Wednesday, February 15, 2006

Throwing Book Plates (What a Way to Spend My 100th Entry)

I once went to a Greek restaurant for a friend’s 21st birthday, and they had us break plates on the dance floor in celebrations. Great stress reliever.

Throwing book plates, on the other hand, doesn’t really do anything since the paper just flutters out and floats down in a very unsatisfying way. I know this because yesterday I tossed an author’s book plates.

Insert your yelling at the evil bookseller here. Go ahead. Get it out or your system. It will make you feel better. I’m sure I kick puppies too. Just allow me to post the scenario before you hit the comment button.

You see, this author had called my bookstore during my lunch rush. Not a good time to call. If I had my way the phone would be turned off between the hours of twelve and two but then I couldn’t help customers. For future reference, the best time to call is in the morning because a.) someone with authority had to open the store (even if they are just a keyholder they can at least take your vitals) and b.) there aren’t as many people flooding in demanding attention.

Lunch time? Not good.

To add to that author calls when both of my registers are out of commission—one jammed and the other out of paper—and there was a long line of customers. I know that the author didn’t know this, I’m not blaming her for calling.

Hey, I like calling instead of just showing up and then looking disappointed (not to mention making me feel bad because you look disappointed), but said author was obviously prepared to do the hard sell going straight into their speech when I answered the phone. They didn’t even stop for breath (and therefore giving me a chance to jump in) until they’d reached the all important, “and I can give you my ISBN so you can look it up on my computer.”

At this point I explained that while I would love to, I was in the middle of fixing registers and my coworker was on said computer (the only thing still working, a miracle), and I couldn’t. I asked politely if I could get a number to call her back at a more convenient time—something I would have done. I don’t believe in the brush-off.

“No, no,” said the author, “just let me give you my ISBN.”

Halting my search for actual register tape with the company logo on it, I repeated my “let me call you back at a better time” request, but also scribbled down the ISBN number (after asking for the publisher).

“I really have to go,” I told the author. The book natives were getting restless.

“Oh sure, just let me know how many signed book plates you want me to send.”

Say what? I hadn’t even checked the book. I didn’t know if we carried it or if I could even order it. I had a line of customers, a stressed-out coworker, registers that weren’t working, and it was the freakin’ lunch rush! All of which I had explained to the author twice already in my best customer service voice. But now she wanted to know about book plates?

“I don’t know,” I finally said.

“Okay, I’ll send six.”


Before I could point out that this was a rather high number for a book I didn’t even know if I carried, the author said goodbye and hung up. Fine. Whatever. I got back to my work day.

But in the back of my mind, I kept thinking, “book plates?”

Oh, and not only did we not carry this author’s book, but I couldn’t find it in the system.

Still I was kind of looking forward to these book plates because I like book plates. I remember having these really pretty unicorn ones when I was nine and being obsessed with making sure everything was marked as MINE. Book plates had the potential to be kind of interesting.

I wondered if the author had them designed with a funny saying, or cool picture that tied in with the book.

I wondered how big they were.

I even considered the fact that if they were cool, I might go out of my way to get this book in through the secret bookselling back door of ordering through Books In Print.

Sadly, all my hopes were destroyed when we finally received the envelop (several weeks late due to a mailing error on the side of the post office), only to find it filled with cheap adhesive name tags. You know, the ones you buy from Party Supermarket with the ugly border. The ones that can’t be attached to suede or silk or anything other than plain old, indestructible polyester because the adhesive will gob off on the fabric.

Yeah, those.

For a book we didn’t have.

And to complete the bad high school reunion look she’d signed in marker.

Is this something that they are telling authors? That you should use cheap name plates? I mean, sure they have slightly more use than a bookmark, but come on people? Cheap adhesive name tags as plate stand-ins?

My little unicorn name plates would whinny in shame.

But perhaps I’m being too sensitive; she did call at an awful time.

Your thoughts on all of this?


lady t said...

Don't feel bad about tossing those plates out,BSC-if you didn't have the book in stock anyway,they'ld be pretty useless(not to mention that this author didn't have the sense to take the hint and let you off the phone when it was obvious that it was a bad time to call).

Was this an author published by one of the better known houses or a self published person? Just curious:)

Bookseller Chick said...

They were published by a small publisher, not a self-publisher, which is what gave me that tiny grain of hope. A lot of small presses do really quality work, and I like to support them if I can.

I just wish the author had saved us both time, effort and postage. Not to mention saved a tree.

Anonymous said...

Toss 'em. If you're going to send bookplates, you should at least make 'em look cool. I know plenty an interenet companyt hat could set you up with a few hundred nice ones for 60 bucks.

Eileen said...

I think you should have had a small cocktail party and let everyone where one as a name tag. Surely there is a drinking game in there somewhere. It would be useful if writing conferences had more presentors such as yourself to talk about the business side so newbies don't make this obvious mistakes.

Anonymous said...

I don't blame you for being irritated. You said you couldn't find the book on the system. Any chance it was a POD or vanity press book?

Not news to you, but I continue to be ASTOUNDED by the behavior of homo sapiens sapiens.

Kate R said...

Oh. It would never occur to me to send nice bookplates (but then it wouldn't occur to me to send any) . . .I know one bookseller who uses avery labels--she goes to conferences and ask the attending authors to sign the labels that she'll put on the books when she gets back to the store. I thought that was a great idea. Fancy-pants book plates. Hmmm.

Anonymous said...

Ummmm, what's a book plate? Anyone out there have a picture they can point me to?

christine fletcher said...

You were right to toss the book plates -- such as they were. After all the author's fuss and bother, why on earth didn't she send something that at least looked professional? And with so many gorgeous bookplates many lovely motifs...and beautiful script...and a really good pen to sign with...Heaven.

Sounds like this person was tone-deaf, all the way around.

Bookseller Chick said...

Thanks y'all. The book was from a small press, but not a vanity, which is one of the reasons I feel bad. I love small presses, they often produce some of the highest quality books (internal design wise). This definitely wasn't the highest quality publicity.