We first met Tamim Ansary many years ago through an intern who went to the same college as David and Tamim. David attended the San Francisco Writers Workshop, which Tamim ran for many years, and was startled again and again by how smart, kind and wise Mr. Ansary is. Having been a professional writer for four decades and taught hundreds of writers in general, and memoirists in particular, David thought he would pick Tamim’s brain about writing, publishing and storytelling, in anticipation of his new memoir Road Trips.
The Book Doctors: Tell us about your new book, what inspired it, and what were some of the joys and difficulties of writing it?
TA: This book started out as an anecdote I wanted to tell my sister about a time I drove across the country in a cheap car with just enough money to cover gas. The crux was, I got caught in a blizzard. But when I started telling the tale, it turned out that it wasn’t enough to talk about the blizzard or the cheap car, I had to include why I was on that journey and what led to it. By the time I was done—hours later (my sister was patient, bless her heart)—I found myself obsessed with the idea that every journey is an odyssey if you consider it as a whole, especially if the destination is far away and difficult to reach, and you include what led to leaving and what came of having gone. So I decided to pick three iconic journeys and write each one up from start to finish in a single sitting, and that way produce a book in, you know, three nights. That was 12 years ago. I just finished. Ah well. The journeys in Road Trips all took place in the late ‘60s, early ‘70s. I was a newbie in America, then, coming of age at a remarkable moment in history. The book isn’t about history; it’s a personal story about coming of age. The ‘60s was just the context. I have to say, though, now that I’ve finished the book, it feels strangely relevant to right now. I mean, here we stand, at the threshold of the Age of Trump and it’s important, I think, to remember that there was another time so totally unlike this one. To recover that memory.
TBD: As someone who has written and taught memoirs, why do you think people are so drawn to reading about other people’s pain and misery?
TA: Is a memoir necessarily about pain and misery? Not sure I agree with that. Road Trips has some pain and misery in it, sure, but it also has humor, adventure, romance, pratfalls, pompous philosophical rumination–anything that might turn up in life. Because everything does. The pain and misery genre of memoir taps the impulse that makes us slow down to gawk at car accidents. And there’s a place for that. Mos’def. Memoirs like that can draw us into empathy with experiences we ourselves will never have to endure. That could be me, you think. But it can work the other way too. It can give you a glad sense of separation from experiences you’ll never have. Thank God, that’s not me. The kind of memoir that interests me is today’s version of the storytelling our species did 40,000 years ago, when we were little bands of hunter-gatherers huddled around our fires. That kind of memoir stokes our sense of human interconnection because it’s not just the people who were raised by wolves who have stories. We all have stories. In fact, we all are stories. When we hear one another’s stories, if they’re well-told, we experience the story-like quality of our own lives.
TBD: Why did you decide to start your own publishing company? What are some of the challenges involved in making your own book, and then actually selling it to readers?
TA: The publishing company you’re referring to is Kajakai Press, and it came out of a grant I wrote seven years ago, funded by the Christenson Fund. I proposed to help young Afghan-Americans write about their lives, because here was a generation of young people who felt they had nothing to say. They were growing up in the shadow of their parents’ catastrophe, the holocaust in Afghanistan. Their parents had incredibly dramatic experiences to recount–imprisonment, torture, bombs, abandoning all they owned, running for their lives. Their children? They felt alienated in high school. Big deal! But my premise was, they had stories too, these children. The loneliness of living in the cracks—that’s a story. Growing up in the shadow of a catastrophe and feeling like you have no story—that’s a story. So I did the project, we got some great stuff, and I set up Kajakai Press to publish their work as Snapshots: This Afghan-American Life.
We sold out our print run and let the book go out of print but now, years later, I look at all the people who go through my memoir writing workshops and I feel like I want to help some of them—not all of them but some of them—get their stories to an audience. Because the writers I want to publish do have an audience. There are people out there who want to hear them. What they don’t have is a mass audience. And traditional publishers, unfortunately, can’t publish for many niche audiences—increasingly less so. Fortunately, technology has opened up new vistas with print-on-demand publishing that individual writers or small concerns like mine can access through Createspace, Nook Press, and others.
