Thursday, June 21, 2001

American Gods Blog, Post 90


Dateline American Gods plus one.

I'm in New York in a car on my way to the Huntingdon signing, with the libretto on my lap. So...

This is what happens two days before publication: you fly in to New York, and do a gig with the Magnetic Fields. Two sets. I did two completely different readings - lots of short stuff, some new stuff, some weird stuff. Afterward it occurred to me that I did the readings completely for Neil Gaiman fans, and that the people who were solely Magentic Feilds fans (Stephen Merrit says that's how their name is most often misspelled) were probably very puzzled and perplexed. The readings I'd do for an audience entirely consisting of people who have no idea who I am or what I do would be very different from one I'd do for people who want to hear B-sides and rarities...

And I got to watch both sets of the Magnetic Fields - who also did two very different sets early evening and late. Which made me astonishingly happy. It 's a very good thing to have your favourite band in the whole world be people you like to spend time with as well as people you like to watch. Highlights for me were Stephen`s performance of Papa Was a Rodeo (first set version) and Claudia's Acoustic Guitar (second set version) and the second set duet of Yeah, Oh Yeah.

Next morning - Monday - I slept in, for the last time for a long time, then went up to the Harper Collins office and Met People. Meeting People at your publishers is part of being an author they don't tell you much about. It's fun. People are in publishing because they love books. This is an important thing to remember. (a very few of them are in publishing because they once loved books. This is sad when it happens.) I met the e-book division. They love e-books, which is harder to do. Now, I have recently acquired an e-book and haven`t had much a chance to play with it - so far I think the best thing about it will probably prove to be that you can read in the dark without waking up the person next to you. I will report back on the crop of e\books by me, which come out next week, and which I will look at on my new toy. After I met the e-book people I met the people who run HarperCollins.

(It's now half a day later, and I'm typing on the way to Newark.)

Let`s see. Monday. Okay... so, I signed books for people at HarperCollins. I had dinner with people from HarperCollins. I went to bed. I went to sleep. After about half an hour I woke up completely and unexpectedly. As the e-book was by the bed, I read the instructions for the e-book in the dark, and practised the alphabet for making notes in the dark. If I had been someone in the bed next to me, I wouldn`t have woken up, if you see what I mean.

Breakfast with the Harper Children`s Publisher, my Harper Editor and my agent about Coraline. It'll be published in 2002 - they want to move it from Spring to Fall, to get more attention for it. I say okay. (American Gods will still come out in paperback in May of 2002) Then we run, my agent and I, to her office, to meet my UK editor on Coraline, who is in New York. She`s from Bloomsbury, and I like her immediately, and look forward to working with her.

The day spins and whirls and somewhere in there I eat lunch (Onigashima on 55th St., really really good sushi) and somewhere a bit later I turn up at Borders in the World Trade Centre for the reading and signing.

A host of friends turn up before the signing as I sit in a back room signing books for staff, and I say my hellos and check my pens... and by a little after 7.00pm I'm out there in front of the people.

It`s been years since I felt nervous at a signing. This time I feel nervous: it`s publication date. It`s the first signing. I don`t know.

Borders World Trade Center is a good store. I did a signing there for Neverwhere in 1997 and it was a tight squeeze then... and there are a lot more people there now. Over 500 of them, at a guess. Seating for about 80 people at the reading, which meant that three-quarters of the people couldn' t see what was going on. (My apologies if you were one of them.) Surprised, as I said, to find I was genuinely nervous. Read the opening of the book as the nerves slowly dissipated, answered audience questions about an odd assortment of things (including, rather to my surprise, pumpkin-growing) and off we go signing...

Finished around 11:30 with over 450 AMERICAN GODS signed. (Rule here - any copies of American Gods plus two other things.) Hurrah for Daryl and the staff...

