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Book Signings in Yellowstone Park


Upcoming Appearances Header

I will be signing copies of the Yellowstone edition of Who Pooped in the Park at the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone Park on Friday, August 5 and Saturday, August 6. If you’re going to be in or near the Park, stop by and see me! I will be in the lobby, right outside the gift shop, 11:00 to 6:00 Friday and 11:00 to 4:00 Saturday.

Who Pooped? Yellowstone

The Old Faithful Inn is one of my favorite places to sign books. Since there’s no wi-fi there—and no cell service to speak of—everybody is focused on the world around them instead of their phones. That, of course, includes me. Sometimes, when there’s nobody looking at my books, I’ll just jot down random thoughts. A lot of the ideas for my new book (Gary’s Guide to Successful Book Signings) came from the Old Faithful Inn. I’ve made plenty of book signing observations from Yellowstone Park, so I’ll skip those this time, and just ruminate on the differences in recent book signings.

In June, I was in New York City, signing copies of Who Pooped in Central Park and Myths & Legends of Tea. It’s a very different experience.

The Who Pooped signings in the big national parks generally draw nature lovers, and most of the people that stop by the table are in no hurry to be anywhere. The idea of a book about poop throws a few people, but most are intrigued by it. The crowds at the NYC bookstores that hosted my Who Pooped signings (Book Culture and Bank Street Bookstore) were definitely different. By the time I was done reading, they were ready to buy a book (hopefully) and hit the road. Very few people wanted to just hang around and chat. Quite a few people—including bookstore owners—found the subject matter offputting. My publicist was told by two different stores that animal poop isn’t an appropriate subject for their stores. Luckily, the stores that hosted me were open-minded and fun, and the people at the Central Park Conservancy thought the book was a cool idea.

The Myths & Legends signing in NYC was a whole different world. It was about storytelling and drinking tea. The people who came hung out to chat and ask questions. The store owners prepared different tea samples for different stories from the book. It wasn’t like a national park book signing where I wait for people to stop at the table. I just stood and told stories. If you’ve never visited the Monkey Cup in New York City, stop and see them. It’s worth the visit!

 

See you in the Big Apple!


Next week, I head to New York City on a book tour. The schedule still isn’t completely nailed down—why have a final schedule a week before the trip?—but I’d love to have you join me at one of these public events that we do have finalized. All of the events are completely free and no reservations are required. I’ll be signing books at all of them.

Central Park signing banner-Book Culture

Monkey Cup banner-Twitter

Central Park signing banner-Bank Street

The end of an era … and start of a new one


UPDATE, OCTOBER 2017
As much as it saddens me to say this, I would discourage anyone from investing in This House of Books until they have either replaced the Board leadership or taken positive steps to correct the horrible situation they’ve created for the co-op—and me. See details in my post of October 20.

End of an era header

The bookstore Kathy and I purchased in 2001 is closing. For the first time in thirty years, the town of Red Lodge will be without a bookstore. I feel sad and guilty about it, but I also feel giddy and excited about what’s coming. If ever there was a personification of “mixed emotions,” it’s me. Right now.

A group about an hour away in Billings is building something really cool: a co-op bookstore. Individuals can buy a voting share for just $100 (Contact me! We’ll get you in on this!) and dividend shares for $500 apiece. Several of the founding members—and a lot of the people getting involved now—are published authors. This will be a store entirely owned and operated by book lovers, and they’ve hired me to be the General Manager and pull all of the pieces together! They’ve also purchased all of the assets of Red Lodge Books & Tea, which brings me back to the lead story here (I’ll write more about the co-op in many, many upcoming posts).

When we bought our store from my friend Randy Tracy, it was a small store smack in the middle of downtown Red Lodge, Montana, right across the street from the iconic Red Lodge Café. It was called the Broadway Bookstore, although I changed the name when I discovered that (a) Broadway Books is trademarked by Random House, and (b) there was an “adult” bookstore called Broadway Books & Videos just an hour away.

When I took over the store, it was mostly used books, and the new books were predominantly local history and guidebooks. Over the next few years, we shifted the focus to be more about new books, finally eliminating the used books entirely when the library a few blocks away started doing monthly used book sales (it’s hard to compete with 25 cent books). We tried many experiments, some of which succeeded wildly (like our tea bar), and some of which flopped horribly (like greeting cards). Luckily, we’ll be keeping all of the really good stuff in the move to Billings.

The store has been a family affair. I’ve been there full-time and Kathy’s been there part-time for as long as we’ve owned it. Both of our kids have worked at the store (one is still there, as the Tea Bar Manager). When we were publishing the Red Lodge Local Rag, the office was in the back of the bookstore. When the Local Rag book came out last winter, it launched at the bookstore. Our grandson is as comfortable in the store as he is at our house.

Perhaps the greatest thing about the fifteen years we’ve spent running Red Lodge Books & Tea is the people we’ve gotten to meet. The book trade is simply filled with great people, and most of them are eager to share what they know. I’ve learned from other bookstores in Montana, like Chapter One, Fact & Fiction, Country Bookshelf, Montana Book & Toy Company, Thomas Books, Vargo’s Books & Jazz, and Barjon’s Books. I’ve met bookstore owners and booksellers at book conferences all over the West, and they’ve been helpful and friendly.

And then there are the authors.

We’ve had self-published local authors and New York Times bestselling authors, locals and authors from thousands of miles away. We’ve had events where nobody showed up, events so big we had to move them to the library, and events even bigger than that which we had to hold at the Elks. We’ve had events with police protection, parties with free beer & wine, cookbook signings with free food, and midnight Harry Potter parties with lines out the door and down the sidewalk. You want to know where I got a lot of the material for my new book about book signings? Right here!

