So, as I mentioned the other day, I designed a flyer to advertise modernevil.com – This weekend, Mandy and I selected a paper color (goldenrod, not too yellow, not too bright, eye-catching but also differentiated from the fluorescent yellow and orange flyers everyone else is posting), found some cheap copies (2c/copy at the UPS store at Dunlap & Central in Phoenix, if you pre-pay for 1k), and spent several hours cutting the little tear-off strips at the bottom of 250 pages. In the unlikely event that every strip gets torn off every flyer and all those strips convert to new readers, that’s 3,000 new readers. If some of them actually buy books – hooray!
Of course, that’s all dependent upon finding 250 places to post the flyers. (I’ll ignore for a moment the hundreds or thousands of people who will walk by each posted flyer without even seeing it, the dozens who will see it but not be interested, and the few who will be interested but lose the tiny strip of goldenrod paper they shoved in their pocket. First it has to be somewhere, and only then can it become ineffective!)
Yesterday, after stopping by the bank and Discount Tire (to pay for the tires I ordered – I get to go back Thursday afternoon and wait for them to actually get put on (ooh – I won’t really have internet access there to distract me, maybe if I take my laptop (or a pad of paper) I can get some work done!)), I started driving around a few places to see if they’d let me post the flyers. And to stop in to any independent book stores I saw, to see if they’d carry my books.First stop: PVCC, barely a mile from my home, where I have taken 60+ credits worth of classes. Walked in, the friendly person at information directed me to the friendlier people at Student Life. They explained the rules, the stamp required, and went over a map of the 14 locations on campus where I could post the flyers. One of the women even seemed interested in the “FREE E-BOOKS” declared across the top of the flyer. I walked around campus and posted my 14 flyers. Nice. Next stop was the Maricopa County Library, right next door: Not only do they not have a community bulletin board, but the librarians started by being affronted that someone would want to post a flyer at a library, then went on to disparage e-books (“we prefer the paper ones”), and when neither discouraged me, went on to say that they wouldn’t want to read (or worse, make available to their patrons) my “paper” books, either. Okay. No problem. Tiny branch of a library that deals with charter HS students all day, every day – Like having my wife’s job, but not by choice.
Moved on, then, West on Bell Rd. Stopped at the “BOOKS” sign at 16th St only to see that the book store there is not only closed Mondays, but has a posted “NO SOLICITORS” sign that has me wary. Not sure if they carry any new books, or might support local authors at all, and the sign isn’t encouraging to my return, but maybe I’ll pop in. Continued down Bell, stopped at an independently held coffee shop at 43rd and Bell (Mountain View Coffee, I think, though I can’t find a web site right now) and they were happy to have me post a copy of the flyer on their board. Continued down to 59th Ave and headed South… no other book stores on Bell, nothing on 59th… I stopped at the Glendale Public Library, near Dunlap, and the friendly librarians there thought it would be okay for me to post my flyer on their community bulletin board. Several of them looked the flyer over and looked me over, and they all agreed it was a fine idea.
My real destination, this far across town in that direction (though only a few miles out of my way – one of my errands was to stop by Kelly Paper (roughly I-17 & Sweetwater) to get something specific for Modern Evil Press letterhead), was GCC. Just a stone’s throw from the Glendale library, or from Mandy’s old apartment. I’d never been there, but PVCC had been so friendly, I thought it was another good opportunity. Alas, GCC seems to have something long and hard stuck up its butt. Last night when recounting the full story to Mandy, she said she’d heard that the staff there were “grumpy” – I think “rude”, “disapproving”, and “have a stick up their butt” are more accurate. I won’t go into the details, but from the layout of the parking lot and the buildings on campus to every person I spoke to, no matter how positive, professional, and friendly I was being, my entire experience with GCC was negative. For a small community college, they were awfully pretentious as well.
