintances.

This year, however, the Friends were able to line up a shimmering, glowing superstar in the literary firmament:  Dean Koontz.  He's a genre writer instead of a literary author, and one of the most popular novelists EVER.  And that’s why the Bottom Shelf sold almost no books at the luncheon.

It wasn’t Dean Koontz’s fault.  Much.  It was we at the Bottom Shelf who failed to realize that such an author would attract a large number of luncheon attendees who couldn’t care less about art or recipes or children’s books, let alone Civil War battles or some pro golfer’s advice on how to improve your swing.  We know our community, but we didn’t reckon on the impact the Dean Koontz fanship from outside the community would have.

Also, it was very crowded and no one could see our tables, even if they had been interested in our books.  But that’s okay.  It was an opportunity for us to learn a lesson:  bring more books by the celebrated author and not so much of anything else.

The crowded venue

 Our little nook full of unwanted books

From the point of view of selling books, we did not do so well, but from the point of view of choosing an excellent guest author, our luncheon was a huge success.  Dean Koontz was a very entertaining and hilarious speaker, and was generous with his time in making sure that everyone got their books signed, even if it meant going to a less secure location out on the veranda after the luncheon ended because the venue managers had to start setting up for the next function (a wedding).

Dean Koontz signs books for all and sundry

And when I say less secure, I’m not joking.  Because of Koontz’s fame and because of the kind of books he writes, several fanatics have been attracted to him and have either 1) tried to adopt themselves into his family, 2) written creepy letters to him, or 3) threatened his life.

I can understand some fan behavior.  I regularly get books signed by my favorite authors.  I have a little more trouble with the concept of the fan letter, though.  Maybe it’s because I’m naturally shy, but it seems kind of weird to write someone – an actor, for instance – what is essentially a love letter based on your familiarity with a character they were only pretending to be, or, in the case of an author, based on a fictitious work.  I did write a fan letter to Nancy Kwan after seeing her in Disney’s film “Lt Robin Crusoe, USN” (with Dick Van Dyke) when I was ten years old.  She sent me an autographed picture postcard of herself in reply, and I have cherished it ever since.  (Except I don’t know where it is.  I cherish it in absentia, I guess.)  But I never told Nancy Kwan she was my mother. 

Anyway, circumstances being what they are, Dean Koontz brought his own security to the luncheon, and they were much in evidence, particularly after he moved out of the dining area and onto the veranda.  It was the first time we'd experienced anything like that at a FOFL luncheon.

I hope the Friends will continue to invite the occasional genre author to future luncheons. Doing so appeals to a much broader audience – and the Bottom Shelf managers will, I hope, now be prepared for such an audience and adjust their luncheon book offerings accordingly.


Shannon said...

Looks like a grand time (get it get it?)! I hope next time you guys can acquire a ton of author-related books before the luncheon so you can go out with a bang (but keep Dean Koontz out of the way).

Jared and Megan said...

Did you guys sell tickets to the luncheon? It does look like a lot of people came, so that's cool. Sorry you didn't sell many books though!

I know you often (always?) use quotes for blog titles... So I'm curious - is this blog title from something?!

Janeite42 said...

We did sell tickets, and even though it was at a slightly higher price than usual (because of the change of venue), we sold way more tickets than we normally do. We could have sold even more if we'd had the space.

You're right, I always use quotes -- usually from films but sometimes from books or tv shows -- and this one is from Scent of a Woman, which I have never seen and do not plan to see.