I’d sooner stab myself in the eye than do a reading at a bookstore.

Don’t get me wrong: I love bookstores. And I love giving others the gift of hearing me read aloud. (Perhaps that’s why I’m not asked to appear more often.)

I just hate what’s required to deliver a worthy crowd of buyers.

Generally speaking, unless you’re J. K. Rowling, no one is camping out on the sidewalk to hear you read. No one is rushing the bookstore like vampires at a hemophiliac convention. They’re not having to add extra security when 12 people – including a homeless dude who thinks the self-help section is the men’s room – are listening to you tell a story about your best friend throwing up behind a dumpster after you fed him cocaine cut with baby powder.

For those of us who don’t have million-fan followings, bookstore events are stressful.

With that in mind, I herewith present to you:

An Author’s Bookstore Reading Checklist

  • Gather dirt on friends. When dropped casually into conversations, this information can be used to subtly influence their decision to attend. (“I know what you mean about being crazed. I’ve been fending off gossip all week about some woman you were seen sucking face with at Chez Louis. People can be so nasty.”)
  • If your circle consists of friends whose hands (and other parts) are clean, refine the art of begging and pleading. I find that statements like, “If I don’t get 50 people at my reading, I’m going to set myself on fire right next to the adult coloring books.” Guilt is generally effective, especially if they’re Catholic or Jewish. No one wants a burn victim on their conscience.
  • Wine works. Most people – even those who haven’t cracked a book since Green Eggs and Ham – will show up for an event where free hooch is served. And research shows that drunk people buy more, even if they tend to wander off in search of the toilet right in the middle of your literary climax.
  • When all else fails, pay. There are randos you can hire on Craigslist to show up and act interested. Tip: pay AFTER the reading, and be sure they haven’t replaced the title page that you would normally sign with a parole form.