A woman in late middle age, who works at UC, bought a copy of “I Will Keep You Alive” from me in the café. She had previously bought a “Schiz,” and now she told me my writing had reminded her of Charles Bukowski. I was, of course, pleased – and both impressed and surprised by how catholic was her reading taste, since she had not struck me as someone who would read Bukowski, let alone “The Schiz.” When we spoke a couple days later, she told me how much she admired Adele’s portions, for, as primary care-giver when her husband had cancer, she knew all that entailed.
Our niece in Tustin reports buying a copy of IWKYA for a friend who, like us, co-authored a book with her spouse.
A woman in my Mended Hearts chapter ordered five copies.
A friend of Adele’s brother’s wife has selected it for their book group’s selection sometime in the fall. (Our first book group! Let others take note.)
A woman at the health club, whose husband has had two stents worth of heart problems, reports he bought a copy, based on the recommendation of a mutual friend.
A friend gave us a second Five Star Amazon review.
And here are some additional words-of-mouths:
1.) “Inspiring and empowering.” Adele’s sister.
2.) “I have to confess I haven’t read it.” Friend of Bob’s.
3.) “I could hug you! Oh, my God! Thank you for writing this!” Another woman at the café.
We also gave a copy to a fellow at the health club who’d recently had abdominal surgery. This led another member to ask if I would speak to yet another’s 18-year-old grandson, who wants to become a writer. “I figure [Name of Prominent Author Member] is too busy,” he said. “You’re probably right,” I said. “Okay.” Anything that makes me feel like a REAL writer is good with me. In fact, I was semi-flattered to be playing only second fiddle to the other guy. But I did take note than neither the fellow nor the grandmother expressed any interest in buying anything I’d written.
Still no reviews or requests for interviews.
But I am putting this in perspective.
This week, at the Author’s Guild forum, a woman was complaining about treatment by her publisher. Her first two books had been widely reviewed, still brought her requests for interviews, had sold out their 5000-copy printings, and more than repaid her advances, but it had rejected her third book.
She was, I thought, justifiably aggrieved. But all that, and she only sold 5000 books. So she made, what, ten, fifteen thousand, less expenses, and each book took her a year or two minimum to write. Hell, I can publish my own book and only lose a couple thousand with no reviews. “You’re in the same ball park,” my friend Budd said when I told him. Exactly.
And then I read about Nelson Algren and what a disaster his life had been. I had been a fan of Algren’s. I owned seven or eight of his books, and this article reminded me that when my first novel was to appear, I asked if he would look at a review copy and maybe provide a cover quote. He wrote back “Sure,” probably I now surmise, from some flop house in Newark, where he was working on his published-posthumously Hurricane Carter book, and then probably cashed in my book for whatever he could get as soon as it arrived. But what struck me the most in this exchange was that it was the only time in my life I received a letter from someone in an envelope, recycled, after it had originally been sent to him.
Anyway, the point is – and this may not be what I tell the 18-year-old – sale numbers are interesting – but essentially meaningless – statistics, like WOR or WHIP. The best thing is to write the best you can, have a good time writing it, and savor whatever reactions come your way. You may even create something that means something to someone.
“But keep your day job,” added Flea Market George, a guitar player, when I voiced this at the cafe