It is not a secret that I am a tepid book reader.
This is not because I have an aversion to reading books. I simply have little time to devote to reading books. At the risk of sounding like the kindred spirit of a hack that seldom listens to music but composes a symphony on spoons, I recently finished writing my first book of 25 short humor essays, Lame Adventures: Unglamorous Tales From Manhattan. Currently my essentially invisible tome is in freefall. It’s # 712,595 with a boulder on Amazon’s Best Sellers Rank. This sinkhole ranking gives the impression that I have written my masterpiece on spoons. I have agonized over this situation and concluded that my tome’s problem is that only tens of about thirty people are aware of it, and they’ve all purchased it. Today I learned that my pal, Fellini, contacted The Bloggess about it. Yes, real deal humorist Jenny Lawson has given my book a welcome shout out. Maybe her endorsement will generate more e-book sales.
In an effort to lift my book’s dismal ranking a hundred thousand notches or maybe a realistic eight, I attended every librarian’s wet dream, BookExpo America.
BEA is a massive publishing event that was held at the Jacob Javits Center in Manhattan’s Hell’s Kitchen. Javits is a cavernous six-block long conference hall that could double as a town with central air conditioning. For published authors the entry fee was a seizure-inducing $199, but on the bright side, I was not smacked with a penalty fee for being semi-illiterate.
Prior to going I researched the more than 1000 exhibitors to see if any might be open to my brand of wit. I focused on nine publishers and three literary agencies. Once at Javits, I saw a crowd waiting in the lobby for the show to open at 9 A.M. Someone assumed that I was press, which struck me as odd, but I was wearing this Roz Chast cartoon tee shirt that must have given the false impression that I have a career.
After registering, I set out to find the agents who were in the International Rights Center located a floor above the show proper. On my way there, I found the beer.
And I narrowly missed getting run over by a Coke machine.
The third event in this leg of my journey was encountering a guard who stopped me and asked if I had an appointment. No appointment. No admittance. Even though she didn’t bare her teeth, I sensed that she was no nonsense.
Me: How do I go about getting an appointment?
Guard: Make phone calls.
She gestured toward a catalogue with names and numbers. I did not want to get bit in the shin so I took her advice. I spilled my guts to an assistant at one agency who was responsive. She arranged for me to leave my book with reception. A few of the publishers on my list that I visited on the exhibition floor were also receptive.
Time will tell if anything will come from any of these encounters or if the copies of my book that I handed out are destined to be mulch. In the exhibition area, I was deluged with exhibitors offering advance complimentary copies of all kinds of books. The vast majority I declined because I did not want to lug around 900 pounds of backbreaking clutter. Many attendees grab a copy of everything at this all you can read buffet.
Authors are also present to sign autographs.
I had little interest in collecting any autographs until I saw that my favorite living playwright, Tony Kushner, was signing copies of his screenplay, Lincoln.
He could sign a gum wrapper with William Wrigley’s initials and I’d wait in a line an hour for that. He won the Pulitzer Prize for his theatrical masterwork Angels in America and has twice been nominated for the Academy Award. He is such a brilliant writer the grocery list in his back pocket would likely sing to me.
It’s common at BEA for attendees to ask fellow attendees standing on epic lines whom they’re waiting for. Ninety-nine times out of a hundred it was for an author I had never heard of, but I quickly perfected the habit of nodding my white noise-filled head like I was familiar. When I encountered time one hundred, I learned that the line was for Jim Carrey. Yes, this guy.
He was signing autographs to drum up buzz for his children’s book How Roland Rolls. He wrote it with kids and his own grandson in mind. Even though it seemed like I stood in his line for the better part of a week, I met a fellow self-published author named Rainey who lives in Arizona and bonded with her. Bonding with people makes the long line waiting almost enjoyable. The people in front of us were very friendly, too. There was such a commotion when Jim Carrey arrived; I thought that maybe it was for another famous guy with the initials “JC”. I’m not thinking Jimmy Carter.
On my way to finding where an author was talking about her book, Real Happiness at Work, which from my own day job experience must be in the fantasy genre, I noticed a queue that stretched to infinity. Attendees were not waiting for a free book or an autograph from God. This horde was eager to have their picture taken with the Internet sensation Grumpy Cat. I had never heard of this cat until that moment at BEA. Grumpy Cat was born with feline dwarfism, a condition that leaves a permanent frown on her face, much like my fellow subway riders at rush hour. But no one would stand in a line crossing the border to meet them. My fellow line waiters there were terrific, too, especially Ellen the Wonderful, who is familiar with this blog. What a woman!
Around four o’clock the exhibitors unlocked the beer. Quaffing an icy cold one while socializing with pistol librarians like Jeanette from Newington, Connecticut and Debbie from Easton, Pennsylvania also makes the line-waiting pass much quicker.
Before leaving at the end of the long day, I visited the bathroom, but resisted the temptation to shill my book to the attendant there. The loo was plastered with Mad Libs stickers. Pictured below is the one that was inside my stall’s door.