When I signed my book deal, an editor asked me to identify possible markets for my fiction. Dutifully, I included my ancestral home – The Bahamas – on the list. Immediately, the editor, though sweetly, told me that The Bahamas was not a viable book market.
Reflexively, I was offended. Though I am an American, I rep my Bahamian heritage hard, mainly because it’s important to me. I also wave the aqua, black, and gold of the Bahamian flag, because I know how sensitive Bahamians get about other Bahamians who leave, find success abroad, and then seem to forget where they come from. Some quite vocally single out Rick Fox and Sidney Poitier. I guess Poitier winning the Presidential Medal of Freedom this week doesn’t seem to help his cause any. Anyway, I swore I was going to be different. No Bahamians would be singling me out for such treatment.
In the near-decade since my first book came out, I was fanatical about getting bookstores in The Bahamas, where I grew up, to carry my work – just as they do other authors with absolutely no connection to the country. For all of my efforts, though, I so far only had one taker – the religious bookstore in Nassau for some strange reason…but even then, they’d only sell my books online.
I aggressively set out to change the status quo by making Nassau the first stop for a Triptych mini-tour, scheduling two dates – August 1 and August 6 – at Chapter One, the bookstore at the College of The Bahamas, where I’d once taught journalism. Triptych, as you know, is set in The Bahamas. A portion of the net proceeds from the book goes to the Cancer Society of the Bahamas. The August 1 signing was on the calendar for the festivities for my high school class’ twenty-fifth reunion. My sister, Christina “Chrissie Love” Thompson, a radio journalist and talk show host, arranged radio, television, and print press coverage.
Then someone pulled the pin. A week before the heavily promoted August 1 signing, the powers that be decided to schedule an inventory count for that very day. The glib “Erryting cool, man” attitude about gumming up the works was even more shocking, given the planning that has to take place to accommodate a venue that’s at least a three-hour plane ride and two intrusive security checks away. Everyone who could make an executive decision to salvage the signing had rolled out for vacation, leaving a beleaguered store manager, who could only wring her hands and apologize. My sister called in favors so that the signing could be held at an alternate venue, but only the two older titles – twelve copies of each – were available for sale, apparently preordered before the call for inventory. No Triptych. The second signing on August 6 went no better. All in all, the mini-tour embodied the lyrics from “Small Talk,” a song by the rock group Scritti Politti: “If a thing’s worth doing, it’s worth doing badly.”
I know; we are all authors here. We’ve all shown up at our scheduled events to find that our books were not in store. For the obvious reason, though, this particular episode cuts more deeply. It’s even worse that when Bahamians tell me that they’ve had to buy my books during daytrips to Miami because they couldn’t find them in Nassau. It stings like a bitch when the dogs from your own kennel are indifferent to you.
So, was that editor I mentioned before right? Maybe not for Janet Dailey, Dan Brown, and the other authors whose books are on Bahamian shelves. But for me, sadly, she was. I am awake – rudely so. Given that rude awakening, I am forced to bite the bullet and focus my time and energies elsewhere.