Borderlands Books is Awesome

Seriously, now. I did my tour stop yesterday at Borderlands and it remains one of my favorite bookstores anywhere on the planet. Just great people and a great space (made even better now by the fantastic cafe next door). The next time you are in San Francisco I command you to make a visit. It is so very much worth your time. And if you are in San Francisco already, really: no excuse not to visit. Today, even.

My event at the store was just unspeakable amounts of fun. I had a great crowd, and they really seemed to enjoy the reading, plus as a bonus some of my family was there (specifically, my sister, niece and dad) so there were three generations of Scalzi in one bookstore. I also got to hang out afterwards with friends at the Borderlands Cafe, which was a fine thing.

And everyone seemed to forgive me when I accidentally said “San Diego” when I meant “San Francisco.” Sorry again, guys. I blame tour fatigue.

Off today to Portland and tonight’s appearance at Powell’s at the Cedar Hills Crossing store. It’s at 7pm and should be a ton of fun. And yes, before anyone asks, I’ll try to stop at Voodoo Donuts and have a maple bacon donut. At this point, if I don’t, I think people may beat me.

43 Comments on “Borderlands Books is Awesome”

  1. Have you ever been to the Book Loft in German Village, near downtown Columbus? It’s too crowded for a book signing, but it’s a blast to walk through. And I’m sure they wouldn’t mind some signed books on hand.

  2. And even if you can’t visit, Borderlands is a great go-to place for ordering signed (or other) books and having them arrive well-packaged and well-handled. (And they support the little guy, publisher-wise as well.)

  3. I was just disappointed that the guy in front of me bought the last copy of your book, so I had nothing for you to sign, and that it was too crowded for a couple of the friends I brought who’d never heard of you to come inside. But otherwise a good time.

  4. I remember that place being fun. City Lights was always more to my taste, though…

  5. love Borderlands, lucky to have such a great store only a couple blocks away

  6. I’ll be in SF in July. I’ll be visiting Borderlands for sure!
    BTW – The Teri Windling edited “Borderland” series is fabulous if you have not checked it out.

  7. Scalzi,
    You are starting to worry your fans with all this unauthorized junk food. If you get back after the tour up 20 pounds, there will be hell to pay. We will have to refer to you as “Big Fuzzy.”

  8. Voodoo Doughnuts is overrated, but the bacon maple bar is hands down the best bacon delivery system in the world.
    Their store at 22 SW 3rd Avenue is closed for remodeling, but their location at 1501 NE Davis St is open 24 hours.

  9. Oh, I, too, am a Borderlands fan. And Dianda’s Italian American Bakery lives nearby on Mission Street between 24th and 25th Streets. For a perfect day, visit both locations.

  10. Going to readings can be fun for most everyone involved; I’m not so sure about signings though.
    Though I’m all in favor of fun, I’m curious as to whether signings/readings are EVER profitable, for anyone other than the bookstores involved (and maybe the local cafes). I don’t take it for granted that just because they continue to be done, that they’re a winning proposition for authors or publishers. Consider a perhaps not unreasonable toy model that a given fraction x of the people who attend are likely to buy an excess of Y things from that author over the next few years. If x is 0.5 and Y is 2 (picking not incredibly stupid numbers), then the total number of new sales resulting is equal to the number of people attending, which seems a maybe bit optimistic, but not absurd. I don’t know the average number of people who attend a given reading, but let’s guess and say it’s 50, which is probably correct to within a factor of a few. If one does 20 of these for a book, then that amounts to 1000 excess sales, which isn’t chicken feed, but it can’t possibly come close to covering expenses (of course, I don’t know the percentage of retail that is profit for the publisher. If it’s as high as for an Apple thingie say, then this could be wrong). This of course ignores perhaps other more profitable things one can be doing with their time. So, what am I missing in this “piano-tuner” back-of-the-envelope calc? Is it that I haven’t tried to put a value on fun? I tend to doubt that most corporate entities value that very highly….

  11. Don’t bother with Voodoo Donuts for bacon! Go to Pine State Biscuits and get a Reggie Deluxe (fried chicken, bacon, cheese gravy and an egg on a biscuit). Now that is great packaging for bacon.

