My first interview leaping from restaurants to the book business, the manager of a Barnes & Noble warned me, "People who read are very high maintenance customers because they think they know everything." I've been a bookseller for ten years. Cynical as they are, I haven't been able to erase her words from my mind.
Whether readers are smarter than non-readers or we just think we are, and whether Books & Books shoppers are smarter than the average reader, we get our fair share of clueless customers. Of course, I use the term "customer" very loosely. According to Webster's, a customer is someone who pays for goods and services.
Depending on whose head count you believe, 500-700 people showed up to hear Ingrid Betancourt in conjunction with the Florida Center for the Literary Arts and Miami Dade College. Books & Books gave out 600 free tickets. I think 700 was suggested because it was Standing Room Only, but I doubt every single seat was filled. Let's say that for a book event, this was a Hell-a-ton O' Folks. It's an industry term.
The good news is, hell-a-ton does not need to be exaggerated to any publisher or publicist. I have no idea what we're telling Penguin we sold, but the bad news is our actual sales: 26 in English, 35 in Spanish. 10% sell-through? As our events co-ordinator put it, "That's the saddest thing I've heard all day."
Lugging books downtown only to lug them back to the store might - might - have been tolerable, if not for this person:
|Look, it's Ingrid's elbow!|
Pardon the crappy cell phone shot. If you can't tell, it's a Barnes & Noble bag.
I wish I could say it's the first time I've seen people bring A-Word and B-Word books to see authors we've brought to Miami, but... no. Let's hope, after Books & Books shuts down because no one who came to our events could be bothered to buy a book, that Barnes & Noble will be there to host sixty events a month. If they're not too busy closing stores.