Thursday, May 25, 2006

Book Expo: From Fabio to Dr. Ruth

From James Grippando

It took me eleven novels to get there, but I finally attended my first Book Expo, the biggest book trade show in the country. I don't know how I avoided this event for almost 12 years, but from what every author tells me, I got a distorted view of how much fun it is.

The truth is, I had a blast. And I wasn't even promoting one of my usual adult titles. Perhaps that's the reason I had so much fun. I was promoting my first young adult novel, Leapholes, and a short story I wrote for an anthology called Thriller. I flew into Washington on Saturday morning and hurried over to the convention center. At 10:30 I went straight to the Harlequin booth--Thriller is published by Mira, an imprint of Harlequin--and of course, I was looking forward to meeting Fabio, who has graced so many Harlequin romance titles. He wasn't there. Bummer. My fellow "Naked Author" Paul Levine really wanted an autographed photo.

The good news is that over 400 people were already in line for an 11:00 signing. Reporters from USA Today, the Wall Street Journal, and Publishers Weekly were also there. Now, I wish I could say they were there for me, but I was as star struck as anyone by the group of authors that showed up for this signing. I had met very few of my fellow contributors to Thriller before this event (only Steve Berry and Gale Lynds), so it was a "thrill" (pun intended) to see the others all lined up ready to sign the next hottest book on e bay. I know I'm leaving folks out, but there was David Morrell, Heather Graham, Eric Van Lustbader, J.A. Konrath, Brad Thor, M.J. Rose Denise Hamilton, John Lescoart, and on and on--17 of us altogether). We signed 400 books in 45 minutes for a truly enthusiastic crowd that was, I'm happy to say, even more excited about the book than the "Thriller" T shirts the publisher was giving away (always a good sign).

Here's a shot that gives you some feeling for the event. I'm off to the right, just out of the photo, still searching for Fabio.

From the Thriller booth it was off to my young adult signing for Leapholes. We did the signing at the American Bar Association booth, which I was worried about, since it was located in a separate exhibition hall about as far as you could get from young adult and children's publishers. I ended up signing 320 AREs from 2:00 to 3:30. Lots of booksellers, tons of librarians, and many school teachers made the special trip to visit a booth they never would have gotten anywhere near, but for Leapholes. But here's the best part. When I showed up at a few minutes before 2:00,someone was sitting in my chair waiting for me. It was none other than Dr. Ruth!

I always wondered if that accent was made up or at least exagerrated for her radio broadcasts as a sex therapist. It's not. She talks exactly the way she sounds on the radio. This was hilarious to me, since this is the first children's novel ever published by the American Bar Association, and it is my first young adult title--and who is the first person in line? The world's most famous sex therapist.

I can remember sitting in my college dorm room at night with my buddies and a few of the girls from across the hall listening to Dr. Ruth's radio show. One episode in particular came flashing back to me. A woman called into her show and was describing the somewhat kinky things she likes to do with her boyfriend. Dr. Ruth obviously was not into this kind of stuff, as she simply listened without much commentary as the woman went on and on about her various adventures. Finally, she finished, and Dr. Ruth simply said (in her high-pitched voice) "Thank you for calling, and don't forget to wash the penis. Goodbye." This became like a mantra for us in college. Everytime I bumped into one of those young woman who were in the room with me, be it a bar or a party or a class we coincidentally ended up in together, she would come up to me and whisper in her best Dr. Ruth accent, "Don't forget to wash the penis."

I decided not to share this story with Dr. Ruth, but even though it was a children's book I was promoting, I felt compelled to ask her something sex related. So I told her I have this problem.
"Yes, tell me," she said with interst.
"I've written twelve novels. This is my first one for kids. But every time I say I've written eleven adult novels people think I'm writing porn."
She thought about this for a moment. "You must mention your children," she said.
"Your children. You should say that you wrote the children's novels for your children, and people won't think you're writing porn for adults."
It wasn't foolproof, but for on-the-spot advice, I thought it was pretty darn good. Especially for such a goofy question.
Maybe I'll start listening to Dr. Ruth again.
And don't forget to . . .

James Grippando


  1. Ah, mystery solved. It was YOU who wanted the autographed photograph of Fabio. Paul lied and said it was for HIM. Congrats, by the way, on the fab (once again, pun intended) NY Times review last Sunday . . . "spellbinding narrative." Now they should read your blog!