Forgot to mention . . . While we were in New York City, I had my first live sighting of my book in the wild. This was in a Borders bookstore on Broadway near Wall Street, and it was a small thrill.
Right now, it seems that some bookstores have WHTTWOT and others don't. One clerk gazed into her computer and told me to come back in July. Most good comic book shops seem to be on top of it. I dropped by my publisher's office unannounced Monday morning (Karen and I found ourselves with a few hours to kill in Manhattan) and had a nice impromptu meeting with Publicist Amy about timing, reviews, strategy, etc. Basically, I just need to chill. It's a marathon, not a sprint, and things are looking fine.
It did not occur to me until now that a book whose title starts with "Whatever" would end up on a shelf next to Watchmen, any more than I realized that a book titled Mom's Cancer would get shelved alphabetically next to Maus. A total but welcome coincidence. Just as coincidentally, my next book will be titled Diary of a Wimpy Kia (it's about an underpowered but lovable compact car).
There's this . . . thing . . . some writers do. When you find your book in a bookstore, you're supposed to ask the staff if they'd like you to sign it. Then they put a little sticker on the cover that reads "Signed by Author," supposedly making it a more attractive product. Some writers are gutsier than I am. For instance, you can't walk into a bookstore within 20 miles of my hometown without finding cartoonist Stephan Pastis's signature inside every Pearls Before Swine collection in the place. As viewers of my webcast learned, Mr. Pastis is not a shy man.
Me, I'm just afraid the clerks'd say, "Uh, no thanks." What do you do then? Could you imagine the humiliation of turning and slinking out the door after that? I can--everytime I find my book in a store.
A real temptation, of course, is to sign the thing anyway and slip it back onto the shelf, a happy surprise awaiting a lucky buyer. This is where the line between "autographing" and "vandalizing" eludes me. How would anyone know it was me and not some stupid jerk (but perhaps I repeat myself)? Could you go to jail for getting caught signing your own book?
What I often do is slip the book out of the shelf and leave the cover turned out into the aisle, like the one above. I imagine the next passer-by picking it up--"Hey, this looks good!"--and carrying it as if hypnotized to the cash register. Ka-ching! But even at that, I feel a little naughty. I feel bad for the clerk who bends down to put it away 10 minutes later. I feel bad for the books being covered by mine. What if I cost someone else a sale? The guilt nags long after I leave the building.
I'm pretty sure Hemingway had the same problem.