Choosing Little League Over a Bookstore Appearance?

Josie Leavitt - April 13, 2012

We have been planning a poetry event since February with two formerly local poets. Many emails were exchanged to find a date that worked with both writers because of the travel involved. Finally, a date was found that worked with everyone, a Saturday night, which is not our preferred event night because so many other things compete with it, but it was the only night one of the poets could do. I was relieved as now I could start promoting the event.
Promoting an event is a two-month process for us. First, the event goes on our website. Then we send calendar listings to the local papers. After that we write press releases and send them to all the media outlets in the area. Elizabeth then makes a flyer for the event. Lately, she’s been doing handbills that folks can take away with them. These are much more cost-effective than a single-page color sheet. After this, Elizabeth will add the event as a teaser in the prior month’s email event blast.
Then six weeks before the event, we’ll place our book order. In this case we took advantage of a backlist special and perhaps ordered a few too many books.  But we were excited about the event and wanted to have all the author’s books to create a very full in-store display. This particular event is set for the end of the month.
Luckily for us this particular event featured two poets. I just got an email from the poet whose schedule we accommodated that he can’t come to the event because it’s the same day as his son’s first Little League game. While I applaud this man’s parenting involvement, I can’t help being really irritated. Now, all of his books have to be returned, at my expense, because of a  seven-year’s old baseball game. (The author doesn’t live locally, so I can’t even get stock signed.) Surely, there will be an infinite number of ball games in this child’s life, so why this one can’t be missed for the sake of being a professional is a little lost on me. I would think setting a good example of honoring commitments would be an important lesson for the child to learn. Perhaps he should have thought that there would be a strong possibility of a ball game on a Saturday in April and planned a little better.
So, I find myself in the unique position of having lost money on an event before it’s begun. I think it’s safe to say that our store event meant little to this man or he wouldn’t have cancelled so blithely, two weeks before the event.
It’s times like this that I remind myself, it’s just books. I’m not a heart surgeon, no one’s life is in peril, but wow, it is galling to be treated with such little regard.
Epilogue: I have to add this because it was heartening. After his cancellation email, the author sent a second email, volunteering to pay our freight costs back to the publisher. Of course, we will not actually ask him to cover that, but his offer meant a lot. His reason for going to the game is, of course, valid and good. Not only is he being a great dad, his son is a great kid. So, while it was a frustrating turn of events and I wish we’d had more notice, I now feel a little sheepish for my tone. (The lesson I’ve learned from this is to wait a few hours between the inciting event and writing the post.)

9 thoughts on “Choosing Little League Over a Bookstore Appearance?

  1. Amy L.

    Ummm…I have to tell you, as a store events manager, I feel your pain. It does suck to promote an event, and then have the author cancel – it’s happened to me, more often than I would have liked it to. But as a parent, I think you should suck up your hurt little feelings and injured pride and deal with it.
    As a mother, my son ALWAYS comes first. Period. No matter what my employers, my volunteer commitments, or even my extended family members might need from me. Your statement:
    “Surely, there will be an infinite number of ball games in this child’s life, so why this one can’t be missed for the sake of being a professional is a little lost on me.”
    Is both callous and arrogant. Maybe there isn’t an “infinite number of ball games” this child will play. Maybe the kid is ill or has some kind of handicap and this is a big accomplishment in his/her life. Maybe this is a particularly big game that means there is a big tournament the team will get to play in. Maybe it is the kid’s first time pitching and the parent wants to be there to cheer him/her on. Who knows.
    Here’s the thing about kids. They don’t give a crap about what a big-shot their mom or dad is. They just want their moms and dads to be there for them, in the moments that matter and most of the ones that don’t. If you wonder what the consequences of a parent not being there are? Go watch a few episodes of Intervention on Netflix. I think you’ll come around with your attitude pretty fast.
    I applaud that parent for putting their child in front of their so-called “career.” They have their priorities straight. Yours need some adjustment.

    1. Trixie

      Wow, Amy. I think you got wrapped up in parental indignation and got this one dead wrong. Your argument might hold water if Josie were a friend of yours and the two of you had made lunch plans, and you had to cancel for a Little League game. But to make a professional agreement like a bookstore appearance and then cancel it for a ball game is a whole different kettle of fish. I think what Josie was pointing out was not her “hurt little feelings” but how this cancellation affected her and her store financially. Kind of important in these tough times. I strongly disagree with your calling Josie’s attitude “callous and arrogant.” She said “While I applaud this man’s parenting involvement, I can’t help being really irritated.” She’s not allowed to be irritated? Instead she should think to herself “I invited my customers and ordered books for this appearance that I now can’t sell, but as long as this author is being a good parent and cancelling his appearance to be at his son’s Llittle League game, I have no right to be irritated”? Come on now.

    2. catherine james

      Have to agree with Trixie here. Not sure how you *LEAP* from a parent missing *ONE* softball game to people who end up on shows like INTERVENTION (makes me think of the scene from PARENTHOOD wherein Steve Martin imagines his son firing rounds into the crowd from a bell tower after a one bad little league game at age eight). Honoring family commitments is important, but so is any agreement involving other people’s income and professional reputation.

  2. Stephen

    You should send him politely a invoice for the cost you incurred to return his books and ask him to pay it net-15 since you are out of pocket for the funds. The point isnt that he cancelled, but that he did not figure the full cost in, I’d ask for him to make it up to you.
    That is what I would do.

  3. Donna Marie Merritt

    That was highly unprofessional. If he wanted to go to the game (understandable), he should have found out the Little League schedule before booking with you. Once committed, though, he should have met his obligation. Your time is worth something, not just his. At least you know most poets are more professional and courteous and treat bookstores with the respect they deserve.

  4. Tami

    Very frustrating, to say the least. I have often wished there was a way for booksellers to share info on authors with each other. Not to be mean, or gossipy, but just so we’d all have info to help us make decisions and plan events. I had a big name children’s author/illustrator a few years back that was the very definition of horrid throughout the event. Children cried, she was so very hateful. Come to find out, when I mentioned it to fellow booksellers, it was fairly well know that she was “difficult”. I just hadn’t gotten the memo… Maybe there is such an info exchange and I just don’t know about it?

  5. Carol White

    And authors wonder why booksellers are hesitant to book us for events. Acting professionally and keeping commitments needs to be highly valued by every author. I can’t believe his total insensitivity to the situation he put you in.

  6. ChristineTB

    Unprofessional. I remember a local library holding a huge event for two authors – a husband and wife team. It had been publicized well in advance, tons of children and parents showed up in bad weather, and only upon arriving did the author announce that she was scheduled to speak at a NAACP event that evening and didn’t want to strain her voice so there would be NO booktalk or conversation,but we were welcome to buy books and have them signed. Even then I noticed she did little to engage the children or the parents. It looked more like an assembly line as she signed and moved them on. I was flabbergasted and needless to say I didn’t buy a single book and the “well known” authors were never asked to return.
    I do think there should be a quiet way to advertise who is fun to work with and who is a pain in the assets. I vetted another award winning author for an event organizer. I tracked down places where the author had spoken and found out that although the author was good while “on stage”, he was horrible when working with the public. Acted like a book signing was an inconvenience, and in the next day’s seminar ignored the guests.
    Yep – there are too many good authors who actually enjoy their jobs and like working with the public to have to deal with this. I’m a mom too and I know things come up, but work is work and yes – there will be other games. In fact, when that same situation did arise, my husband went armed with a video camera and I felt like I was there when I watched the activity later.
    Sorry about the loss. Your store is a terrific place for readers.


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