Friday, June 23, 2006

Ask Mr. Writing Person: Book Signing, With Pluck

It's time for yet another Ask Mr. Writing Person, where we aim to frighten and disturb you with the sick thoughts that drift through Mr. Writing Person's highly-evolved cranium. [Ed: CAUTION: Acting upon the advice given in this particular installment could be FATAL, and should only be attempted in small doses.] Chuck Poulter from Corbin, Kentucky segues us into our topic this time:

Q. My manuscript has been accepted, and I'm looking forward to being a published author, but not having to do book signings. I don't have very good public presence, and I'm afraid people will ridicule my signature.

A. It has nothing to do with your signature. Your name sucks.

Q. It does?

A. No. Chuck, I can tell you're the kind of guy who can't stand to go to comedy shows, because you can't shake the feeling that all those drunk people are really laughing at you.

Q. That's pretty much it. I'm a disgrace.

A. Sure. Now, it just so happens that I have the perfect formula for dealing with your problem. If you follow my advice, you'll only have to do one book signing during your whole career.

Q. That sounds great.

A. I'm glad you're on board, my disinclined disciple. There are two main points to every book signing. The first is to get your readers to trust you. You need to let those illiterate Philistines know that you are set apart from humanity. You are special. If they understand this, they'll know that your work is special too. The operative word is flamboyant, which is Latin for "toga-clad head case."

Q. I don't think I could wear--

A. Get used to it, because you'll need it to be properly flamboyant. At the book signing, you'll wear a toga and a laurel wreath. Paint racing stripes down your body and a black 53 on your chest. Buy a harp.

Q. I don't play the harp.

A. Who cares? What matters is that it's a girlie instrument. We're trying to create a general feeling of gender conflict to emphasize your otherness. To counterbalance the harp, you can glue black, curly wigs under your armpits. It's quite effective. Don't worry--a little peanut butter will take them off.

Q. I know women with armpits like that.

A. They could probably use some peanut butter. Anyway, your costume should strike a good balance between male and female, and should definitely involve a toga and racing stripes on general principles.

Q. I think I'd rather write my signature a few thousand--

A. Are you chicken, Clucky?

Q. Basically, yes.

A. Just look at it this way: with you wearing all that garbage, nobody will notice how ugly you are.

Q. I didn't say I was ugly, I said I didn't have--

A. After you've gotten your flamboyant garb worked out, you need to work out some of the flamboyant things you'll do. For example, I have a horror novelist friend who head-butts every fan whose book he signs. Would that fit your personality?

Q. Um...

A. If it doesn't, you could always pucker up. One that I like to do is... well, here's the deal. A lot of fans like to pretend to be literate with me, and try to discuss books other than mine. I used to get insulted. Now I just claim that I wrote whatever book they bring up. Saves me a lot of hassle.

Q. Actually, that one sounds great. I think I'll do that.

A. Fantastic. Lastly, I have another author friend who swears by this technique: strike up conversations with fans about the virtues of cannibalism. If you're lucky, your "fascination with cannibalism" will get into a story in the local paper.

Q. Um...

A. I know I can count on you to set yourself apart from humanity, Clucky. Now we come to the second main point of book signings: to never have to do it again. This takes a lot more pluck than just dressing up funny.

Q. What kind of pluck?

A. The kind of pluck that drives people to bound across a soccer field wearing nothing but a pair of socks. For example, suppose you bring a pistol with you, tucked into your toga somewhere. At some point, reporters from the town newspaper will come in for a photo shoot. When they do, whip out the pistol and take the nearest fan hostage.

Q. Wouldn't I get arrested?

A. Eventually. But you can claim that you're researching hostage situations for an upcoming novel. You'll certainly be acquitted.

Q. Um...

A. Or you could try something more tame but still requiring great pluck. Again, with the reporters: right before they snap the first picture, flip up the backside of your toga and moon them.

Q. I don't think--

A. I can tell you from personal experience that nothing sells books like getting your dimply derrière into the newspapers.

Q. Oh, that's way too much inf--

A. Or here's another I thought up just for you, because I think it fits your personality best. Bring raw hamburger with you, still shrink-wrapped, to the book signing. Set it to the side, and don't mention it to anyone or talk to anyone about it. Use it as a pen pincushion. When the paparazzi comes, tear off the plastic and throw chunks of hamburger at the reporters, shouting, "You killed her! You killed the princess!"

Q. This fits me?

A. Based on highly-advanced numerology using just your birthday and name, it sure does. Now, if you keep on chucking hamburger, you'll eventually be hauled off. When you are, make sure you're completely hysterical, and screech at the top of your lungs about, say, how the Chicago Bulls would have won Cricket World Cup, if only she had been alive.

Q. The Chicago Bulls play basketball.

A. Oh, do they?

Q. Are you sure this will all work?

A. Of course! After you get the straitjacket off, you'll be done with book signings forever! As a bonus, you'll never be afraid to go to a comedy show again.

Q. What about my signature?

A. Get a stamp.

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