Why should people buy my books? And why do I feel such overwhelming anger when they don’t? The answer no doubt lies deeply buried in the most basic infantile needs for unconditional love and acceptance. In my new book on maximizing creativity, I plan to delve into the research surrounding these issues, but today I simply feel the urge to vent.
Last Sunday, following the service, my church held a fund-raising crafts fair, and I had a full table to show and sell my books. The early December timing was ideal, I figured. People would be in the throes of holiday shopping, and I’d priced my books to sell: $10 for a single book, with deeper discounts for more than one. Ten per cent of sales would go to FUUSA, the First Unitarian Universalist Society of Albany, thus providing an added incentive for people to feel proud of their generosity, or so I naively imagined.
The results were underwhelming. True, I sold a few books, so my efforts were moderately worthwhile, and I would have been there for coffee hour anyway. But I spent half my haul on infinity neck warmers and ginger cookies from other vendors. The annual event is a good place to pick up on stocking stuffers. Books would fall nicely into this category, you’d think, but apparently not. There was a brisk sale in homemade $13 pies and soups. People love stuffing their faces, but reading? Not so much.
I’ve blogged about this problem before. People tell me it comes with the territory and that I should get over it, and I’ve seen a similar phenomenon at conferences like ThrillerFest and Bouchercon, where people queue up in long lines for a few well-known authors while the majority sit forlornly ignored, doing their best to put on friendly, welcoming expressions as they hand out book marks, post cards and candy. I’m as guilty as anyone in passing them by—I already own far too many books, and I can’t afford to buy many more.
Those are excuses I frequently hear from people bypassing my table, and they’re valid ones. I’m especially sympathetic to those who plead poverty, and I admire them for their candor, especially at a place like FUUSA, where the majority of congregants are comfortably well-heeled. It’s the ones who are loaded who bug me—people whom I’ve known for years, who can afford to jet around the world to exotic vacation spots yet never consider supporting a struggling local author.
I first self-published Mood Swing: The Bipolar Murders a decade ago, and Eldercide a couple of years later. My vampire soap opera thriller, Hope Dawns Eternal, came out last year. This year I reissued my first two in new editions, so the three books make a nice matched set. Over the years, quite a few FUUSAns have bought my books, but the vast majority haven’t. On Sunday I asked a friend if she’d ever bought any of my books, and she admitted she hadn’t. “I never read novels,” she said. Fair enough, so I suggested if she might consider buying any as presents for friends or family who might feel differently. She gave a noncommittal shrug and turned away.
Yesterday some friends from my Nia class at the YMCA met at Panera’s for lunch. I was ranting rather profanely to Richele Corbo, our wonderful instructor, about my marketing problems. She’s not fond of marketing either, but she’s more objective about it. She’s passionate about Nia, which combines nine forms of dance, martial arts and body work, and she talks it up to people who might be interested, but many refuse. Some feel it’s too strenuous, others that it’s not strenuous enough, or too esoteric. One woman told her “Sorry, but it’s a little too ‘kumbaya’ for me.” She doesn’t take the rejections personally, accepting that Nia’s just not for everybody, and she encouraged me to adopt the same attitude.
But Richele didn’t invent Nia,* so it’s easier for her to be objective. My novels, on the other hand, are deeply personal, and although they’re not autobiographical, the first two draw on life experiences that affected me profoundly, so it’s hard not to feel the pain of rejection. I used to feel the same about my paintings, but I’m no longer so personally invested in them, since they’re now a part of my past.
On Sunday I brought two small oils—one a vase of tulips, the other a view of Lake George—to fill out my table display.** I didn’t expect to sell them, since they’re priced at over $300, but lots of people admired them. Strangely, many said they hadn’t realized I was a painter, even though I’ve shown those paintings at FUUSA in a solo show and a couple of group exhibitions. Apparently they had never bothered to look at the walls.
But enough kvetching. If you’ve read this far, you’re probably in agreement with those who tell me to “get over it.” But I’ve got a lot more to say in future posts—including thoughts about a local reporter who was writing up until his death at 84, and about what L. Ron Hubbard, the founder of Scientology, had to say about the importance of admiration.
Please share this post, subscribe, and leave comments so I’ll know you’re out there. Even more importantly, please buy my books! You can’t possibly be finished with Christmas shopping yet. You can order them from Amazon, or I can inscribe them personally and mail or deliver them to you in time for the holidays. To discuss these options, contact me at firstname.lastname@example.org.
*To learn more about Nia, visit www.nianow.com. Here you can also find a registry of Nia teachers in your area, including Richele.
**The colors in my oil paintings are much more vibrant than they appear in this photo. I also did the illustrations for the original covers of Mood Swing and Eldercide, which are visible behind the new editions with their wonderful covers by Kim Killion. I still have a few copies of the original editions, although they’re no longer available on line. My stylistic influences include Munch, Van Gogh, the Fauves and the German Expressionists.