Book Seller Part 3
Afternoon: The publisher has just pulled the plug on the paperback. It’s been a bit more than eight weeks since I was up at Barnes and Noble, hovering around that plinth and guffawing at my own blurbs. I’m no longer guffawing. I’m sobbing. I’m absolutely, totally, out of my mind. It’s impossible, I keep repeating. Absurd.
July 1-4th Amazon: 38,485
I still have two 30-minute radio interviews scheduled: The Lori & Julia Show in Minneapolis and another one out at some university in Michigan. What I’d like to do is go on the air and verbally eviscerate, pulverize everyone from my publisher and agent to my editor and the entire motherless “parent” company that spawned them. What I do instead is launch an e mail campaign. The goal? To flood my publisher’s mailbox with notes from fans (and friends) and change his mind.
Another brainstorm. I know that famous people like Graydon Carter, Susan Sarandon, Oliver Platt and Uma Thurman all live in my neighborhood. I know this because I spend my life politely ignoring them. No longer. It’s time for what I call The Celebrity-Drop-Off-Campaign. The campaign consists of dumping my book on their front door steps, ringing the bell, and running like hell. I then proceed to hide behind the nearest tree, truck, or bush and wait till someone opens the door. If this were anywhere else on earth, a giggling, 52 year old woman, crouched down and peeking out from behind trees, trucks, and bushes, would probably incite a curious look or two. But the only people more studiously ignored in New York than celebs are people behaving like me. The problem, of course, is that no one’s home. It’s July. Most of these celebrities are applying heavy-duty sun block or experiencing road rage on Route #27 in the Hamptons. Which is precisely what I imagined I might be doing had the book become another Seabiscuit.
Friends continue to forward me their responses from the publisher. He’s nice but non-committal in terms of my ultimate goal. That being to resurrect the paperback and/or remain in print. I wonder if people can borrow my book from the Library of Congress.
July 15th Amazon: 42,505
My agent has a great idea. Hire Planned Television Arts, a well established and highly regarded public relations firm that devotes itself to getting exposure for the work of known and unknown authors. The man in charge thinks my book would be perfect for the MDRT a/k/a, The Morning Drive Radio Tour.
Being interviewed by radio personalities as thousands of people listen to me while commuting to work sounds promising, especially when I can do it all from the comfort of my own home via satellite. This kind of talk isn’t cheap, however. (The fee for the bookings is around $4,000.00.) But it beats playing hide and seek on the street.
I suddenly remember this great story Martin Amis told before his last reading. He had this good friend, a critically acclaimed, aged female author, who showed up for a reading at a large bookstore in the Midwest. A total of five people sat in the audience, four of whom looked not just out of place but downright dubious. Disheveled, reeking of booze, fidgety. Half way through the reading, the police arrived and dragged them away in handcuffs. They were hiding in the bookstore after robbing a nearby convenience store.
July 17th Amazon: 40,111
Nineteen, eight minute interviews, beginning at 6 50 am and ending at 1 20 pm. I have not been awake at 6 50 am since I was pulled, shrieking, from my mother’s womb. But aside from small mistakes like calling my radio hosts Bob instead of Rob and Chet and Beth, Jim, I survive.
July 18th Amazon: 4,205
I depart for small Italian island where there is no telephone and no computer. Here, I suffer brief symptoms of withdrawal from Googling and checking numbers at Amazon. Symptoms subside. On the last night at dinner, I vow to my family that I will never, ever again check my numbers at Amazon or write anything longer than a post card.
THREE MONTHS LATER
32 Used&New from $12.25
Well, I’m not just checking my own numbers now at Amazon, I’m checking the numbers of every writer I’ve ever heard of, including dead writers. The good news? The only success that really annoys is the dead guys. I mean, does Tolstoy really need the money? (Anna Kerenina is at 596.) Or how ‘bout Dickens? (Great Expectations: 5,315.) Then there’s the resurrection of Oprah’s book club and the work of literary corpses like John Steinbeck. East of Eden is at 1,341.
Why doesn’t somebody start up Writers Anonymous. So what, if it sounds like an oxymoron. Every time, I felt like Googling myself or checking Amazon, I could call my sponsor or go to a meeting. “Hi, my name is Brenda. And I’m a writer. (sound of muted applause) Instead, I’m just going to delete Amazon from my Favorite Files on AOL—
I’m not even going to look at it for two weeks.