Thursday night I participated in a panel discussion at a beautiful independent bookstore, along with three other members of the Sisters in Crime of Upstate New York. Four authors, five people in the audience – not counting two authors’ spouses and the owner of the bookstore.
Most of us drove a considerable distance to get there – an hour and a half each way for me, even more for others. One of us sold one book, with 40% going to the bookstore, so she made about $10.00. But I don’t consider the evening a total loss: I got to visit with some author friends I hadn’t seen in awhile, the store took four of my books on consignment, and my husband and I had a pleasant al fresco pub meal afterwards (which set us back $40).
The women in the audience (and yes, they were all women over 50 – a typical demographic for these events) appeared engaged and interested in what we had to say. One complimented us by saying we all had such great personalities, it must be easy for us to write sparkling dialogue. But the interest didn’t translate into sales. Unfortunately, this scenario is by no means an isolated incident – it’s happened at other bookstores, and at libraries too.
Why do we do it? The smiles and compliments don’t pay for our gas money and the wear and tear on our cars. We say we’re building our reputations, getting our names out there, and the bookstore owners usually say, “You just never know.” And yet we do it again and again, just as we keep turning out books – like rats in a maze, squirrels in a cage, or maybe lemmings.
Maybe our next event, at the East Greenbush Library on June 6th, will be different. Or maybe people will be in more of a book buying mood in the fall, if they’re less worried about the economy. On the other hand, maybe I’d rather just stay home and blog.