Today marks the second anniversary of the publication of my book, The Fiction Class. Two years is a very long time in publishing. If I were to convert that into dog years, my book would be a very old dog. However, here we are, not exactly coasting onto the best seller list, but not yet on the remainder table either. In fact, last time I walked into a Barnes & Noble, I saw ten TFCs face out on the shelves. So, what have I learned in these last two years?
1. Librarians are more important than I thought. I have to say librarians were not even on my radar when my book came out. Only afterwards, when my husband figured out how to figure out which libraries were ordering copies and how many, did I realize just how many books libraries buy. Not only that, but librarians organize book clubs, recommend books. If I could do it over again, and hopefully I will, I’d send a letter and bookmarks to each library in New York.
2. Independent bookstores are more important than I thought. I knew they were important, but I didn’t realize they mattered quite so much. I’d read so many articles about the decline of the independent book store that I thought they’d declined. Which maybe they have, but they still have a lot of clout. Plus, they chat with each other. Make a friend at one bookstore and you’ve made friends at a lot of bookstores. If I could do it over again, I’d send letters and bookmarks to each independent book store in New York and possibly wider.
3. Barnes & Noble is important, which I knew, but not just as a corporate entity. Its stores are run by people known as CRMS and they are as passionate and lovely as everyone else in the book business. (Which is not me being snide. I mean it truly.) I read so many articles about the heartless megastores and so on, but I found the CRMs to be incredibly supportive. I’ve saved the names of all the CRMS I met and I will send them letters and bookmarks. (You notice a theme.)
4. People like writers. It’s an odd thing, but true. I spent so many years with a chip on my shoulder, fulminating about not getting published, being angry every time someone asked about anything. But what I realize now is that people were just curious. They find authors an interesting breed. They want to help. I am dumbfounded at the things complete strangers have done to help me—recommendations, introductions. One woman invited me to stay at her house in England. More importantly people have trusted me enough to share very personal information.
It’s been a great ride and I can’t wait to see where it goes. How about you? What have you learned in the last two years?