The sometimes-lonely world of book promotion

I went to an author reading/signing at my local Borders on Saturday to see my coworker (who, like most authors, hasn’t quit his day job) promote his new book.  There were four of us there.

Earl Sewell’s a successful author – he was promoting his 18th book! – who writes both YA and adult novels.  He has three books coming out in 2009.  Have Mercy features Marshall Turner, a state trooper whose life is turned upside down when reckless, low-class Luther Parker causes a car accident that takes the life of Marshall’s daughter.  Parker flees and Turner’s life goes into a downward spiral.   He and his wife separate, unable to handle the stress and grief.   Only with time, and the love of a new woman, does Turner start to enjoy life again.  The plot has plenty of twists and turns, with hidden motives and people being more than what they seem.

Earl, who must be part-actor, read from an exciting part of the book and gave enough information about it to pique everyone’s interest.  It was clear that he had at least one true-blue fan – a woman who had read a number of his books – in the room.  He brought tchotchkes (thanks for the pen and the bookmark!).  And he talked about the publishing and book promotion process… in addition to bookstore readings, he does book club gatherings and other events, and was clearly motivated by some time he spent with kids in a juvenile detention facility.  Getting them reading could really make a difference in their lives, and telling stories that resonate with them was very validating for Earl.  Whether the crowds are large or small, promoting your books is a big part of an author’s responsibility and Earl is clearly a real professional!

Seeing Earl’s reading put me in mind of the last time I wrote an author event on my calendar… it was when Calvin Trillin was doing a book tour to promote Tepper Isn’t Going Out. Trillin is a well-known author, New Yorker columnist, etc., and his reading in 2003 was at my local Barbara’s.   His crowd?  About 20-25 people.

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