When your books start heading out into the wider world — bought (paid for!) by libraries, schools and civilians — it’s hard not to be intensely curious about just who these people are.
Four months ago today, my memoir “Malled” My Unintentional Career in Retail” was published. To my relief, it is still selling very steadily nationwide.
It’s a thrill to know that some people are appreciating your skill and hard work and ideas — especially when you get “reviews” like the nastiest one (of many) so far at amazon.com that called me “bitter, pretentious and lazy, lazy, lazy.”
I recently read to/spoke with a small group — perhaps 15 or so — at Magers & Quinn in Minneapolis. Fun! A local blogger kind enough to feature me came out with his friends. They had lots of questions and comments, as several people had worked in retail themselves and had much to offer.
It was a lively conversation, and so satisfying to have a chance to share with people who care as much about this stuff as I do.
When you’re writing, hunched alone in your sweats over your umpteenth revision, it’s these moments I especially look forward to as my reward. Writing books is such a crapshoot. You pray you’ll find readers, and when you find enthusiastic ones and can see their faces and hear their reactions, it closes the loop between your initial private ideas and the act of publication.
I was especially touched there by the woman whose response to “Malled” was “Yayyyyyyyyy!” and told us she keeps telling friends to read it.
For some people, authors are a mysterious breed. Unless you hang out in those circles, you might never meet one, while our products keep pouring out in a hopeless Niagara, each of us trying in every possible way to claim your attention. Booksellers see a ragged parade of us, persistently cheerful in the face of even the tiniest tiny turn-out — sometime one person, sometimes none.
The bookseller at M & Q was relieved to find me relaxed, schmoozing the audience before we began. “Some writers are really high-strung,” he told me.
Why, yes they are. I once interviewed a famous women humorist whose work I had revered for years. Disaster. She was rude, abrupt and distinctly not funny in person.
See: illusions, shattered.
It’s even a real challenge finding venues to read and meet your readers. I’m not sufficiently high profile to read at any of the Manhattan Barnes & Noble stores, and couldn’t find a single store in the city to set up an event for me. I did one event here in the New York suburbs where I live — and one person came, a fellow blogger I know.
“Book tours” paid for by a publisher willing to send you around the country are only for the uber-successful. The rest of us call a few stores in whatever towns we’re about to visit, and hope to piggyback on their local and loyal buyers to come out and meet us. Even if no buyers appear, we sign some books, shake some hands and hope we leave a good-enough impression that the bookstore staff will talk up our book — only word of mouth makes a book truly successful.
Not ads, not reviews.
And we really need enthusiastic and knowledgable retailers to hand-sell our work, recommending it with enthusiasm even while thousands of our competitors line their shelves.
Have you ever gone to a reading to meet an author?
Was s/he what you expected in person?