How NOT to Promote Your Book

Scene: an independent bookstore, less than a week before E. L. James will be arriving to sign books. Phone rings. I answer. The following dialogue is as accurate in quotation as my stunned memory would allow. ME: Bookstore -- this is Olivia -- how may I help you?

CALLER: I have a question about getting a ticket for the E. L. James signing.

ME: Oh, I'm sorry, we're all sold out.

CALLER: I have a secondary question.

ME: Fire away.

CALLER: I'm a photographer with a book out. It's about women and beauty and self-esteem and has been carried by the University Book Store. I would like to attend the E. L. James event and hand out my business card to people in the signing line.

ME: ... No.

CALLER: No?

ME: I would strongly encourage you not to do that.

CALLER: Why not?

ME: Really? Well, because it's inappropriate. The people in the signing line are here for E. L. James, not because they have issues with their bodies or their self-esteem.

CALLER: But I'm trying to help people!

ME: I can't consent to your help on behalf of my customers.

CALLER: But I'm watching Katie Couric right now ... I miss the next few sentences, wondering what on earth Katie Couric has to do with this. Though it's clear she really believes she's doing something important.

ME: Again, I would caution you against this.

CALLER: Are you going to have me arrested?

ME: What? No!

CALLER: So it's not illegal, then.

ME: ... Can I take your name down, please?

CALLER: Only if you agree that I can hand out my business card.

ME: Well, it looks like we're stuck. Thanks for calling, and have a wonderful afternoon.

Exeunt omnes, pursued by a bear.