  12. diogenes #13: It’s not so much the direct sales that they’re trying for. It’s getting the word out; getting the books into the hands of fans of the author who will read it, and hopefully recommend the book and/or author to their other friends, creating a wave of book-buying much larger than the original authorial pebble.

    Or at least that’s the hope. Like most things in the category of “marketing”, measuring the impact is a very tricky business.

    Speaking of which, I was at Borderlands yesterday for the reading, and it was a total blast. The big blank book for the attendees to sign is inspired; where did the idea for it come from?

  13. More shameless plugs about geeks having a good time in the Mission

    Mission comics, only a couple blocks away

    Pirate Store for all your pirate needs (nonprofit supporting kids and education) also a couple blocks

    Dog Eared books down the street also for your second hand books

    and finally, Rosamundo’s three blocks down, so you can eat sausage and drink beer while reading your books and comic (and hopefully dressed like a pirate, it is ok, they don’t mind)

  14. Jonathan Adams explains it pretty well; we’re seeing the people who come to the event as folks who will then be enthusiastic about the work and author to their friends and others. The second level effect is real and worth the effort.

    Re: autograph book – the idea didn’t come from anywhere in particular. It’s just something I wanted to do.

  15. #13: The thing I hate most about book signings, at least the ones I’ve been to, is that you *must* buy the newest book, in hardcover, and that’s the one the author will sign. If you *also* want to bring older, paperback works by the same author to have them sign it, that’s fine, but you can’t even get in the autograph line without having first purchased the newest hardcover book. Dammit, I don’t have the money/storage space for hardcovers, and I don’t think it’s fair that a bookstore would actually insist that you do it their way, or you don’t get anything signed. Maybe other bookstores do it differently, but the particular Bookstore Which Shall Not Be Named Here that I’m referring to really irritates me by doing it that way.

  16. I don’t think I’ve ever done a signing that way, Jennifer, although I certainly do encourage people to buy books there at the bookshop. It’s how they stay in business, after all.

  17. Thanks John S. and Jonathan Adams: that makes sense but, not that I want to discourage folks from doing this, it still seems sorta iffy, as Jonathan said.
    What happens with me, in particular, is that I rave about a book to friends and then give them my copy or maybe they borrow it from the local library. Seeing and hearing the author maybe modifies the amplitude of my rave, but not always in a positve direction. My guess is that perhaps it does work, but not for ALL authors. Maybe publishers know this or learn it, over time? (the book signing scene from “Paul” keeps popping into my head).
    In any event, I’d definitely go to a Scalzi reading near me!

  18. I was there (from santa clara, 40 miles and an hour away). It was beyond fantastic. I walked in just as the introductions were about to begin. We started laughing then and did not stop all the way till the end. The reading from the new book was fantastic — I can’t wait for it. Thank you for your note on the book — I am sure my daughter will enjoy Zoe’s Tale when she reads it.

    * It is good for the bookstore — this is now my choice bookstore for SF in the bay area and I am sure there are a lot of people who decided so.
    * We didn’t HAVE to buy a hardcover — I bought a trade paperback, but there were plenty of people who didn’t buy any.

  19. One of the benefits for a store to do a signing is it does get people into the store so that they can see what it offers. Tha is especially true for an independent as opposed to a chain store. The best thing a store can do when a specific author appears is to make sure they have a display of other books, especially any signed stock, to entice people coming for th eone author to purchase additional books.

    One local independent goes a bit overboard on reuiring you to buy a book from them, including not letting you get to listen to the author talk unless you have bought the book from them. They also have been charging authors a $300 fee to do a signing, including a recent debut author (who was featured here with a Big Idea piece). When I told him the other independent wouldn’t charge his publisher a fee, he was definitely interested in doing a signing there.

    In any case, that is not the bookstore that will be hosting John when he is in Phoenix at the end of the month. If you aren’t making it down to Phoenix ComiCon, make sure you make it over to the Poisoned Pen at 5 pm Saturday, May 28th.

  20. Book signings can be great. For my birthday once, my brother went to a James Blaylock signing and asked Jim to sign a box of Wheetabix for me. He did, and it is once of my prized possessions. (Wheetabix plays an important role in his wonderful novel The Last Coin.)