Distribution is the big problem, though. People often tell me they won’t order a book from Amazon, they’ll only buy books at a bookstore because they want to side with the little guy. I heartily endorse this position. Bookstores and books by traditional publishers offer something vital to the reading public, and that system must not be allowed to perish. But individual authors and imprints like mine are even littler guys. The only way this new niche-audience publishing can survive is for alternative distribution mechanisms to form, and that’ll only happen if readers open up to these alternative systems. Ordering online is going to be part of that. So it’s a process. We have to keep exploring, we have to keep opening up alternatives channels between writers and readers.
TBD: Tell us about your Memoir Pool project.
TA: Last year, I decided to start a website dedicated to the art of telling real life stories. Every week (except when circumstances intrude—like this presidential election) I publish a new story, by me or by someone else. As I said, I’m interested in the stories-told-around-a-campfire kind of memoir and with Memoir Pool I hope to help develop and promote that kind of memoir. Here, the premium is not what happened but what the writer made of it and how he or she told the story. So the stories at Memoir Pool might be about anything. There’s one by Colleen McKee, for example, about her mother giving out 59-cent pads of paper when she worked at “a private insane asylum” in Missouri. There’s another by Rick Schmidt about getting a really good deal on a sandwich thirty years ago. If those don’t sound like stories to you, look them up at www.memoirpool.com. You might change your mind.
TBD: What were some of your favorite books as a kid, and why? What are you reading right now?
TA: As a kid I liked big 19th century European novels—Dostoevsky, Tolstoy, Turgenev. Elliot and Stendhal. I consumed Dickens and Melville. The sweep! The tapestry! Today, I mainly read suspense thrillers: Lee Childs, Michael Connelly, Harlan Coban. The quicker they move, the better I like ‘em. You see a trajectory here? I do. The thing is, these days, I have to do such a ton of reading for my next project, a history of the world called Ripple Effects, How We Came to Be So Interconnected and Why We’re Still Fighting. You wouldn’t believe how much information you have to gather when you’re trying to tell the story of everything that ever happened from the big bang to the day after tomorrow. Modern literary fiction generally attracts me less than the classics used to or than crime fiction does today, although I have been recommending The Book of Strange New Things by Michael Farber to everyone who will listen.
TBD: You ran the famous San Francisco Writers Workshop for many years. What did you learn as a writer from listening to all those writers read all those words? Do you think that writers should be part of a writing group?
TA: The SFWW got started in 1946 and has met every Tuesday evening since then in some public venue. It’s free and no one maintains it except whoever’s in it at a given time—it’s operated this way for 70 years and counting. If that’s not a mystical phenomenon, I don’t know what is. I ran it for 22 years, but when I stepped down someone else took the reins and it’s still going strong. The great thing about that workshop is that writers flow through. It’s not some single static collection. On any given evening, you see both familiar faces and new faces. I learned a lot about writing by opening my ears to the staggering variety of things people thought worth writing about and the many ways they thought to go about it. Honing in on how to make a piece work when it’s not something you would have written flexes writing muscles you didn’t know you had and opens you up to new directions. Plus, at this workshop, people read their work aloud to whoever’s there, and I’m telling you, when you read what you’ve written to a group strangers and acquaintances, you can feel when you’ve got ‘em, and when you don’t. Apart from any formal critique you get. You can feel it. There’s no substitute for that. So yes, I think every writer could profit from being part of a writer’s group.
TBD: How is it different writing a history book than writing a book about your own history?
TA: Well, in a sense, history is memoir writ large, and memoir is history writ small. We live the lives we do because we’re alive at a certain time and place within the context of a much bigger story going on. What’s different about writing history, though, is that before you can start writing, you have to gather information that you didn’t have before, and you have to steep yourself in those facts until you start to see the story that is in those facts. With memoir, research is a final phase. You start with memory.
TBD: You’ve also edited many books. What has that taught you about being a writer?
