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.
It's been four months since my second book, "Malled: My Unintentional Career in Retail" was published, and it's still selling steadily nationwide.
It's a thrill to know that some people are appreciating your skill and hard work and ideas. It's even better to meet them face to face.
Two nights ago, I 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.
I was touched by the woman whose response to "Malled" was "Yayyyyyyyyy!" and told us she keeps telling friends to read it.
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 personal and intimate moments I look forward to as my reward. Very few writers are in it for the huge paycheck. Those hoping for one are often bitterly disappointed.
For some people, authors are a mysterious breed. Unless you hang out in our 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 are used to our ragged parade. We try to remain persistently cheerful in the face of even the tiniest event 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.
Others are horrible speakers or have no sense of humor.
See: illusions, shattered.
It's a challenge even finding venues to read and meet your readers.
"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 store 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?