  21. Jennifer @18 I’m sorry that your local bookstore operates that way. Once upon a time I worked for a store that contended each year for the most author events anywhere in America, and the *only* times we asked that people buy the most recent book at our store were the events that were going to be humongous and there had to be some limitation going on anyway. In the early 1990s, this was people like Anne Rice, Jimmy Carter, Carl Sagan or Ginger Rogers. Trying to get upwards of 1500 people’s books signed in a roughly three-hour period meant limiting things in some way, and that’s when we set conditions. The goal was always to have happy authors and happy fans, and we did our best not to have things get in the way of that.

  22. I went to one of John’s readings and bought 2 books that I normally would not have purchased, so he’s got a few pennies of royalties that otherwise wouldn’t have been there, so yes, I think those author readings are worth it.

    But more than the pennies, author readings garner attention in the media and word of mouth – both extremely valuable ways to promote a book.

    Besides, where else would you see a man do an interpretative dance about his love of Coke Zero?

    Oh, sorry, John – I promised not to tell anyone else about that, didn’t I?

  23. Thanks John for stopping in San Francisco. It was my first time attending a book signing and you made it a great experience. Wish I had told you that yesterday rather than asked you if you had read another author! Well, now it’s done!

  24. Dammit! :(
    I was at Borderlands for your Last Colony tour, but I’ve since moved an hour north of Sacramento. I wish I hadn’t had to miss it, as last time was amazing fun.

  25. Hey John…. I had a great time at the reading. I got the VERY last hard cover of Fuzzy Nation, the one they stood up next to your name plate…WHEW! It was great to see you, you look fantastic! And, as always, I am sooooooo proud of you.

  26. “I need you for dance class!”

    This has already led to 2 great conversations at work about your appearance at Borderlands. John, thanks for such a unique inscription.

    I used to manage a Borders out here before I switched careers and not one time did we have an author who provided such an entertaing and enthusiastic reading/signing. Can’t wait until next time.

  27. Datum: during the ~15 minutes I spent outside the bookstore near the end of the Q&A phase, a baker’s dozen or more people approached me(!) to ask, “Hey, what’s going on in there?” I explained to each that the notorious notable Mr. John Scalzi was speaking today, and that that’s his book in the window…

    I do know that at least three who asked squeezed their way in, and I’m pretty certain that at least one made a purchase before the talkination was finished. So yeah, personal appearances are not without worth, even to those who are new to an author.

    Thanks again, John, and here’s hoping next time you can book the Cow Palace after the first date at Borderlands!

    – CJ” a long way from Glendora “H / esper

  28. John: a great time was had by all, and I hope you come back soon! Sorry I couldn’t sign the tour book: my daughter needed to be put to bed. (I was the guy with the dyed hair asking you about proper use of your books as insect-killers…)

  29. Ok, so am I officially a scalzi groupie now? Waiting with quite a big group already here in Portland :)

  30. I posted about John Scalzi on my facebook status today. Had there not been a Portland signing event I would not have done so. Many of my facebook friends I’m sure previously had no idea who John Scalzi was. Now, perhaps they might do a little googling to find out what I’m yammering on about.

    So yeah, its worth something beyond the single book I bought today.

  31. I know all you SF writers don’t really know each other, so I’ll relay this: Mark van Name is also in Portland, and says you (well, anyone in Portland, actually) need to have dinner at Le Pigeon. I’m stuck in TX, but due to the series of tubes I can relay this message between a pair of my favorite writers. Isn’t the future cool?

  32. I have never seen the point of getting books signed. I don’t buy books as an investment, where being signed increases the value. And I’m not interested in playing status games where I can sneer down my nose at all those lesser Scalzinista bibilophiles who don’t have a signed copy.

    To me, getting a signed copy just means that there are about 3 inches less endurance left in Mr. Scalzi’s carpal tunnel, which would be far better used typing up The Revenge of The Bride of The Android’s Dream.

    Readings and getting 30 seconds to chat with an author you like so you can ask where he gets all his crazy ideas from I am totally fine with.

  33. Probably the most entertaining readng I’ve been to. Glad you made it to SF.

  34. Diogenes,

    I went to the LA signing with my (already purchased) copy of Fuzzy Nation. I bought Hate Mail, Agent to the Stars, both already owned electronically, and four other non-Scalzi books, so it was a pretty good deal for the bookstore.

  35. Sorry I missed it — was busy with technical issues and completely forgot it was last weekend. Its about 8 blocks from where I live too. Sigh.

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