TA: One part of writing is getting your voice going and getting out of the way. You have to do that, but what you produce when you’re doing that, even if you’re doing it really, really well, isn’t usually suitable to show to anyone except your cat. Or your dog if you want an enthusiastic response. Once you’re done getting the draft out, however, you have to put your brain to work and get your heart out of the way. Editing is purely about this kind of brainwork. By editing lots of other people’s work, you learn how to pick words, construct sentences of any length, brevity, or complexity, make them work, make them sing, purely on the level of diction and syntax. If you’re a cabinet-maker, it’s not enough to design a great piece of furniture: you have to have good tools. Language—words, sentences, paragraphs, structure—those are your tools as a writer, and those you can hone quite apart from any particular thing you want to say.
TBD: What if you’ve never done anything famous or important or sensational. Can such a person write a memoir?
TA: Absolutely. To me, there are really two kinds of memoir. One kind is an adjunct to the news. You hear about something of public interest, you want to hear about it from someone closer to the scene, an eyewitness maybe, a principal, even. With that kind of memoir, what you’re really interested in is the news event. I wrote one of those myself. West of Kabul, East of New York was published in 2002, right after 9/11; it was about the bicultural aspect of my life, growing up in Afghanistan, growing old in America. The transition between them, I didn’t really talk about. “I arrived in America, twelve years passed during which I never saw another Afghan”—that’s about all I have to say about that. I skipped over those years because they weren’t pertinent to the news event.
But those twelve years were a story too, and that’s the one I’ve tried to tell in Road Trips. I was a freak in Afghanistan because my mother was the first American woman there, and when I came America, the ‘60s were just getting underway, and there was this whole movement of people, millions of people, who were calling themselves freaks and dropping out of American society, and I joined them, even though I wasn’t part of American society. I did it to find “my people.” In that I was not unique. We were all declaring ourselves freaks so we wouldn’t have to feel like freaks. I had my version of a story millions of us lived through, and that’s kinda the point.
The stories that matter are the ones we’ve all lived. Growing up, getting lost, soaring high, crashing, falling in love, falling out of love, getting dumped, breaking it off with someone—all that stuff. Building a home. Raising children. Growing old. How was that for you? That’s the question. Those are the stories. The things we all go through are different for each of us, that’s what makes life so fascinating.
TBD: We hate to ask you this, but what advice do you have for writers?
TA: My advice to writers is this. Talk about writing all you want, that’s fine. That’s what we’ve been doing here. But don’t talk about writing as a substitute for writing. If you find writing painful, if getting the words out feels like pushing a camel through the eye of a needle—remember: that’s just what writing feels like. That’s how it probably felt to Flaubert and Raymond Chandler. But the aha! moments when you break through, when you nail it, when you get said exactly what you meant to say—in my experience, those are worth the struggle.
Afghan-American author and writing guru Tamim Ansary was born in Kabul, Afghanistan. He moved to America in 1964, attended Reed College in the late sixties, and later joined a countercultural newspaper collective called The Portland Scribe. Ansary wrote West of Kabul, East of New York, San Francisco’s “One City One Book” selection for 2008, and Destiny Disrupted: A History of the World through Islamic Eyes, winner of a Northern California Book Award for nonfiction. His new book Road Trips is about three tumultuous journeys that began and ended in Portland, Oregon.
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by Arielle Eckstut & David Henry Sterry, authors of “The Essential Guide To Getting Your Book Published”
For decades, the publishing business was like a giant castle, guarded by sharpshooters in every turret, and surrounded by a giant moat full of large poisonous monsters. Unless you had an invitation from the King or Queen or someone in his court, your only chance of getting inside was to storm the castle. 999 times out of 1000 you’d end up studded with arrows, each labeled “Rejection.”
But in the last few years, with the advent of e-books, e-readers, social media and print on demand, authors are at last able to build their own kingdoms, and ignore the previously all-powerful monarchs in their bastion. Now authors have so many choices, the traditional publishing “empire” is in danger from outside its ramparts. With citizens no longer lining up to kowtow and pay homage, sales dropping, and the cupboards bare, the King, Queen, and their court have found themselves scrambling to keep what they have, ejecting and evicting courtiers and worker peasants alike left and right, throwing them off the top of the wall kicking and screaming. Even the rats have started scurrying away as fast they can.
