The Stone Lantern

Sunday, June 18, 2006

Book Sense!

My publicist emailed me earlier this month to tell me that my book has been picked as a Top Pick for June by Book Sense, the association of independent booksellers of America. She's happy because it means that my book, The Haiku Apprentice: Memoirs of Writing Poetry in Japan, is featured in the monthly Book Sense flyer available at all Book Sense independent bookstores, and it puts me on the screen for reviewers and interviews. I'm happy because I feel less like an idiot when I walk into a book store and ask them if they'd be interested in stocking my book.

Walking in off the street to sell my book is what I'm doing all this week. I took the week off of work and drove down from Quebec to Washington, D.C., with a stash of books in my trunk. The hook is a talk I've been asked to give June 20, at the Japan Information and Cultural Center, jointly sponsored by the Japanese Embassy and the Japan America Society. The rest of the time, I'm popping into bookstores and promoting my book. I feel like an encyclopedia salesman. What's worse, my relatives keep asking me when the Washington Post or the New York Times is going to review my book. "And what's this Japan-America Society thing? How come Borders isn't asking you to do a signing?"

The big discovery for June? The same as last month: bookstore managers look at the word "Poetry" and roll their eyes. Poetry, it turns out, is a non-starter in America. Now I am catching on, so when I walk into a store, I quickly point to the word "Memoir" in the title. I even mention Diplomat. And Foreign Policy. And North Korea. (I really do talk about North Korea in my book. Check it out.) None of this seems to be enough to overcome the P word, and there being no sex or violence in my book. But Book Sense did select it as a Top Pick for June, didn't they? So it must be really, really well-written, right? I mean, because the sex isn't there. (Okay, so next time, I'm throwing in the sex and getting rid of the poetry.)

The winner of the Kindest Bookstore Employee of the Month Award goes to the woman at the Barnes & Noble on M street in Georgetown. If you are reading this (I am sure she isn't), thanks for your enthusiasm. "Oh, I love new authors and new books!" she said, and then she introduced me to the store book buyer and they both gave me the name of the events organizer. And they said they would order some of my books right away. And she liked the book cover. (Miss Manners Rule #3,405: There is no such thing as an ugly baby, and there is no such thing as an ugly book cover.) So I'm sending my buddies over there to buy copies. It's nice to have that warm feel of camaraderie in a bookstore, and it's especially impressive in a large chain.

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