Wednesday, October 16, 2013

Chicken Ranch report no. 43: Columbus in the rear-view mirror

La Grange Chicken Ranch brass token (fake)Well, my speaking engagement at the Nesbitt Memorial Library in Columbus turned into a nice event. With the cold front threatening to turn the evening into a wet, sloppy mess, I was afraid everybody would stay home and my drive back to New Braunfels would be a trying one. Fortunately, things stayed dry. There was a nice turnout, the audience was curious and engaged, and everyone seemed to like what I had to share. Heck, I even sold a few books--including a couple copies of Voices of Vision, despite the insanely creepy cover. How cool is that?

All in all, yesterday was a good day for me. On top of the presentation, I received an encouraging response from a well-established agent. I've been down this road before, and know a simple "no" can dash my hopes within sight of the finish line, but still, it's encouraging. That, coupled with the response of the audience at the library, reenforces my confidence that a market does indeed exist for my Chicken Ranch history. The readers might not know they're waiting for the book, but they are. Universal disappointment came when I explained my history wasn't available, and that I couldn't even give them a publication date. Folks want this story. They want to know what really happened with the Chicken Ranch. That's enough to make me keep plugging away. I learned some other things as well:

  • Trim back some of my reading materials. I was so worried about not having enough content to fill my allotted time that I didn't leave room for much of a Q&A session.
  • The East Texas Historical Association paper I presented last year in Nacogdoches works well as reading material. The intro is a little too academic, but the meat of the paper is gripping, even outside of an academic setting. This is good to know.
  • Scale back the number of Ghosts of the Chicken Ranch images. Specifically, multiple shots/angles of the same thing. What works well in book form can get repetitive quickly on screen.
  • People really liked seeing the ruins and getting a virtual tour of the place. The years of neglect and vandalism sickened them as much as it does me.
  • People really, really liked seeing my historical photos, including the Chicken Ranch restaurant in Dallas and Miss Edna standing in the oh-so-tastefully-decorated parlor.
  • Keep a checklist so I don't forget anything. I was baffled as to how I end my presentation early (15 minutes ahead of time, to be precise). It wasn't until after the throngs had departed that I realized I'd completely forgotten about the 11 minute video I'd brought along. I screened it for the library staff, so it wasn't a total waste, but I'm kicking myself.
  • Bring multiple titles to a signing. I almost didn't bring Voices of Vision along, because it has absolutely nothing to do with the Chicken Ranch. But the $45 price of Ghosts was too steep for some (understandably enough) so they opted for the $15 interview collection instead. Ghosts will make a very good companion volume to take along when I'm touring for the history book (whenever that may be). Lots of potential here, yes indeed.
  • At its core, I have a very good Chicken Ranch presentation. This will play very well to audiences across the state, and can be tailored to specific audiences with minimal effort. Once I get the big history book published, I'm loaded for bear.
Jacob Truchard from the Colorado County Citizen stayed for the duration, taking photos and copious notes. The paper comes out on Tuesdays, so I'll need someone to snag a copy for me next week.

The last thing I learned is that driving from San Marcos to Columbus and back to New Braunfels when the lower back is throbbing does little to reduce said throbbing in said lower back. If anything, it makes the discomfort worse. I know I'm an old man now, because I'm always complaining about back aches. Such is life.

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