Fear of a book signing

Dan Manucci (left) and I combined for 577 passing yards with the 1983 Arizona Wranglers.
Dan Manucci (left) and I combined for 577 passing yards with the 1983 Arizona Wranglers.

So yesterday morning I woke, drove my daughter to school, then set off on a six-hour ride from my home in Southern California to Phoenix, Arizona and a book shop named Changing Hands.

It would be my third live in-a-store promotional event for “Football for a Buck,” as well as my last. See, there’s this myth out there that publishing companies send their authors on a glamorous cross-country PR tour, hopping from packed Barnes & Noble to packed Barnes & Noble as audiences swoon and stories are told and passages are read.

Um, no.

There are celebrity authors walking the earth, from Stephen King to Bob Woodward to Michael Lewis. Then there are men and women like, well, me—nice careers, good sales, wouldn’t be recognized in a supermarket were I wearing a JEFF PEARLMAN, AUTHOR T-shirt. Hence, I’m not a draw. Or at least not enough of a draw for a publishing company to drop $5000 to have me barnstorm America.

And, truth be told, I wouldn’t want to barnstorm America. Book events are terrifying. No, t-e-r-r-i-f-y-i-n-g. Strange faces, empty rooms, awkward glances. I once did an event at the Fort Hood military base, where I was placed at the front of a Wal-Mart-esque store as an employee blasted via the PA system, JEFF PEARLMAN IS SIGNING HIS BOOK! JEFF PEARLMAN! I sat for four hours, I signed three books.

I digress.

I made the drive to Phoenix for multiple reasons: A. I wanted to go to the city and track down a former NBA player for my new book project; B. It was a USFL town; C. Supposedly Changing Hands is outstanding; D. I somehow got Dan Manucci, the former Arizona Wranglers quarterback/current Phoenix sports radio host/all-around terrific guy, to agree to appear with me.

So I drove, and drove, and drove. And when I entered Changing Hands about, oh, 20 minutes before I was scheduled to begin, I was shown the room where the event would take place. This is the crushing sight …

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Yup—emptiness. Familiar emptiness. And, having already experienced Fort Hood, as well as a, ahem, lightly promoted 2003 event at my hometown library where three people attended (my mom, my dad, Andrew Honohan’s sister), it felt familiar. I steeled myself for the one or two attendees; for the sympathetic glares; for a stack of unsold books. I mean, fuck it, I live a charmed life. If this is the worst thing to happen to me …

Then the people began to arrive. Not a ton, but a solid, oh, 30-to-40. Maybe 42. Forty three? And Dan was absolutely awesome—one rollicking story after another. A small handful of journalistic peers attended, including Paola Boivin, Karen Crouse, Jay Dieffenbach. The tales of USFL zaniness rolled off the tongue—Greg Fields punching his coach, Steve Young collecting money to pay a bus driver, George Allen sending spies to Washington. I found myself laughing, chuckling, having a wonderful time.

I paid $71 out of pocket for a hotel, $18 for dinner.

It was worth every cent.