Mark Hunter (ozma914) wrote,
Mark Hunter

column: Author Holds Monopoly on Outdoor Book Signing

I apologize if you have to click to see the photos; I've been trying to get them to attach properly for two days of hellish glitching.

 Image heavy! Some photos taken by me, but if you see me actually in the picture I'd bet it was taken by Emily.



                Planning something outside is always a dangerous prospect, especially in the Midwest. My fiancée and I have discussed having our wedding at the Gene Stratton Porter Memorial site, where I once attended a beautiful wedding in perfect weather. Of course, I usually avoid weddings, and I’m still holding out the hopes that we could phone ours in from a tropical beach. The world’s first ever teleconferenced wedding? Why not?

The point is, I don’t have a lot of weddings to compare that one to, but we were outdoors, in a beautiful garden, and no one got pooped on by a bird (Or any other animal). What else can you ask for?

Still, when planning an outdoor event in Indiana you have to be prepared for everything, including treating guests for frostbite or heat exhaustion – sometimes on the same day. So, while having two writers get married near the former home of Noble County’s most famous author may seem romantic, it has its hazards. In keeping with the stormy nature of my first novel, I wonder if we’d have to post spotters in case waterspouts bear down on us across Sylvan Lake.

You could argue that having a book signing outside would be even more hazardous – one little shower, and your inventory is ruined. Still, I’d hoped to be the first author ever to hold an outside book signing.

A quick internet search revealed that other people have, indeed, held outdoor book signings. But I’ll bet none of them did it while a giant monopoly game went on in front of them.

Someone approached me with the idea of doing my first signing at, appropriately, the First Friday event in July. Albion has activities around the courthouse square through most of the year on – wait for it – the first Friday of every month. I begged off at first, because while I ordered books, they weren’t to arrive for 3-4 weeks. When they got here two weeks ahead of time I’d run out of excuses that didn’t include the term “broiling under a hot sun”, so I signed on.

The view from my area as one of the Monopoly games gets underway at "Go". The folks to the left are from a bakery here in town, and as the afternoon went on had to send to the shop for more baked goods to sell. The lemon shake-up/snow cone people were in the opposite direction, beside the old police booth that, naturally, served as the Monopoly "Jail".

Then I realized there might not be enough books left over. How was I to know someone would want my signature and not be a bank teller? I ordered fifteen more copies, confident in the knowledge that there was absolutely no way they’d arrive in time, and thus began the single most stressful week of my life since my divorce was finalized.

What do you need for a book signing? Well, books. Also, a table and chairs, although many authors claim the best method is to get up and stand in front of their signing table. Also needed was, in my case, a canopy. But that was okay, I already had one that I’d loaned to my daughter. Couldn’t be anything else, right?

So wrong.

I started researching, and discovered that, apparently, authors need to have treats to lure people in, like cheese on a trap. Apparently the trap is your book, ready to spring shut on the reader’s imagination. Say, I like that – I’ll use that again later.

Emily, in addition to being so smart that she set up my web site and so dumb that she agreed to marry me, makes the best no-bake cookies in the history of cookiedom, and in my next book, Cookies From A to Z, I’ll prove that. (Yeah, like I’d write a cookbook. I once burned a pot of water.) Treat problem solved.

As the week went by, new needs kept cropping up, begging to cut into my profit margin. A plastic tote to carry the books; new pens, because my old pens came in a set of twelve for a dollar, which is apparently beneath an Author; an easel to hold a poster-sized version of my book cover; a poster-sized version of my book cover.

Hello, how are ya, buy my book -- please be impressed by all the work other people did to make me look good.


Then the news started coming in. Something ate my canopy. Emily’s no-bake cookies didn’t set. They were still delicious, but had to be scooped up with a spoon like some wonderful chocolate-oatmeal soup, and can you imagine the brown fingerprints all over my books? Then there was the weather forecast, which varied between “too hot to fish” and “let’s experiment with lightning bolts”.

Here’s the crazy part: As I sat there for three hours, giant Monopoly pieces kept marching by while a guy who looked exactly like the Moneybags character from the game hurried from place to place, yelling into a loudspeaker.

Excuse me, Mr. Moneybags -- could you spare $14.95?


The sidewalk around the Noble County Courthouse square was divided into a board – its name changed to Albionopoly – with each square sponsored by local businesses and organizations. (No one wanted the Income Tax square.) It took dozens of people to put this thing together, but everyone had a blast playing the “fast” version of Albionopoly. One team would go by with a scale model house representing our old Southside Grocery store; then we’d see an anvil, a horse (a real horse) accompanied by a cowboy and Indian, and a Wolf pack (I believe their last name is Wolf; they bought a copy of the book). My favorite was probably the giant screw, so huge it looked like it had been commissioned by the federal government to hold the debt together.


This is what makes small town living so great.

As for me, it all came together. I got a loaner canopy, we made more cookies, the weather was close to perfect for this time of year, and the extra 15 copies arrived just three days before the signing. It turned out I wouldn’t have run out anyway, but I’d never get anything done without the incentive of worrying needlessly.

How’d I do? Well, I’ve just ordered 15 more, and at some future time collectors may find that the most valuable copies of my first book are the ones that don’t have a signature on them.


If there’s a lesson to be learned, maybe it’s this: Don’t be afraid to try something different. If it rains on your parade … write a book about it.


My gosh, what kind of costume is this? Oh, wait -- it's my brother. Kidding, Jeff! But the book must be for Cathy.


Tags: albion, column, emily, new era, slightly off the mark, storm chaser

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