I’ve been quite excited recently because I was able to get my book, Curveballs: Sweet & Smokey Down the Barbeque Trail, into Magers & Quinn Booksellers on 31st and Hennepin in the Uptown Area of Minneapolis. It’s a consignment deal.
They advertise that they get lots and lots of requests to place a book on consignment in their store, and that they favor Minnesota authors. We’ll get back to you, is their standard response. In my case they got back to me within a day or two and I hopped on over there all excited, agreeing to and signing their consignment contract. They start with 3 books on consignment with an initial period of 6 months. So far, so good!
“We’ll place it in the Minnesota Section,” the consignment manager, Annie, said as I walked behind her. I could feel the corpuscles jumping. I’d never done this before and they’d been on my radar for a number of years.
I left the store Friday afternoon a happy man. On Saturday I got an email from Annie, saying there was a “book issue.” Whatever could that be? She explained that upon checking their system they were already selling three used copies of my book in the Food Section of their store. Apparently, whoever brought them in did so before I ever first ever approached them.
… mmm. I don’t recall ever selling 3 books to an individual in town here that would place them in this bookstore. In fact, I’ve only sold 3 or more books to only one individual, a co-worker, and I just went to her book club in Minnetrista, Minnesota, and I saw all of those books there. I haven’t sold enough on Amazon to warrant this. Where did they come from? I racked my brain.
“I’ll be there in half an hour,” I emailed back to Annie, hopping up from my table at the coffee shop and hustling to my car. No pun intended, but I was driven to solve this dastardly mystery.
On the way there I realized something. The dark soul who hawked used copies of my book most probably got them from those Little Free Libraries. I had ordered a batch from Createspace only to find more errors, so I had decided to plop them in those boxes around town.
At first I was mad. Those dirty, rotten no good #@!$* bums. But then I got thinking, it ain’t so bad. In fact, that dark souls who do this might actually be helping me by creating more exposure for me. They think enough of my book to want to resell them, and they’re taking the initiative to plop them in book stores. Yes, they are attempting to profit off my back, but I did put those copies out there in the public domain. I can’t be mad at them.
But still, I didn’t want them selling used copies where I’m selling my new copies. I felt as though I had created my own competition. I arrived at the bookstore and walked in with purpose. I had just missed Annie, so another employee showed me the Food Section where those used copies were. Yep, those were the ones I had placed in the Little Free Libraries. I’ll have to put them out in the suburbs, I kept thinking, away from Uptown.
I made a split second decision to solve the problem. I grabbed them, headed over to the checkout counter and said, “I’d like to purchased these please.”
“That’ll be $25.77.”
“I’m buying my own books. See? Look at the name on the card,” I said with a twinkle in my eye. The clerk looked at the card, looked at the book, and smiled. “I found out from your manager that someone put some used copies of my book for sale here before I approached you guys about selling my book. I think the person got these from those Little Free Libraries.”
“Yeah, they send scouts out,” the first employee said, “and they collect books from those Libraries and then come sell them here. If we know a book is from a Little Free Library we won’t sell it.”
“Wow. They’re enterprising souls aren’t they?” I said.
The clerk chimed in, “Yes they are. But I’m a buyer. So if you mark them either Not For Sale or Little Free Library then we won’t sell them here.”
“A learning experience! For now, this is how I’m solving the problem. I’ll have to go get a rubber stamp.”
“Yes, a learning experience,” she replied with a warm smile. “A lot of people stamp the outside of the book.” She pointed with her finger to the side, top, and bottom of the book, where the pages flip.
“Oh, yeah, that’s a great idea.”
I finished my purchase and headed outside. I decided I needed to get a selfie with the Magers & Quinn storefront in the background, so I could start promoting the fact my book was for sale there (remember, it’s in the MINNESOTA section). I pulled out my cellphone, and contemplated for a while. Seeing a group of passerby’s I said, “Hey, would you mind taking a picture of me with my camera. I want to get this bookstore in the background. I have my book in there. ” I pointed to the bookstore.
“Sure!” They roared. Their enthusiasm overwhelmed the traffic as they stood in the street to get the right shot. They exhibited only modest concern over traffic getting slowed down by our photo shoot.
“They’ll live. Keep shooting,” I said, waving at the traffic.
“I want to be in the picture as a passerby,” one of the women in the group said, with all seriousness.
“Oh, this could be the start of something big! We’ll be film stars!” I replied in my own enthusiasm. Look at the reposted picture below. Look closely and you’ll you’ll see her on the left side of the picture, just behind my right shoulder, in the red and blue flannel shirt. Hollywood, are you gett’n this?
“Wow, those pictures turned out great!” I exclaimed to them, barely able to contain my excitement. “Here, have this,” handing another women in the group one of my books, the ones I had just repurchased inside the store.
“Oh no, you don’t have to!” She replied.
“No it’s okay. I have my book for sale in the store, but somebody put some used ones in there too, so I repurchased them. I have to do something with them. So no, go ahead, it’s yours. It’s my way of saying thanks for taking my picture.”
“Oh, thank you, thanks!” came the collective reply. We waved generous goodbyes and I crossed the street to my car.
I stood by my driver’s door, fumbling with the keys. “Hey, excuse me, excuse me,” I heard a woman’s voice say. I looked up and saw two of them, one of the guys and the woman I gave the book to, head towards me at a brisk clip. “I started reading the back cover. The picture on the back, that’s you!!” she said.
“Yep, the art teacher at the school took that. Turned out good.”
“Would you sign this to our friend Nick? She’s in the special ed program at St. Thomas.”
“Of course. Hey, I went to St. Thomas. I have a Master’s Degree in Business Communications from there. My dad worked there. My brother has an MBA from there. Small world.”
Their smiles lit up the day. It’s the reason the sun came out. I dug through my car until I found a pen that worked and flipped to the title page. It’s where I always sign my name.
“It looks like you already signed it,” the woman said bemused, upon seeing my signature already.
“Looks like I did. But I have an idea,” I said. “I’ll sign it again just for her!” This brought more laughter and more smiles. The sun shone a little brighter.
“Would you put in there ‘Happy Birthday Nick.’ It’s her birthday.”
“Not only that, I’ll date it too!” More roars of laughter. In the end I wrote, Happy Birthday Nick, Tim Yearneau, 4/8/16.” With that we said our goodbyes and they bounced along the street back to their group.
This whole episode put a serious smile on my face. One that didn’t go away for a long time. Somehow, in some strange, unpredictable way, lemons had turned into lemonade. Dang, I thought, this is living. And then another thought sailed into my brain. Today’s the 9th, not the 8th. Oh well.