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Tuesday, November 20, 2012

No Book Signing for You! by James L. Rubart

As you might be aware, my latest novel, Soul's Gate just released. (Yes, feel free to purchase 300 copies right now for you, your family, and friends. I'll wait.)

You're back? Good. I want to talk about my most recent book signing to promote the novel. Or lack thereof.

Four weeks back I called my local bookstore and left a message on the promotion person's voicemail asking if she’d be interested in me doing a signing in support of my new novel.

No call back. So I e-mailed her five days later. No response. I e-mailed again a week after that. Third verse, same as the first.

I finally reached the lady by phone last week. She said she’d do a little research and get back to me. She did with an e-mail a few hours later. Here’s what it said:

“Hi Jim: After checking into your title I realize this would not be an event our store could promote and be successful due to its religious content. Good luck to you!”

I was floored. Was she kidding? This store has a huge selection of Christian fiction. I've done three signings with this store in the past—all which were extremely successful. (Friends and family in the area, you know?)

A year ago I was told by a manager my novels sell more copies at that store than almost any other Christian fiction author. Yet suddenly they can’t promote my novel or create a successful event “due to the religious content”? Huh?

But the lady who e-mailed me a few days back wasn’t the same promotions person I’d worked with three times in the past. She was new and obviously has a different agenda than the previous promotions director. I’m guessing Christians don't peg the highest on her personal likability meter.

Help me here friends. Is it okay for a bookstore employee to insert their personal beliefs into a decision to promote an author or not? Yes, I realize Christians aren’t the most welcome people in much of greater American culture today, but doesn’t this store want to sell books?

At first I was ticked off. I wanted to send out an e-mail to all my friends telling them if they intended to pick up a copy of Soul’s Gate at that store to drive a few miles farther and get it somewhere else.

But then I tried to put myself in this gal’s shoes and see it from her perspective.

Let’s Take a Peek From the Other Side

What if this lady was a conservative Christian and I was a gay author calling about having a book signing? What if she didn’t feel comfortable having me promote my latest work extolling the homosexual lifestyle? Should she be able to nix a signing based on her beliefs?

What if I was a Muslim promoting my latest novel and the store manager was Jewish? Would it be okay for her to kibosh the idea of me doing a signing?

Enough examples. I’d love to hear your reactions to what happened to me and what you would do if you were the promotions director for that store. And what you would do if you were the manager of the store and found out what happened.

While I’m waiting for your comments I’ll be setting up a book table in my garage. I think some of my neighbors will show up and buy a copy. Maybe they'll even want me to sign it.

James L. Rubart is the best-selling, award winning author of four novels. Publishers Weekly says this about his latest release, SOUL’S GATE: “Readers with high blood pressure or heart conditions be warned: this is a seriously heart-thumping and satisfying read that goes to the edge, jumps off, and “builds wings on the way down.”

During the day he runs Barefoot Marketing which helps businesses and authors make more coin of the realm. He lives with his amazing wife and two sons in the Pacific Northwest and loves to dirt bike, hike, golf, takes photos, and still thinks he’s young enough to water ski like a madman. More at 


Elaine Stock said...

I'd be curious to know if this was a new store policy that took away all control out of her hands. I work retail and even my managers drop open their mouths when corporate comes up with another "brilliant" idea. If this was her idea though, then I would 1) ask if she knew of your previous successful track record and 2) if this was a new policy for any religious-based book because if not, that's pure discrimination that must be stoppedf for everyone's sake.

Nicole said...

I'm with Elaine here, Jim. Ask if this is a new policy after explaining your track record. If she gives you a negative answer, ask her if it's personal. If she is making personal decisions, she needs to confess it and be put in the uncomfortable position of owning up to it and facing possible discrimination consequences - not that you would, but she needs to realize that possibility.

Michael Ehret said...

Ideally, it should be applied across the board to all books, based on sales figures/potential. In this world, you and the gay author could BOTH hold book signings.

Personally, I would have no problem with that. The point being the promoter's personal beliefs shouldn't enter in to it EITHER way. She should not exclude you (based on your past performances there and/or the content of your book) nor should she favor the gay author.

But, since when do we live in that kind of world? I'm starting to see that people--on both sides of any issue--are all too eager to paint the other side as negative, just because they don't personally agree with that viewpoint. That grieves me.

Thank you for not doing that.

Gina Holmes said...

I'd concur with finding out if it was a new policy. But I wouldn't drop it. This is discrimination. They carry your book but you can't sign the book at an event? What the heck? It seems by just requiring you to put a Christian Fiction on the signage, it would solve any problems. I'd go over her head. It might not make her your fan, but it's the right thing to do I think.

Erica Vetsch said...

Perhaps it would be a good idea to send those friends and family who would buy your book at that store into the store to spread some good will. When buying the book, mention to the sales person how much they enjoyed the book signing events you've had there in the past, and how sad they are that you were denied another signing. A few words dropped here and there about how they would've loved to Christmas shop at the same time as they came in for your signing might reach the right ears and reverse the policy? You never know.

Cara Putman said...

We're actually going through this in a different context with a choir that my kids are in. It's a community choir but they're going to sing a song next year that is anti what we believe. What to do? Pull out and be that family? I had a great meeting with the director yesterday and she pointed out that last spring was entirely religious music and the Hindus, Jews, etc. participated. And I realized the difference. As Christians we believe there is absolute truth. There is only one it makes things different. Still wrestling.

