Book Expo America 2007
On Friday, June 1st I had two firsts: I got to hold my debut Silhouette Desire The Boss’s Demand in my hot little hands for the first time, and I did my first book signing. Both of these events occurred at the massive celebration of all things bookish that is Book Expo America. Nalini asked me if I’d chat a bit about my experience there, and since I’m still giddy from the excitement of it all, here goes…..
I was invited by my publisher, Harlequin, to sign books in their booth during “Sexy Hour” at 2:00 PM along with Carly Phillips, Brenda Jackson, Cara Summers, Hope Tarr and Anna DePalo.
The event took place at the Javits Center—a huge, black-glass convention megalith on the far West side of Manhattan. I don’t know how most people got there, as it’s convenient to nothing, but I walked from Grand Central Station. Since it was close to ninety degrees I was, um, glowing, by the time I got there. Inside it was also rather warm as the heat of the sun and all those warm bodies had overwhelmed the air conditioning. Definitely wasn’t going to need the jacket I brought with me!
I had some time to kill before my signing so I wandered around a bit on the vast Publisher floor. It’s set up like a giant bazaar, where each publisher has a “booth” and you can go in and fondle their wares. I quickly became overwhelmed and when I came across the Romance Writers of America booth (set up like a French café with wrought iron chairs and tables) I stumbled into it like a desert oasis. It was fun to meet Nicole Kennedy of RWA, and Nicole Burnham who’s on the RWA board, and I chatted with them until it was time to
Harlequin’s booth was the biggest I saw, a semi-enclosed room with beige carpeting (most booths had navy carpeting) and several minimalist countertops surrounded by posters and racks of books behind glass. I had no idea where to go, so I headed for an authoritative looking woman at the main countertop. She asked me if I wanted a book, and I said I was there to sign, then she gave me an indulgent look and asked me if I wanted a book anyway. I looked at the book, then at her—I’d just offended Tara Taylor Quinn! I apologized and she was very gracious about it. People always say that at RWA conferences you should just go up and introduce yourself to strangers. I’m the one who’d go up to a redhead with a cigarette and ask if she was a writer (Jen smacks head).
My “handler” was the very lovely Anita Sultmanis of Harlequin. She set me up at the main countertop with a stack of books. In front of me there was a snazzy picture of me and my book cover set against a city scene, and one of my books mounted in a rack. I actually didn’t realize this until later as I was overwhelmed by the site of my book—which I had never seen except as a jpeg of the cover image—right there in the flesh! I fondled it lovingly for a moment, then suddenly it was two o’clock and people were queuing up waiting to lay their hands on my book too!
Since we were giving it away, it wasn’t a hard sell, but I was kind of blown away that so many people wanted the signature made out to them like they were planning to actually keep it. Anita kept stacking more books on the counter, and I kept signing them. My editor and the Desire Senior editor introduced themselves at some point but I barely had time to gush at all as I was so busy scribbling. It was actually a challenge writing fast enough and trying to make my signature look both legible and vaguely consistent. I was developing a cute, curly ‘s’ on the end by the time we ran out of books forty-five minutes later. I’d printed out some business cards with my upcoming titles and website on them, and Anita came up with the idea of popping one in each book. I regretted not making more, as we soon ran out.
It was great fun chatting with people as I signed. Nearly all of them were booksellers and librarians. One hilarious older lady collared me and said “Does the heroine have some backbone?” I assured her that my heroine demonstrates plenty of backbone from page one and that I thought she’d like her. She went on to tell me that she can’t stand wimpy heroines. Her friend, when pressed, admitted that she liked wimpy heroines, so I guess it takes all kinds!
After the signing I’d agreed to do a podcast for Malle Vallick of Harlequin, who’s in charge of digital content. While I was waiting, Desire author Anna De Palo approached me and we chatted. She’s one of the many romance authors (like Nalini) who are former lawyers, so we laughed about that. When Anna and I sat down to record the podcast, Malle asked me if I had a copy of my book with me. I went into my bag to fish out the one copy I’d managed to salvage from the signing, and instead I pulled out Nalini’s fabulous Visions of Heat, which I’d brought along to read on the train. I’m afraid I pushed the delicious jaguar-spotted Vaughn back in my bag and said “Hmm, that’s not mine” but Nalini was there in spirit :)
Anna and I answered all kinds of questions about Desire and our own writing methods, and Anna observed that we are both Ivy League college graduates. One question that surprised me was whether being a romance writer is a good career for women. As mothers of young children we both wholeheartedly agreed. It really is the ultimate set-your-own-hours job—not to mention the most fun work I can imagine. I hope Malle managed to get something useful out of my babbling. Although I usually sound very American after twenty years here, my vestigial English accent makes me pronounce some vowel sounds rather strangely and I’ve discovered that words I cannot pronounce the American way include Podcast, Boss and Demand. Since my book is called The Boss’s Demand, I’m now resolving to say all my titles aloud before I choose them!
The whole experience was a blast and I’ve been tripping on a natural high ever since! For more info about the book, or about my upcoming books, visit my website at http://www.jen-lewis.com.