All He Had To Say Was Thank You

There is an urban author’s myth of a now famous author in her undiscovered days – was it Janet Evanovich? – who spoke at a bookstore in a mall with pouring rain outside. She knew the audience would be sparse as the mall was empty, and to cheer herself up, she bought a box of chocolates from the store next door. 

Only four people turned up and she made them sit in a circle and gave them each a chocolate. They were silent as she spoke and read, and asked no questions. At the end three got up and left. The fourth thanked her and the author asked, rather desperately, if she wanted to buy a book. The woman laughed and said that all four were homeless, and just thirsted for a little culture so the bookstore allowed them to attend. The author felt compelled to give her a copy of her book and the rest of the chocolates.

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I recently went to a book reading of an author who is struggling to break through, like me. We had met a few times and I have offered advice at various stages. I dutifully spread the word of his book launch to my social and e-circles, attended the reading, and bought a book.

Not many people turned up and even less felt inclined to buy the book. He was disappointed and the bookstore staff was not too excited either. When I asked him to sign my book, he mumbled a weak thank you and scribbled. I don’t think he ever made eye contact with me, and I felt a profound sense of resentment.

This is reality for all but the 200 or so A-listers. The rest of us may have 50 people in attendance or 5. It is hit-or-miss and this is probably a significant reason why adopting an online marketing strategy makes sense.

To celebrate the first Wycaan Master trilogy and the Eric Hoffer Book Award, I held a celebration in my hometown at the iconic Games of Berkeley at the end of last year. There was a strong attendance, but I put a lot of time into advertising and most of those attending had already bought the books. It was not a good return on investment if I look at it through economic eyes alone.

 Games of Berkeley Question from Asif

But I loved doing it. I loved my friends who came and read parts, I loved the Q&A, especially the questions from the younger members of the audience, and most of all, I loved the conversations and the excitement of my readers – yes, for one afternoon they were all mine!

I sincerely hope that those who attended left happy and committed to my series and me. I especially hope that the young people were inspired to continue reading and, who knows, maybe put millennial quill to parchment. 

I have heard many times that my author-hero, Terry Brooks, is an inspiring author to meet. I hear he shares a conversation with everyone bearing books, and that he is a delight to be with. I can believe that after reading this passage in his book, Sometimes The Magic Works. He says that book signings are not about selling books or advancing your career. He say…oh why not just let him say it:

Terry Brooks

Terry Brooks

“It is not in fact about you at all.

Rather, it is about making a connection between readers and books. It is about making readers feel so enthusiastic about books that they cannot wait to come back and buy more – not just copies of your books, but of other authors’ books, as well. It is about generating a feeling of goodwill toward the bookstore and the staff. Mostly, it is about reassuring everyone that they did not waste their time on you. 

How do you accomplish this? …

…Speak to everyone. Make them aware of the fact that you are grateful to be there, anxious to chat, and ready to answer questions if they have any. Never sign a book without looking at and speaking directly to the reader, and then thank them for choosing to take a chance on you.”

I think I have always thanked those who buy my books. To this day, when a stranger tweets me that they just bought one, I feel genuinely touched and honored that they spent their hard-earned money on my books.

Book Signing Games of Berkeley

And I thank them.

Maybe one day, someone will develop an app wherein I can put my hand through the screen and shake theirs as I thank them. Perhaps the 2.0 version will allow us to reach through and hug someone.

 girl-hugging-words1

The world would become a better place, for authors, readers and all humankind!

Have a great week,

Elfwriter

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Alon Shalev is the author of the 2013 Eric Hoffer YA Book Award winner, At The Walls of Galbrieth, and five other Wycaan Master books all released by Tourmaline Books. The link above takes you to the Kindle versions. For all other eReaders, please click here.

More at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).

 

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An Unexpected Journey

This weekend, J.R.R. Tolkien’s The Hobbit – An Unexpected Journey comes out. If you are reading this blog, you have probably been counting down along with the Mayans. I haven’t seen the movie yet, so there are no spoilers, but I am incredibly excited. I can’t wait to see it and have no doubt that I will love it, buy the DVD, change my computer’s wall paper and take my kids to eat breakfast at Denny’s…again!

imgres-2But there is something else that has me so stoked for this movie stands on the threshold of something historic: it is the induction of the next generation of epic fantasy readers. Just as Lord of the Rings ignited my generation’s interest, and Christopher Paolini’s Eragon sentenced my own children to a lifetime of reading and vivid imagination, The Hobbit will take a new, unsuspecting generation on an unexpected journey.

My own journey has been somewhat unexpected. Having written a series of well-received social justice-themed novels, I have been introduced to people who are passionate to see and work for a better world. I treasure the opportunities to meet readers at book signings and author meet ups.

DSCN1387As we approached the launch of At The Walls Of Galbrieth, I sought to define my target audience and had a big surprise. To begin with, there were the 100+ who filled out my survey ­– thank you all – and I began to discover a group of passionate and richly imaginative readership.

But here is what excites me. I am meeting a large number of students and teenagers who are die-hard readers of epic fantasy. They eloquently share their love for the creation of a new world, their desire to see everyday folk transform into heroes, and to believe in universal principles such as freedom, good over evil, and the value of friendship.

My social justice-themed novels all contain a common thread: an everyday person goes through a transformational experience which empowers them to pursue justice. Swap the multinational corporation for an evil Emperor, replace the use of social protest with a special bow and arrow, and we have similar themes.

My point is that epic fantasy creeps up on you. This weekend many ingenuous children, teenagers, and parents, are going to see a hyped-up movie and experience a transformation. They may not start yielding a sword and slaying dragons, but they just might embark on an unexpected journey of reading and enter into a world that drives our imagination and defines our social values…

All because in the words of a great wizard: “Hobbits really are amazing creatures.”

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Alon Shalev is the author of At The Walls of Galbrieth, Book 1 of The Wyccan Master series, which reached the Quarter Finals of the Amazon Breakthrough Novel Award 2012, released by Tourmaline Books. The First Decree, the sequel is due out in early 2013. Shalev is also the author of three social justice-themed novels: Unwanted Heroes, The Accidental Activist and A Gardener’s Tale. More on Alon Shalev at http://www.alonshalev.com and on Twitter (@elfwriter).