Anyway, across Dunlap to 43rd, up 43rd to Thunderbird, and in to the (totally expected) complexity of ASU West. As long as I was in the neighborhood. $2/hr to park in the visitors parking, the big sign indicating the building next to said parking lot contains “Information” being a gross misstatement, and the fact that their boards are nearly all constructed out of a hard enough wood that nails and a hammer would have been a better choice than the thumbtacks I’d brought along; these notwithstanding, ASU West was a generally positive experience. I have attended classes at the Main campus of ASU and am somewhat familiar with the bizarre complexities of navigating not only their environments but their bureaucracy, so the fact that it took me nearly the full hour (I didn’t want to spend more than the minimum $2 to park, you see) to post the 10 flyers seems like quite a good run. The actual information desk is three or four buildings away from the clearly marked building that was NOT information and did NOT have available staff to ask for directions inside. Student Life, which I knew to ask for because I’d seen approved flyers stamped by “Student Life” had been re-named Student Engagement. 10 flyers were allowed – they have 5 outdoor “kiosks,” with the hard wood mentioned earlier, and you’re on your own to find 5 other places to hang things – there are two pages of instructions in addition to the map about how and where and what and for how long ASU West allows flyers. It took me about 15 minutes of walking up and down and back and forth and around and through one of the buildings (most of which is accessible from outdoor courtyards, even upstairs) to find the “hallways and lobby” where I might find a bulletin board or two to post something. Actually, after the 15 minutes, I gave up on that building and tried the harder one across the way from it. After finding the second building’s semi-secret hallways (though not the stairs to get to the upper floors), I had a clue about where to look in the first one for the missing boards. It was clear from looking at the other flyers already up that some of the posters (“Foreclosure?” and “We pay Blue Book prices!”, I think) had given up on locating anything but the 5 kiosks marked on the map – they had posted two, or even three copies of their stamped flyer at the same kiosk location, sometimes one right beside the other.
Out of ASU West’s silly parking lot, and out across Thunderbird. Noticed another book store, Book Master New and Used Books / Hero Comics, and stopped in, books in hand. The store was laid out all segregated, books to one side, comics to the other, and the whole place felt unpolished, DIY, independent/uncorporate, which might have been great, but somehow the comics side was even moreso – like one of those hole-in-the-wall comics shops that no one wants to go in had been forced to mate with a friendly indie book store and the light from the books side just made the comics side uglier and the comics side made the books side less hospitable. The only apparent employee was cordoned off behind a high counter/display case on the comics side, all long hair and yuppie-grunge, and he had the entire countertop covered in … product, I assume, but there was no clear space to conduct business in, whether I’d been a buyer or a seller. I told him I was a local author, looking to build relationships with local independent booksellers, and showed him my books. I mentioned that I did a lot of marketing online and would love to be able to direct readers to his store. He gave the books a quick once over and handed them back to me. I asked if maybe there was someone else I should talk to. He pointed at business cards at the edge of the counter and said I should look them up online, I should contact the owner, Brenda, via email. He was aware enough that when he picked up a card to try to shoo me out of the store with that there is no URL or email address on the card and just said I should google them. I asked him to repeat the person’s name, because the card says pretty clearly across the top: “Erin Barragan Owner” I should email Brenda. Co-owner? She’s a local author, he says, pointing at a poster on the wall advertising her book. She’s in charge of local authors. I should email her, he says again. Then, as if suddenly he’s being straight with me, as if this is what I really want to hear, he tells me that “if it were up to him, he’d tell me ‘no’ right then and there. They carry a lot of local authors’ books, and they don’t sell.” Like he’s being a nice guy by letting me know that he doesn’t think the store should even carry local authors’ books. Of course, you and I and anyone else who shops for books knows that what actually sells books is recommendations. If you haven’t come into the store with a title in mind (recommended in some other time&place), the biggest influence on what you buy is what the store/staff recommends. They can passively recommend, by featuring a book, by placing it on an endcap, by hanging a poster, and they can actively recommend books to live customers by saying positive things about the books. But if they actively recommend against an entire class of books… If they wish they weren’t in the store… If this guy (who says he runs the “comics side”) is even just a part of the regular staff, it’s no wonder they don’t move many local authors’ books. Even if my books were in the store, and even if I directed visitors to my website and my blog to seek out Book Master to buy my books, the staff would be actively working against making the sale. WTF?! Maybe I’ll email Brenda.
Anyway, then I went by Kelly Paper and got the paper I wanted – they didn’t have the matching envelopes in boxes of less than 500, and I don’t need $50 of envelopes right now, so I ordered the envelopes online – and didn’t see any other book stores or likely places to hang flyers on the way home.
All told, that part of the day went as such: 26 flyers hung in 4 locations around North Phoenix, one neutral experience with a book store, and one negative experience with a book store.
10% of the flyers I printed are hanging. I definitely want to try Phoenix Library (and if there, then their other branches as well) and ASU Main, and maybe ScottsdaleCC on my way South, and other indie coffee shops around town. Any other suggestions around GMPhoenix where I might post flyers advertising “FREE E-BOOKS” and extolling the possibilities of the CC NC-BY-SA license?