I can see the bookstores perspective, but it's sad because they will lose sales and in a day where bookstores need all the help they can get, it seems short sighted.

Cara Putman said...

I love this idea! There really isn't's a private business...and we really don't want gov't to step in and force businesses to host events they don't want. Imagine if this was a Christian store and someone could demand that an anti-Christian event were held there! It's already happening in some cities in rentals, etc.

Gina Holmes said...

My problem isn't with a store refusing to carry Christian content, or certain Christian content. I wouldn't want to have to carry atheist material. BUT they DO carry Christian fiction. So, secular authors can sign but not a Christian author? I see that as blatant discrimination. If they're worried about customers, make sure the signage is clearly labeled as such. If you don't like Christian content, don't sell it.

Erynn said...

It's not the same store that has the "exclusive edition" I hope. This is a difficult one for me because I'm SO non-confrontational. I think you SHOULD follow up, politely and professionally as Elaine suggested, but personally, I probably wouldn't.
I do also appreciate your willingness to try to see their perspective, but I think Gina's right. If they don't want to promote it, then they really shouldn't sell it.
Sticky, but not really at all surprising.

Jim Rubart said...

Hi Elaine,

I can't go into the details, but I know with 100% accuracy, that this is not a new store policy.

Good questions, thanks!


Jim Rubart said...

Thanks, Nicole. Appreciate the support.

Jim Rubart said...

Thanks, M.E. Wise words.

Jim Rubart said...


As you might have seen in my comment above, definitely not a new policy.

I'll let you know how it turns out!


Jim Rubart said...

Tell me, how did you guys get so smart?

Jim Rubart said...

Exactly my feelings.

Jim Rubart said...

Yeah, that's the thing that's the most sad to me. That at first I was surprised, then realized I shouldn't be.

Jennifer K. Hale said...

It's definitely a slippery slope. Of course I think you should have been allowed to promote your book, but I do see the other side-- what if someone had written about Satanic worship and wanted to do a book signing? In our politically correct America, we have an all-or-nothing mindset of acceptance and the majority has a sense of morality that's been out of whack for a while.

However, all authors have an agenda. All books have a theme or topic or central idea. If I'm the promotions person and I don't like books about dragons or fairies, do I get to tell those authors that they can't sign an promote at my store?

Because of your past history with the store, you should have been allowed to promote there. Especially because you are a local author. Shame on them!

Jim Rubart said...

Thanks, Jennifer, I appreciate the support. :)


Lori Stanley Roeleveld said...

I'd play off some of the earlier comments. A book store owner is, generally speaking, profit driven first. I'd ask fans to call the store and ask when the Jim Rubart book-signing will be held. After enough calls, I think the principal of profit will rise above the prejudice. Also, I'd have those same fans praying for whatever lurks in the air space around town. Finally, I would revisit the issue with the person who turned you down. Explain to her that you feel you're going to have to send a letter of inquiry to whoever is above her but you'd like to try to work it out with her first. I wouldn't be threatening about it, just assertive since you have a history with that store. Cool conflict, actually. Keep us informed.

Jim Rubart said...

Thanks, Lori. :)

Cathy Weber said...

I agree with Lori comment. She did say it better than I could. I feel it is wrong and does need to be brought to owners attention but I would Ho into store to talk to them. I think a lot of times phone messages and emails are easy to just ignore or not pay proper attention to, where as in person a bit harder.
Best of luck. Your book is on my wish list since my friend
Mary Fields Jackson did review

Jim Rubart said...

Thanks, Cathy. :) Hoping you enjoy Soul's Gate.

Cara Putman said...

Two words, Jim. Law school. Sigh. :-)

sally apokedak said...

Maybe if you send her a box of chocolates, thanking her for taking the time to consider your request and then go in several times to shop at the store and make sure you introduce yourself and say hi to her and act pleasantly toward her, she'll be ashamed of herself and allow you to have a signing for your next book.

Right now you are to her mind an evangelical, religious right, idiot who hates women and gay people, probably. This might be an opportunity for you to love her and show her how wrong she is.

It's a terrible thing that Christians are branded as the haters in this country. It's not right that we are discriminated against. And I do think there are times we have to challenge laws. I think the owners of Hobby Lobby have to fight the government because they will be forced to close their stores and people will lose their jobs, if they can't find relief from Obama care. As citizen they have to fight against government discrimination, I think. But I'm not sure that we as individual authors should fight individual book store employees by going over their heads. This might be one of those battles where you're to stay silent and let God make the righteousness of your cause known. This might be an opportunity to love your enemy.

I think maybe we all have to decide these things for ourselves and on an individual basis.

Jim Rubart said...

Thanks, Sally. Appreciate your thoughts! :)

Sibella Giorello said...

I'm with Gina here. Don't drop this. It is discrimination and in the old days we might call this what it is: Bigotry. Just like we'd call bigotry on those other situations you mentioned.

Sibella Giorello said...

Cara is a smart cookie and knows the law. I'm looking at this from a business angle. What the woman is saying here is: "Good luck selling your books -- but we're not going to help you because we don't subscribe to your beliefs." That's not her job. Her job is to help authors SELL BOOKS. Not decide what people should be reading. If she wants to do that latter, fine. But not in that job description.