• shari wallack

how to get perfect strangers to buy your book? it's not as hard as it sounds!

Updated: Aug 18, 2021

From the moment I wrote the book, I started fantasizing about having it sit on the shelves at The Strand. For you non-New Yorkers, The Strand is the most iconic bookstore in NYC. Ironically, I live in the same circa 1890 apartment building that houses the Upper West Side Strand outlet. Local author! They'll want me. Right? Well, not exactly. Here is my journey to The Strand.

There is a whole process involved in getting your book into ANY bookstore. You don't just walk in and say, "Hi, I live upstairs. I wrote a book. Want to buy a dozen copies?" Believe me....I tried that! You have to email the submissions department. They don't respond. You beg your publisher, who goes to the distributor. That takes time. Finally, you send your friends to the store, disguised as potential customers, asking if they carry the book. One of my friends, Cindy, went into the store, and in the loudest possible NYC Jewish voice asked the clerk, "Do you have this new book, "from hell to challah?" I hear it's amazing and I want a copy!" Thanks to Roy, Jen, Cindy, and everyone else who has been asking The Strand to carry it, because today I got THE TEXT!

"It's arrived," typed Rayna. Rayna is the nice thirty-something who is usually behind the counter when I go in. She wears a "QUEER" button on her shirt every day, just in case anyone was wondering. She and Jesse (her associate) seem to be the full-timers at the store. I asked Rayna if I could come down and sign the copies and she said it would be great. So I made my way downstairs and around the corner to The Strand.

And there, next to the Alex Trebek memoir, sat eight copies of "from hell to challah." I don't usually cry when a celebrity dies, but I wept for Alex. "Who is the most memorable, kindest, sweetest, smartest, and most endearing talk show host in the history of television?" You know the answer. And what is Sony thinking putting Mike Richards at the helm? No charisma. I don't get it. Alex, I miss you and I am honored to be next to you.

I signed the copies. Jesse put a little red "signed author's copy" sticker on each book. I placed them back in their spot of honor and exit the store. Before I headed home, I snapped a shot of the front of The Strand. Mid-snap, two middle-aged shoppers were exiting the store. I asked if the man, Ira, would take a photo of me. He obliged and asked me if The Strand was my favorite bookstore.

"Glad you asked. Yes," I told him. And then I went on to explain that I had just written this book and signed all of the copies in the store. His wife, Liz, asked me to tell her what the book was about. That is like asking me to tell you about my children. I glow. My face lights up. They could see how enthusiastic I was and offered to buy a copy. WOW! Back inside The Strand we went. Ira bought a book and I personalized it.

You think I could try this again tomorrow? :)

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