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Day of the Dead
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“Can you sell shoes?”
My grandfather, when he first met the man I married, was skeptical.
“This boy you’re seeing. What does he do?” he asked me. This was upwards of twenty years ago.
“He’s a historian,” I said.
“A historian?” said my grandfather with mild shock. “But… does he have any skills?”
I was confused. “Skills?”
“Can he sell?” asked my grandfather.
“Sell?” I echoed.
“Can he sell shoes?” said my grandfather with a small smile. My grandfather had worked in the family dry goods store after leaving the University of Texas after one year due to the Depression. Then for many years he ran a successful shoe store in Houston. Vogue Shoes.
I miss him. He died long ago. Long before I was ever a novelist. Long before I had to figure out how to sell.
(Here’s my booth at Haunted Happenings Marketplace last Sunday. I’m glad I got the tent, as shortly after I took this picture, it started to rain.)
No one really knows how to sell books.
No one will tell you this. Some books seem like a sure bet for sales, but they dissolve into the ether, and no one knows why. And some books tug the gossamer thread of the public imagination, burst into flames, and burn through the cultural landscape like a comet. You can’t force it to happen. But sometimes, it does.
In order for a book to sell, however, people must be made aware of its existence. So, in an attempt to inform the world at large that A TRUE ACCOUNT: HANNAH MASURY’S SOJOURN AMONGST THE PYRATES, WRITTEN BY HERSELF, and THE PENGUIN BOOK OF PIRATES are both coming out soon, I installed in Salem the Sunday before Halloween. I gave away copies of THE PENGUIN BOOK OF WITCHES. I gestured encouragingly at the QR code for preorders.
“Yeah, I don’t really read books, but I respect you,” said a guy with green hair and one million followers on YouTube. He cosplays as the Joker and lives with his mom.
(They look beautiful.)
So what’s next?
The countdown to on-sale has begun: twenty days until A TRUE ACCOUNT is officially on sale. But first, it’s time for a rite of passage. I’m summoned back to my old high school for their annual Book Fair. There will be an assembly. I am readying my speech.
And today, in the absence of McDonald’s French fries (which were his secret vice), maybe I’ll steal some of my son’s Halloween haul for an ofrenda for my grandfather.
Can you sell? Can you sell books?
Can’t make it to Book Fair at my old high school?
Until then, here’s to your brim cup, my mates, and your full carouse to make a merry heart.