self promotion? friendship? what do we really want, as writers?

Sunday, July 22, 2012


I'm going to be downright honest with you.  Launching a book prickles me over.  I hail from failed Girl Scout Cookies sales roots, after all.  I ripple with panic (more than a pebble's toss worth) every time I have to price a corporate project (and that's my business, my family's livelihood).  I send announcement e-mails out about my books in full-force cringe.  I am graciously invited into bookstores and then apologize to any friend who might want to come.  I'm sure you're busy, I'll say.  Don't feel you have to come.

It's an itchy enterprise, this book thing.  I want my books to succeed, and I especially want Small Damages to succeed because I am working with such exceptional people at Philomel and I cannot let them down.  I worry about unhappy reviews and reviewers for their sake.  I worry about sales because people I love have believed in me, and I want to deliver for them.

Still, I struggle with self-promotion.  I struggle to find balance.  I want to look out, beyond myself— reporting on the books of others (only the books I love, obviously, for I am not quite sure what any blogger gains from reporting on books that were not loved), reflecting on the world at large, honoring neighbors, children, family, friends.  I want to connect in a very real way with people.  I want to generate positivity against the dark clouds of 2012—the heat of summer, the terror in a theater, the buried secrets of a certain university and an assistant football coach, the final ebbing away of loved ones.

Yesterday, as you know from the identical picture in the previous-to-this-one post, I launched Small Damages at Chester County Book and Music Company, a store that brought us all so much for three full decades but is now on a month-to-month lease.  It is the Kindle, not the economy in general, that some believe hurt this gigantic independent. The Kindle, a machine.  Bookstores are about community.  Machines most often aren't.  We writers and readers are losing, in CCBM, a glowing, active hearth, and we will be so much the poorer for this.

Yesterday was a Saturday in mid-summer.  I am who I am, no actual rock star (despite my pumpkin-dashed-with-paprika pants).  Nonetheless, A.S. King drove all the way from where she lives (I call it a castle, she swears that it isn't) and K.M. Walton flew in from down the road (on fairy wings, with sparkle), and Joanne Fritz sat among us, and we talked, until a teen reader and her mom and, then, two friends joined in.  Maybe some people would want to be surrounded by crowds at a book launch.  I could not have been happier than this—the intimacy of the conversation, the honest exchange, the talk that went on and on until Amy and Kate and I looked at our respective time-announcing gadgets and realized that dinner in our households was about to begin.  Amy, Kate, and I are writers first.  We live the writing life.  We had stories to tell, no bravada behind which to hide, no desire to be anything but ourselves.  We loved our teen reader and her mom for encouraging a life with books.  We loved Joanne and CCBM for making room for us there.  We loved the two best friends who went home armed with their own piles of books.  We loved spending time not wanting to be, but being.

I signed my very first copy of Small Damages to a teen reader named Julia.  I laughed until I ached with Kate and Amy.  I went home counting my luck for being in this odd but beautiful business of publishing.  And then I took a walk in the neighborhood that is home to me and felt the breeze kicking up through my hair.

5 comments:

K. M. Walton said...

I can't think of a better way to spend a Saturday afternoon - surrounded by books and friends.

KFP said...

Beth: I so wanted to be there, but I was (still am) traveling and wasn't even able to send happy launch day greetings yesterday due to internet not working. So Happy Belated Birthday to Small Damages. I will stop by Chester County Book & Music Company (CCBMC) soon to get my copy.

FYI: The Society of Children's Book Writers and Illustrators (SCBWI)-Eastern PA is having the SECOND ANNUAL CHILDREN'S BOOK FESTIVAL at CCBMC AUGUST 18. I am participating. Will you be there?

I believe you won't mind if I use this space to say EVERYONE WHO CAN SHOULD GO TO THIS EVENT 8/18/12 AND BUY BOOKS TO HELP SUPPORT CHESTER COUNTY BOOKS & MUSIC and help them pay the rent for September.

And maybe while we are there we can talk about what if anything can be done to help there be a 3rd annual festival at Chester County Book & Music Company next year.

In other words, is there anything that can be done to save this wonderful bookstore? People going there to buy their books, starting today—don't wait for 8/18— will certainly help.

If CCBMC can weather the current month-to-month rent crisis while figuring out a way to reconfigure so as to survive in the future, they just might.

Are we really going to have a world without brick-and-mortar bookstores, let alone great independent ones like CCBMC? I'm stumped. Does anyone have any ideas?

Joanne Fritz said...

Beth, what you said was lovely. I enjoyed basking in the light of the three amigos, er, authors. It was an afternoon I will long remember. Oh, and we sold some books too! You rock, all of you!

KFP (is this Kathye?), thanks so much for the plug. WE ARE STILL HERE, PEOPLE! And we will be at least through the fall.

Serena said...

Sounds like you had a great time. I am sad for another loss of a bookstore.

Lilian Nattel said...

I wish I'd been there. It sounds like my kind of day.

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