I’ve become friends with a lot of those authors, and I sincerely hope that they’ll come up and do events at the new Billings store when we open it late this summer or early this fall.

The toughest part of this whole deal is my feelings that I’m abandoning Red Lodge. For almost fifteen years, Kathy & I have been active parts of the community. Between us, we’ve served on the boards of the Chamber of Commerce, Downtown Merchants Association, Yellowstone Wildlife Sanctuary, Red Lodge Festival of Nations, Convention & Visitors Bureau, Red Lodge Proud & Beautiful, and Beartooth Elks Lodge. We’ve worked on City committees, the Red Lodge Branding Initiative, and the Christmas Stroll. We’ve sponsored events all over town, and I’ve emceed events all over town. But most of all, we’ve given Red Lodge a place to buy books, hang out with other book lovers, meet authors, and have a great cup of tea. I’m going to miss that.

Kathy’s staying active in many of those downtown groups, but for the next year while I’m getting that co-op up and running in Billings, I won’t be able to. I’m not moving, but I’m not quite staying here, either.

Closing Red Lodge Books & Tea is, indeed, the end of an era. It’s been a good era. And I think the new era is going to be a good one, too. We’ll never be able to fill the gap that Susan Thomas left behind when she retired and closed up Thomas Books, but we’ll do our best to build a thriving bookstore and literary hub right in the middle of downtown Billings. It’s a big challenge, and I’m looking forward to it.

Why bookstores offer a place to sit


Quite some time ago, I signed up for Quora. It was an impulse thing because I got an invite from a friend. Every so often, I scan through my emails from them and look for questions that interest me, or things that friends have written. Up until today, I’ve never felt the impulse to sit down and type out an answer.

Then I saw the question, “Why do bookstores have reading areas?” That’s a question that I pondered occasionally back in the days when I hung out in bookstores but didn’t own one. It became more pertinent when Kathy and I bought a bookshop. So I wrote an answer:

When I bought my bookstore more than 13 years ago, it was tiny. The whole store fit in less than 500 square feet, yet the previous owners had made room for two well-worn but comfortable armchairs. Over the years that I’ve owned the store, the amount of seating has ebbed and flowed: couches have come and gone, we’ve had wicker chairs, benches, and stools. Today, we still have those two threadbare armchairs.

The reason is simple: if people can sit down and look through the books, they will stay in the store longer and they will buy more books. Why do people shop in physical bookstores in 2014? Because they want to interact with physical books and talk to book lovers. They want to heft the books. They want to compare similar books to decide which one(s) they want. And every study says that the longer they shop, the more they buy.

As Drew mentioned in his answer, stores want to be the “third place” in your life after home and work. That’s why we have a tea bar and many other bookstores have coffee shops. That’s why we have game nights. That’s why bookstores love to host book clubs. That’s why bookstores bring in authors for signings and talks. We want to offer something that a website can’t offer, and we want to provide a comfortable place to do it.

The optimum amount of space is a fluid thing. If our seating areas are all filled all the time, we add more. If there are empty chairs around the store all day, we replace them with tables or shelves filled with products. I don’t think there’s a single answer to that part of the question.

Free riders? In the years I’ve owned the store, I doubt if there has been a single person that’s read an entire book in my store without buying it. In contrast, quite a few people have picked up a book, spent an hour browsing it, and ended up buying that book. And then coming back for another book by that author. And another. And another.

TL,DR version of the answer: we offer reading space because it makes our customers happy and helps us to sell books.

Sometimes, people just want to get out of the house for a while. We hope they’ll want to do it in our store.

Couch with Pookie

Having our giant teddy bear Pookie on the couch makes people more likely to sit there. Kids love to sit in his lap and read.

Author talk

For author talks and readings, you’ll typically need to add some extra chairs, but having a defined seating area gives you room for small in-store events.

Benjamin the bookstore cat

If you have a bookstore cat like Benjamin, he’ll greatly appreciate comfy places to sit, and even help to show off books. But you’ll need to clean off the fur on a regular basis!

Upcoming Appearances 2014


This spring and summer is lining up to have a wildly eclectic set of public appearances for me! So far, I have things scheduled all across my areas of expertise: book signings, a TED talk about captioning, and a tea blogger’s panel at World Tea Expo.

Upcoming Appearances Header

TEDxBozeman

TEDxBozeman logo

Join me at TEDxBozeman on Friday, March 21 for a day of celebrating Pioneer Spirit with an amazing lineup of speakers. My talk is entitled “Does Closed Captioning Still Serve Deaf People?” I’ll be exploring the history and roots of closed captioning and look at the progress it has made, the pitfalls it has encountered, and where it might be going. As of this writing, tickets are still available, but they’ve sold out pretty quickly the last few years, so if you want to be at the talks in Bozeman, Montana, you’ll want to snag those tickets quickly. It will, of course, be streamed as well, and the talks will be available as individual videos on the TED website.

I wrote a while ago on this blog about my talk and included links to some of my favorite TED talks. I’ll add a link here when I post more details about the talk.


Tea Bloggers Roundtable @ World Tea Expo

Tea Bloggers Roundtable

If you have any interest in tea, head for Long Beach on Friday, May 30. I will be joining a group of other tea bloggers for a panel discussion about the world of tea. There is more detail on my other blog, Tea With Gary.


Book Signings in Yellowstone

Who Pooped? Yellowstone

I will be signing “Who Pooped in the Park?” books at Yellowstone Stage (the Old Faithful Inn in Yellowstone National Park) Sunday July 6 from 1:00 to 6:00 and Monday July 7 from 11:00 to 6:00.

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