I think that's what they call it when a bookseller takes a special shine to a title and goes out of her or his way to talk it up to customers. Handselling is a prize that authors covet, and one of the chief benefits of attending a book fair like the Pacific Northwest Booksellers Association's here at the Oregon Convention Center in Portland.
The PNBA has a kind of author round robin at their banquet to give authors and booksellers an opportunity to talk books in a relaxed yet efficient manner. Twenty invited authors go from table to table to give 20-minute presentations about their books and answer questions. The booksellers receive copies of the books. I'm told that this is only the second year that they've done it this way. In previous years only a handful of authors addressed the entire ballroom with speeches. This way is much more enjoyable. I've also heard from several booksellers that the round robin approach has opposition in the membership ranks. Well, speaking as an author, this is the way to go.
You should have seen me in the hours before the event, pacing in my hotel room, practicing and memorizing my talk. I've had stage fright ever since I was a kid, but I know that it vanishes on cue the moment I start to talk. The event (for the authors) stretched from 5 pm, when we autographed books, to 9:30 pm, when we finished personalizing those books and talking to members.
Here's a picture of me sitting behind about 150 copies of my book, actually the generic-covered advance reading copy. I must say I was intimidated by those stacks, felt like it's too late now to tell my publisher nevermind. The book is out there, and there's no going back. So I sat down and autographed them. Each author was assigned a volunteer escort for the evening, and at this stage the escorts stood in front of the tables, opening the books to the title page, handing them to the author while taking the freshly signed books and restacking them. Several author/escort teams competed to see who could finish first.
My escort was Jose (JOE-see), a bookseller from a little town in Oregon who was kind enough to take my photo for this blog (hi, Jose!). After the signing, the authors ate dinner together, and then at 7pm our escorts took us to our start tables, and the ballroom doors were opened. After each 20-minute round, a bell was rung and Jose took me to the next table.
Here I am in motor-mouth mode. Though Jose took a number of photos, my damn camera is so unreliable that this was the best shot (the camera's interlacing is gummed up. Oh, I need a new camera, oh). I'd say that it took me a couple tables to get into my patter and a couple more to relax enough to slow down and speak in a more conversational manner. I spoke for ten minutes and allowed ten minutes for questions. I had to almost shout the whole time to be heard over the din.
I think it went off very well. And this morning I am satisfyingly hoarse.