For an author, one of the signposts along the road to his or her book's growth as more than a private self-actualizing project is the opportunity to discuss it with others, to learn what people think of the work.For me, this initial path began with a wonderful private reception by friends at their home, located on a promontory in the hills overlooking Austin. That event attracted a terrific crowd of nearly 70 people, most but not all known to me in advance.
That was followed several weeks later by a meeting at a women's book club, which invited me to their discussion of my novel, Reunion. The discussion was held in a living room in the hill country west of Austin, and the discussion was more informal and intimate, since the agenda was mostly listening to them and answering any questions. At least two additional book clubs are working the book into their reading schedules for later this year, or early next year, and the book club discussion format is very pleasant and intimate.
The third part of this early trifecta of events concerning my debut novel took place Saturday night, June 2nd, in the center of Austin at the largest and most influential book store in town, Book People. The store hosts both local authors as well as a collection of all the major names who are doing book-signing tours nationally. It was a surprise when the store permitted me to have a solo slot (usually, they pair two local authors to ensure a crowd). It was a shock (a pleasant one) when they offered me Saturday night at 7 p.m. Wow!
Of course they put the schedule on their web site, and emailed the information to their usual distribution list, but to be honest, I was nervous and imagined no one would show up. That was not an unfounded concern, since the initial two events had involved some of our friends and people who are into books and book signings. I mentioned the upcoming event to my friends and people with whom we came into contact at Diana's therapy sessions. This "stealth marketing" campaign was followed up with a large email blast (okay, maybe blast is a little overstated) to cover all friends and neighbors, plus others I had met along the way. When the store asked me what sort of crowd to expect, I sort of gulped and gave them a range of 50 to 200. Of course that's way too broad, so they wanted a bit more precision, and I finally told them 100 with a possibility both over and under.
Book People has a nice area on the second floor just where the stairs open up, and they provided 100 folding chairs, a nice podium with a microphone, a signing table and chair, in addition to a "refreshment table" on which my family and I placed 100 bottled waters and five nice bottles of red wine. Whether it was the possibility of complimentary vino or water, or even the book discussion, I don't know, but we had an overflow crowd that required several additional chairs to be added, and even with that, several people stood on the sides and around the rear of the area.
I sat down at home earlier on Saturday and had prepared simple comments in bullet form, in addition to a very short reading of two minutes. The reading involved intensive dialogue between "Jimmy" and "Callie," when he first telephones her for a date. It's a cute scene (I think so), and the audience liked it. In addition, I read one particular review posted on the Barnes & Noble Internet site by someone in Minnesota. I do not know the poster, but felt his review was especially apropos. He got the book.
As part of my preparation, I readied answers to several questions that might be asked. One was, or course: why did I write the book? However several excellent questions also were posed, and two or three caught me off guard. SInce the arc of the story is based on the relationship, or lack of it. between a father and his son, and the son is passing along negative aspects of that deficiency to his family, the book is personal and can be painful. All in all, the event was very successful, and I survived.
One of the fellows who helped me carry in the water and wine mentioned later that the evening included the largest crowd he had seen for a local author. Hmmm. The store has not sent me a report on the book sales, but the line of people to have their books signed seemed to extend for quite a few minutes, and all in all, the evening appeared to be successful.
Our daughter, Juliet, who lives in Pennsylvania came down for the event, and of course our son, Jimmy, who lives in the area, also accompanied Diana and myself. My wife and I were happily exhausted, and spent the entire day Sunday napping and resting along with enjoying Juliet's visit at home.
Thanks to Book People for hosting the event, and to everyone who came out. The group was eclectic, with family, neighbors, fellow amateur radio aficionados, medical rehab experts, former Motorola co-workers, friends from all over town, fellow KUT FM supporters, fellow German language students, several of my critical review readers, former editors, and others.