All booked up

It’s been just a little more than a year since my novel “Wander” was published. It’s been an amazing experience and something of an eye opener as well. One of the things I learned right off is that if there is anything harder than writing a book (and convincing a publisher to publish it), it’s selling books. I’ve been lucky enough to be invited to a number of bookstores and book fairs which are hugely important in meeting readers and persuading them to shell out their hard-earned cash for a story they may or may not enjoy. So when I got the invitation earlier this fall to take part in the first Newport Library Author Fair, I was honored to say yes. Sheryl Hewlett Eldridge, librarian extraordinaire, came up with the idea.

“It’s’ something I’ve thought of for years, but I didn’t pursue it,” Sheryl told me. Then, recently someone asked her how a writer might get the chance to present their book at the library.

“I thought there are so many people;” Sheryl said, “she’s not the only one who has asked me that.” But Sheryl knew she couldn’t say yes to everyone who requested a solo appearance.

“There aren’t enough hours in the day. I thought well, if I have this author fair, I can invite people who’ve asked in the past.”

And so, she reached out to local authors and, not surprisingly, the spots filled up fast, including one for me. On Sunday, Dec. 3, I’ll join 21 other authors to sign books in the McEntee Room from 1. to 4 pm.

I didn’t say as much to Sheryl but I had to wonder if she knew what she was getting into. We writers can be, let’s just say, a quirky bunch. Some, not all (so don’t start yelling at me already), but some of us tend to be a little insecure, maybe a tad territorial and often not with particularly impressive bank accounts. Combine that with the difficult task of selling books and it seems sometimes some of us tend to forget that little matter known as etiquette.

At my first book fair an author I had just met, announced, ‘Here, let’s trade books.’ I didn’t want to trade books. I don’t read her kind of writing. Not because there is anything wrong with it, it’s just not my taste. But there I stood, deer in the headlights, unsure how to politely decline. Instead, I trotted back to my table and grabbed a book, thinking, as I the miserly writer will, well, there’s $16 I’m out. At another event, where we each had our one square foot or so of real estate, the space next to me remained empty until just before the doors opened. Arriving, the author promptly pushed my poster and books a half inch my way, declaring, “There, you keep your things in your space and I’ll keep mine in mine.” In Seattle, where I joined masses of other authors in a overcrowded conference room, one seasoned gent with a half a dozen books “suggested” it would be fine for him to share my spot — a more prominent location directly in the main flow of traffic — then crowded a handful of his books next to mine.

Not all memories involve persnickety authors. There was the woman who popped a piece of candy in her mouth, picked up “Wander,” then just as quickly set it down and scurried off, leaving behind a gooey thumbprint on the cover. Mother Nature has also had her say. How could I forget the freak Oregon Coast-like rainstorm in New York City just as I was setting out for my reading. I managed to dodge the storm. My publisher, however, arrived looking a bit like a drowned rat, which I noted, albeit not in so many words. It was probably not the best introduction I could have made.

Who knows what memories I’ll take from the Newport Library Author Fair, but come and join us and maybe you’ll make a few of your own. There will be cookies and cocoa and all sorts of books — historical fiction, young adult, literary mainstream, poetry, essays, memoir.

Hopefully, there will be no need for one on etiquette.

Lori Tobias is the author of the novel “Wander” and a journalist of many years. Follow her at

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