Thus we have entered the age of the Citizen Author. Some “Citizen Authors” are CEOs, thought leaders and power players. Some are writers who didn’t graduate from MFA programs, aren’t friends with publishing titans and their minions, or don’t have large audiences waiting to hear their next pronouncement. There are lots of others in between, too. Citizen Authors are cutting-edge thinkers like Seth Godin, best-selling author of “Linchpin” and many other books, who has famously vowed never to publish with a traditional publisher again. Veterinarians like Nancy Kay, author of “Speak for Spot,” stroke survivors like Julia Fox Garrison, author of “Don’t Leave Me This Way,” and novelists like M.J. Rose, author of “Lip Service.” Many of them decided to forgo the traditional publishing process from the get-go. Others have been rejected so many times by agents and editors that they just decided to do it themselves.
We live in a country founded by citizens who are guaranteed the right to vote, become president, and pursue happiness. In this great tradition, Citizen Authors have taken the bit into their mouths, staked out their own territory, and connected with their audiences, building a community that shares their passions and interests. Nowadays, through the painstaking process of blogging, befriending and following like-minded citizens, any author can develop networks of people who will buy their books. They don’t need traditional publishers. And ironically, once a Citizen Author proves the value of their work, the King and his court usually come running, waving money.
Lisa Genova, author of “Still Alice”, is a great example of just such a Citizen Author. She wrote a novel about Alzheimer’s. Her grandmother had suffered from this debilitating disease, and she couldn’t find anything out there that spoke to her on the subject. She was rejected over and over and over by traditional publishers, who are trained to say “No”, and many of whom live in a blinkered world with a bubble around it. They not only don’t have their finger on the pulse of America, they’ve completely lost track of all the vital organs in this country. Finally Lisa got tired of the rejection, and decided to take matters into her own hands, as so many citizens before her have. With very little money spent, she self-published her book. And then came the hard part. Slowly but surely she integrated herself into the vast community of people who have a family member who has suffered at the hands of Alzheimer’s. And just as she suspected, they were hungry for what she had to offer. She knew something that traditional publishers didn’t. Her book sold lots and lots of copies. And then, it happened. The very people who had rejected her came calling. She got a seven-figure two-book deal!
Yes, with so many books being published, it gets harder and harder to get any attention whatsoever for a book, especially if you’re an unknown or new author. But at least we Citizen Authors all have choices now.
And isn’t that what America is all about?
The Book Doctors, aka, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, authors of The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, will be making a house call in Kansas City, at the Kansas City Public Library, with Rainy Day Books. They want YOU to pitch your book at their acclaimed event, Pitchapalooza, which was recently featured in The New York Times, and in a mini-documentary for Newsday. Pitchapalooza is like American Idol for books–only without the Simon. Writers get one minute to pitch their book ideas to an all-star panel of publishing experts, including Chris Schilling, responsible for over a dozen New York Times best-sellers as editorial director at Andrews McMeel, and ex-editorial director at HarperCollins and Publisher at G.P.Putnam’s Sons; John Mark Eberhart, former Books Editor, Kansas City Star; and Jeffrey Jennings, entertainment law attorney/bookseller extraordinaire at Rainy Date Books. The winner receives an introduction to an appropriate agent or publisher for his/her book. Plus, anyone who buys a book gets a free consultation worth $100.
Arielle Eckstut has been a literary agent for 18 years. She is also the author of seven books and the co-founder of the iconic brand, LittleMissMatched. David Henry Sterry is the best-selling author of 12 books, on a wide variety of subject including memoir, sports, YA fiction and reference. His last book appeared on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. Together, they’ve helped dozens and dozens of talented amateur writers become published authors. They’ve appeared everywhere from NPR’s Morning Edition to USA Today, and have taught publishing workshops everywhere from the Miami Book Fair to Stanford University. Find more at www.thebookdoctors.com.