Walk out of signing to find a few friends hanging around, including my friends writer Andy Heidel (former HarperCollins publicist, now sci-fi-channel man) and his fiancee Jen the Puppet Queen (Mama Lion on Between The Lions) and the wonderful Claudia Gonson (sings, plays keyboards for and manages the Magnetic Fields). They had been hanging around for hours to say hello and maybe even buy me a drink. I haven't eaten since lunchtime, and tell them so, and we wind up eating upstairs in a little Japanese place somewhere half a Manhattan away from Borders World Trade Centre. Where we immediately bump into someone who had been at the signing but had, after three hours, given up and wandered off...

Get back late to hotel. Bath. Sleep. It`s late. That was publication day.

Wake up rather in need of a shave to learn that I forgot to pack a razor. Right. I'll buy a razor. Run for breakfast with my agent, and from there to a meeting with a booking agency who want to represent me as a public speaker. Am kindly disposed to them because they represented Douglas Adams and had already approached me before he died - in fact I'd been ready to call him and find out whether he liked them... Not that I want a career as a public speaker I should add, but I need somewhere to send all the requests that are always coming in for me to go to universities and cutlural festivals and such, and these guys are probably going to be better at saying "No" than I am.

On the way out I learn how many copies of American Gods were sold on the first day of publication at Borders, at Barnes and Noble, at Waldenbooks. ("Is that good?" I ask. I'm told that, yes, it's good. It's bestseller numbers. Now we just have to hope it keeps up for the rest of the week.)

Lunch at Yamaguchi on 45th St (their prices are twice what Onigashima was for worse food.) An afternoon of drop-in signings.

Drop-ins are just that. Hit and run attacks by an author, where you go in, sign the shop stock, go away again. This can be an unpleasant experience, or a pleasant one. Ever since a store in San Francisco had a line of 60 people waiting for me at one of these, I've forbidden publishers to tell bookstores any more about drop-in times than than "He'll be in in the afternoon". But frankly, for as many places as you drop in and they're excited and have alerted their favourite customers to hang around the store all afternoon to meet you, there are as many stores that you get to be met by blank looks from store assistants and they explain that they aren't sure where Dave is, and Dave is the only person who knows where the single copy of your book that they are sure they have somewhere was put.

I sign a heap of American Gods at the Barnes and Nobles in Astor Place and Chelsea.(if you`re in New York and you want a signed copy, that might be the best way to go.) Realize I`m not going to have time to buy a razor before the signing.

Out to Huntingdon Long Island to Book Revue. Sign staff stuff. Eat a hasty tuna salad (I`d learned my lesson on not eating at all the night before). It 's a medium-sized signing in a thunderstorm, although lots more people can sit and see what's going on than at Borders. I read The I-Love-Lucy scene. It must have been a unique experience for the audience, hearing a bemused English author doing his Lucille Ball impression accompanied by ominous thundery rumbles. I'm not saying it was any good, mind you. Just that it's not an everyday occurrence.

(That last bit was typed in Newark airport. Now I'm writing sitting in Chicago O Hare airport, waiting for Jennifer Hershey, my editor, who is doing this leg with me.)

Book Revue was a pleasant signing - nice staff, nice store - huge as a Barnes and Noble superstore, but it smelled like books, like paper and wood and old binding glue - and, as always, the people in the line were nice people. Finished a little after eleven. 170+ copies of American Gods were sold, many hundreds of people were made happy.

In the car on the way there and on the way back I got to talk to the book`s publicity team, Jack and Dee Dee. It was good

Got back to my hotel by around 1.30 am. Put in for the 6.30 wake-up call, ate a banana, did some packing. Noticed a message on my phone and called and discovered a package of images had arrived for me from England, so called down for them, and waited.

Package arrived. It made me happy. I slept.

And the wake-up call stumbled me out of the hotel and there was the driver. "Off to Newark," I said. "No, to La Guardia," he said. I panicked. We checked our papers, and I was right and he`d been given the wrong information. And I started typing this.

They may have served breakfast on the plane. I don`t know. I was asleep. Now I`m in Chicago. A few minutes to post this and run. Then I really have to find a razor.

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