Book Signings at PNBA: Above and Beyond

My dual personality is in full bloom today. It’s the first day of the PNBA (Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association) conference in Portland, Oregon. I have been going to bookseller conferences for a decade or so now. Since my wife and I own a bookstore, I always attend these shows with a bookseller badge hanging around my neck, even when I’m dragging around copies of my own books to peddle. Today, I have that bookseller badge, but it’s tucked in behind an author badge in the holder, as I’m primarily here to promote my newest book, Who Pooped in the Cascades? Having the author badge doesn’t stop me from turning into a drooling fanboy, though. I had a chance to meet one of my favorite authors today (Ivan Doig!), and I was utterly starstruck.

with Ivan Doig
My wife, Kathy, and I getting books signed by Ivan Doig. Yes, by the way, I’ve been right all these years. I asked him if he was offended that I suggest that people start with Dancing at the Rascal Fair when reading his McCaskill trilogy even though English Creek was written first. He said he agrees with me that it makes more sense to start with Rascal Fair because it’s first chronologically. I am vindicated!

Unlike most of the bookseller conferences, PNBA offered a whole track of seminar sessions designed for authors. This was a great idea, and the networking was worth every bit as much as the content of the sessions. There were authors, publishers, and editors in attendance, and I went through almost half of the business cards I brought to the show with me. Note to self: bring a bigger stack of cards next time.

My book signing is tomorrow afternoon, so at tonight’s “Nightcapper” author event I switched to the bookseller badge and collected signed books. About a score of authors ringed the room, sitting at tables with crisp white tablecloths and piles of their latest masterpiece. Most were in the mental zone authors tend to enter at a book signing. The process, while genuine, is routine: smile, make eye contact, chat for a moment, sign the book, move on. Some offered to personalize the books, while others waited to be asked. Autographs ranged from simple initials to elaborate signatures with little added comments.

In my post titled “7 book signing tips for children’s authors,” I talked about adding little extras to a signature. Tonight, Allie Brosh was going above and beyond the call of duty (wayyyy above), by offering to draw a picture of an animal on the title page of her book, Hyperbole and a Half, for anyone who asked. Any animal you asked for! I requested a Jackalope.

A jackalope by Allie Brosh
The jackalope that Allie Brosh drew for us.

Thanks, Allie. You have set the bar even higher. I once drew someone a picture of a wild boar and they thought it was a rhinoceros. How am I supposed to compete with what you’re doing?

Allie Brosh
My wife and I with Allie Brosh (she’s the one in the middle), as she finishes up the jackalope in our book.

Yes, by the way, those are wine glasses. I like this kind of book event. Wine and chocolate and books. I wasn’t going to have any wine, but right before visiting Allie, Mike Veseth signed a copy of Extreme Wine for me. How could I not have a glass of wine?

It’s been a good day. Technically, I was writing about today when I started this post, and now I’m writing about yesterday. We have an early morning start tomorrow (err … today), so I shall sign off and write more later.

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