WHAT: Pitchapalooza Comes to Kansas City
WHEN: Monday, February 28, 2001 at 6:30 PM
WHERE: Kansas City Public Library, Plaza Branch, Truman Forum
WITH WHOM: Chris Schilling, editorial director Andrews McMeel Publishing,, John Mark Eberhart, former Books Editor, Kansas City Star; Jeffrey Jennings, entertainment law attorney/bookseller extraordinaire at Rainy Date Books; the Book Doctors, and Kansas City writers rich and poor, of every age, race, creed and color.
Bookbuzzr December 30th, 2010
We’ve been to almost 50 states talking to thousands of authors—amateurs and professionals—and we’re still shocked that one particular fantasy still exists and persists: “My publisher is going to put together and implement a publicity and marketing plan that will rocket my book to the top of bestseller lists.”
Clearly, most authors who still harbor this fantasy are unfamiliar with publishing in the 21st century (or publishing at any time, for that matter). To paraphrase best-selling author and marketing guru Seth Godin, the writer who starts developing her community as her book is coming out and just hopes that her publisher will get her on Oprah is in for a rude awakening. You simply cannot sit around waiting for your publisher to hand you a publicity and marketing plan, because there’s a good chance this publicity and marketing plan may never arrive. Except in rare circumstances, the authors that make it big (or just make it), are the ones who are busy planning their own publicity and marketing long before their books are published.
The relationship between author and publisher is much like a marriage. It usually starts with a great honeymoon phase, often cools when the partners see each other’s warts, only works with lots of give-and-take, and both sides take it for granted after a while. That’s why it’s important to go into your relationship with a sort of publicity-and-marketing “dowry.” The more you’ve done to beef up this dowry, the better things will go for your book. Yes, this publicity and marketing plan is a work in progress that will be revised and refined up until and even beyond your book’s publication. But it sets the bar for action on both sides.
So what do put in your marketing and publicity plan? Here’s a quick primer:
1) Your pitch. You know how to pitch your book better than anyone else—or you should. Hopefully, you’ve been developing your pitch from the moment you told someone you had an idea for a book and they asked, “So, what’s your book about?”
2) A summary of your strategy and goals for publication. What are your expectations? Just be sure these are realistic, not “Get me on Fresh Air and the cover of The New York Times Book Review while I am wooed by Hollywood.”
3) What you’ve done already to prime the pump. Do you have a social media following of any kind? Have you made contacts at local or national media? Do you have endorsers ready to blurb? Do you have a workshop schedule already in place? Display your platform proudly.
4) Identify media (traditional and social) opportunities—big and small. You know your subject and your audience better than your publisher does. Most trade publishers are generalists, and while they know how to get your book into trade publications and mainstream media (whether actually do so is another question!), they probably won’t know about the niche media, bloggers, tweeters, etc that are speaking to your audience every day.
5) Identify cross-promotional opportunities with other authors on your publisher’s list. It always helps to be in the company of more-established authors. Seek out other people who are doing similar work, especially on your publisher’s list. See if your publisher can put you on a panel with like-minded authors, ask if you can guest blog on another author’s site — anything that will help raise your profile, and get the word out.
Many authors to whom we deliver this primer look at us with bunny-in-headlights eyes and protest, “I’m no marketing expert!”. That may be true right now, but if you want your book to be the success you hoped for, you’re going to have to learn the particulars about your audience, and how to find, woo, and wow them. The good news is that if you do, and if you put this information into your publisher’s hands, they may even agree to do a big chunk of this work for you. As in marriage, if you pick the right partner you can give birth to a happy, healthy, thriving book that will give both of you pleasure and coin for decades to come.
