Monday, April 19, 2010

Launching My Book in Chico: Part 1

After seven years of preparation, we launched our book in my hometown of Chico, California, Saturday with a table at the farmer's market and a signing at an independent bookstore. While we sold only three books, I made some valuable contacts and got a better sense of who will most eagerly welcome "The Bishop and the Seeker." We had interest from a devout but disillusioned Catholic, a Black Religious Scientist, a Methodist interested in building bridges, and a delightful young woman with some Hispanic heritage dealing with strict Catholic parents--as well as from a couple folks interested generally in interfaith relations.


Driving to Chico from the Sacramento airport, I stopped at the Staples in the county seat of Oroville to pick up a snazzy, retractable sign I had ordered ahead--the slight detour taking me through green rolling hills and flat-topped buttes covered in wild flowers.
My sister Tina showed no interest in the book itself, but she purposefully helped get a review in the local paper, make signs for my book table, and insisted I change from my carefully-chosen multi-colored sweater to her more Chico-like earth-tone one shown below. I rehearsed the 40 second introduction the bookstore owner had suggested I prepare:

"After 20 years benefiting from an interfaith, New Thought approach to God, I was attracted to a Black church for the passionate praise. My dialogue with this man (pointing to the photo of Bishop Thomas on the book cover) showed me how to integrate the best of both approaches to God. And along the way I learned how to build relationships with people whose beliefs are different from my own." (In retrospect, this needs work.)

Chico Farmer's Market
The farmer's market bustles with sales of local strawberries, tomatoes, pies, crafts and petition promoters. The market organizer waffled over the last several weeks about whether there would be a space for me, but in the end she gave us a prime location without charging us the usual fee--because we could be there only a short time. You can see me and my blue sign circled in the photo below.

Despite mt eight-foot tall sign, most of the throng passed by Andy and me without a glance. Our first interested party was an older Asian woman with a heavy accent who stood reading from the book for several minutes. This struck me because I had been handing my post card to all the merchants I dealt with in town--except for an older Asian woman from whom I had bought Chinese food; I told myself cultural factors put her outside the target market. The Universe bonked me on the head for that presumption.

The Black Religious Scientist glanced at the book for only a moment before picking up a pen to sign the mailing list. "I can't buy the book now, but I want to be in touch with you," she said. "These are the two forces I am always balancing."

The first-ever sale was also to a woman who seemed to be attracted to the book instantly, pulling out a $20 bill before I said a word. So imagine my surprise--and hers--when she told me she belongs to Chico Trinity Methodist and I told her that church is featured in the closing scene of the book. She became very enthusiastic and said her pastor is interested in bridge building of all sorts.

Two groups of women into Yoga or "Course in Miracles" congratulated me on building bridges. One fellow picked up the book and then dropped it saying, "oh, no, Christian."

The Book Store
After two hours we packed up our card table and retractable sign to head over to Lyon Books on the town plaza a few blocks away. The owner and sales person were cordial and had a table set up for us. A lovely young woman who looked as if she may have both black and Hispanic heritage seemed to be waiting for us with her male friend. I was still unpacking my postcards and sign as she started asking questions about how to deal with her strict Catholic parents. The two of them helped me unpack, and I joked they could be my "roadies." But several things were happening at once, and I hadn't answered all their questons before they were wishing me well on their way out the door.

Quickly on their heels, a 19-year old fellow in baggy pants and earing picked up the book while his two friends stood at the counter. I spoke my prepared intro, and he seemed to loose interest on the phrase, "the more expansive spirituality of my adulthood." Just then I overheard his companion tell the bookstore clerk they wanted to display their book, "How Not to Talk About Jesus." Perhaps they were with the "Jesus Feeds the Hungry" rally gathering in the plaza across the street.

And alas, of the dozen or so customers who came in during the remainder of my two-hour stay, all the others made a bee-line for the children's section or some other errand. So my other two sales were to people I know--my aunt and a long-lost childhood friend I'll call Sherry. We were friends in Catholic grade school and then in high school, but had crossed paths only once since. Now she is living in the mountains above Chico, so I got her email address from a mutual friend and sent ahead a note saying that I was comming. Her response was immediate and enthusiastic. The topic of the book was timely for her, so she'd come down to see me and buy it. Sherry and I chatted for an hour about her love for Catholicism but disillusionment with the church. We made plans to see each other later in the week.

So while it wasn't much of a success in sales, my kickoff gave me a chance to complete my preparations, connect with interesting people, and practice my promotion skills. I'll use the rest of the week here in Chico to build my markteing plan for the year ahead and to mediate on releasing results while inviting Spirit to use me.

FOLLOWUP: I had some great meetings with people during the week. See part 2.


  1. Hello Teri, I am sorry I missed your activities in Chico on Saturday. It sounds like your book is something we might want in our library at Trinity United Methodist Church here in Chico.

    Gary Estep
    TUMC Church and Society Mission Committee, Chairperson

  2. Congratulations on your launch! Just think ... the ones who bought a book will tell two people and those two will tell two ... just like the old Prell commercial ... and you'll be a famous author in now time.

  3. Hi Teri,
    Someday we want to go to Chico with you. But we missed you today here in Washington. I did love your narrative of this opening day just as much as I loved the draft of your book.