ARIELLE ECKSTUT, cofounder of LittleMissMatched, an iconic brand with stores in Disneyland and Grand Central Station, is a writer, entrepreneur, and agent-at-large for the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency. She is the author of Pride and Promiscuity: The Lost Sex Scenes of Jane Austen
DAVID HENRY STERRY is the coeditor of Hos, Hookers, Call Girls, and Rent Boys (front page review, The New York Times Book Review) and author of Master of Ceremonies, Chicken, Satchel Sez, and most recently, The Glorious World Cup. He is also an actor, media coach, book doctor, Huffington Post regular and activist. The authors are married and live in Montclair, New Jersey,
By Wayne Hulbert on Business News Online
“Writers now have breathtaking new ways of connecting with and getting their work directly into the hands of readers. And they no longer have to rely on a small group of publishing experts in order to get published. Because there is no barrier to to publishing”, write publishing experts and Book Doctors, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry in their comprehensive and idea packed book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully. The authors set out a blueprint for creating an idea, developing a book on the topic, getting that book published, and delivering it to readers worldwide.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry understand the challenges of writing a book and in getting the final manuscript published and marketed well. The authors point to the importance of passion as one of the most critical elements necessary for publishing success. Without the passion for the book’s idea, a would be author might not have the drive needed to carry the book through to completion and for the marketing effort. Along with the important aspect of being passionate about the book’s subject matter, Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry share their four principles of successful publishing:
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry (both in photo left) recognize the dramatic and systemic changes that have altered the publishing landscape. As a result, their advice doesn’t cover just traditional book publishing. The authors also share techniques for self publishing a book, and for utilizing the alternate book formats including ebooks, audio books, and even for publishing online. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry offer step by step advice for every facet of the book publishing process, and also include the crucial but often overlooked areas of copyright, contacts, payment, and legal protection. Along with the valuable tips on taking care of business, the book also contains the always vital area of book marketing. While a book may be great, and convey the passion and knowledge of the author, without a marketing plan even the best book will fail to find an audience. Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry provide marketing concepts that include both conventional and unconventional channels to promote and sell more copies of the finished product.
For me, the power of the book is how Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry remove the mystery from book publishing, and present a complete handbook for achieving success as an author, from start to finish. The authors leave no stone unturned, and make it clear to the would be author that writing a bestselling book is possible, but requires much work on the part of the writer. Because of the effort involved in writing, contracting, and marketing a book, the authors emphasize that the author must be passionate about the subject or plot of the book. Anything less, and the book is likely to not do as well in any facet of the process.
Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry present two very important and useful sections on the business of book publishing and on marketing the book through traditional and guerrilla methods. These two critical topics are not always included in books on publishing, making this book even more essential for the serious author. An added bonus feature provided by the authors are the many author resources in the appendix. Overall, the book is a treasure trove of information that will benefit any aspiring or experienced author.
I highly recommend the essential and very practical book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, to anyone seeking a one stop advice book for becoming a successful author. The wealth of information contained in this wonderful book makes it a must for any novice or long time author.
Read the valuable and information filled book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published: How to Write It, Sell It, and Market It . . . Successfully by Arielle Eckstut and David Henry Sterry, and discover the insider secrets to becoming the successful published author of your dreams. From idea to sale, this is the book to unleash the bestselling author within you.
The Book Doctors, aka David Henry Sterry, and ex-agent/current wife Arielle Eckstut, authors of the Workman book The Essential Guide to Getting Your Book Published, will making a house call in Long Island, and they want YOU to PITCH your BOOK at their Pitchapalooza. Book Revue, Huntington, December 2, 7 PM. It’s like American Idol for books, only without the Simon. Writers get one minute to pitch their book ideas to a once-in-a-lifetime All-Star cast of publishing experts. It’s like American Idol for books, without the Simon. We are lucky enough to have James Levine, the founder of the Levine Greenberg Literary Agency, one of Manhattan’s most successful book agents. As well as Long Island’s own Mauro DePreta, Vice President of It Books (HarperCollins Publishers), publishers of the #1 New York Times bestseller Sh*t My Dad Says. An industry veteran of nearly two decades, he has had the good fortune of publishing bestsellers like Not Without Hope, the incredible survival story by Nick Schuyler and New York Times journalist Jere Longman, and Marly & Me by John Grogan. Arielle has been a literary agent for 18 years, and I am the best-selling author of 13 books, the last of which appeared on the cover of the Sunday New York Times Book Review. We’ve helped dozens and dozens of talented amateurs become professionally published authors. We’ve appeared on NPR many times, and taught at publishing Stanford University. Here’s a link to our awesome Editor Goddess Savanna’s blog about our Pitchapalooza at Barnes & Noble 86th St., with publishing titans Larry Kirschbaum and Bob Simon. Here’s a link to an article about the Art of the Pitch and our Pitchapalooza on Publishers Perspective.
Every writer who buys a book will get a free consultation from the Book Doctors, $100 value.
We drove 300 miles in the rain from our home in Montclair, New Jersey to a bookstore in Falls Church, Virginia, just outside DC. We had our freshly pressed clothes hanging in the car, and a box full of books in the trunk. Our first event. I had a bad feeling. In fact I bet Arielle a dollar that there would be less than 20 people in the audience. Still, tingling with excitement, we entered this emporium of books. Imagine our surprise when we found out that the manager didn’t even know an event was scheduled that night. And they only had 3 copies of our books in the store. Their website had two different times for our event. As far as I can tell, they did absolutely no promotion of this event, didn’t try to reach out to the tens of thousands of writers in the area who are our audience. I had to give myself a timeout before I exploded. But even though it was my worst nightmare realized, I was the model of restraint. I smiled and made nice with everyone as I recalled the first stop on our first tour where there were only 2–yes 2–people at the event. One was a mom with three kids running around the store that she had to chase throughout our workshop. The other was an angry drunk man writing a memoir about his horrible father. Sorry, I digress. Turns out this was a huge lesson for me. Trust your own instincts. I KNEW this was the wrong thing to do, but I caved in and did not follow my own instincts. I shall endeavor never to make this mistake again. Sure enough, five people showed up, and two of those were friends of ours. It was an embarrassment. We, the publishing experts draw five people. I was livid. Filled with a furious rage. I must say though that the manager of the bookstore was very gracious and apologized publicly, which made me feel a little better. And our next event is in Pittsburgh, @ Joseph Beth. I just read this morning that the store where we’re performing has been selected for extermination @ the end of the month. They are a walking dead bookstore.
That being said, it was a really fun event. We heard three fantastic pitches. I should explain that our event is called Pitchapalooza. It’s like American Idol for books. Each writer in the audience gets one minute to pitch their book to a panel of experts. Arielle and I are two of the experts, and we have a couple of panelists. One of our guest panelists was a very charming, witty and knowledgeable fellow named Alan Fallow, who is the Features Editor at AARP Magazine. And a long-time publishing veteran. He just could not have been any smarter or nicer. And the other guest publicist was our publicist, Bethanne Patrick, who has read more books than anyone we know. She was able to come up with perfect comparison titles for our three pitchees. The winner, Lisa Lipkind Leibow, gave a great pitch about Iranian women and culture. And everyone who was in attendance, all five of them at any rate, got in-depth expertise about the books they were pitching, and about the publishing business in general. It was actually great fun to do. But we traveled 300 miles to sell three books. That’s 100 miles a book. Something seems very wrong with that. Still, I try to take joy even from these adverse conditions. But it’s a terrible thing to bet against yourself, then win. Valuable lessons were learned. Always trust your instincts. And always bring a box of books.
On the road. Again. Yes, we’ve just taken off to begin our book tour. After all the flight arrangements, rental car machinations, hotel bookings, Facebook event announcements, dry cleaning, haircuts, prepping, packing, and panicking, we are finally embarking on our odyssey, like Odysseus before us. Only instead of Trojan horses, soul sucking sirens and a gigantic cyclops, we will be going up against book critics, baby booming bloggers, and publishing industry at large which is like a leaky rowboat barely staying afloat in the Sea of Recession. But we are brimming with excitement, visions of a rabid readers and writers, the delighted bright eyed booksellers and packed Pitchapaloozas with books flying off shelves dancing in our heads. Plus, we have a lovely and talented three-year-old daughter Olive with us. See you soon, America!
Here’s a great pitch from the winner of our St. Louis Pitchapalooza, about being a fat bald white guy.
Book Doctors delighted to be coming to Steel Town, holding court with Vince Rause. See you there!