By Nicole Seitz
It's not about how many books you sell. In fact, if you try to keep count, you'll have a hard time getting the gumption up to do it again the next time. Trust me on this.
You never know what you're going to get when you sign books at a bookstore, school, etc. I've sold over 150 books at one event. I've sold zero at another. You just never know. So why do you do it? you might wonder. I'm glad you asked. Here's what I tell my husband:
I do these events, not only because it's part of the job and good to get your name and face out there, but because there are people involved. Real live human beings. I sit all day long behind my computer, writing, researching, imagining fictitious characters and their worlds... It's a solitary existence. Occasionally I get a lovely note from a reader who enjoyed a book, and he/she tells me why. These notes are pure gold. I save them and stare at them when the going gets tough. But the book events take a lot of effort...traveling, packing up, slogging everything along. As such, they require more preparation.
Here's what I do. First, I pray on my way in the car. Yes, my Southern grandmother always told me to "go first class" when I drive, which, to you Northern folks means, "let Jesus take the wheel." Since he's already in the car, I choose to talk to him on my way to book events. I ask him to bless the people I'm going to meet. To give me the words to say. Occasionally, he really gets creative.
Another time I was in a bookstore and a woman walked by. I thought I knew her for some reason, so I said hello. She continued on, so I insisted, "Don't I know you?" We talked it over and no, we'd never met. Then she told me her name. It struck a chord with me. I remembered personalizing a book for that same name the year before. How did I remember that? It turns out, this woman had indeed received a book of mine from a friend. She said it had been especially poignant for her since she's a breast cancer survivor and Trouble the Water also deals with that. We'd never met, yet had some connection forged through a book. As if we knew each other. Goodness. Blows me away.
I could go on with the strange coincidences of book events, but I'll just say this: there are real live people involved. You never know about a word of encouragement you may give, the things people will open up about, the tears they'll shed, the laughs you'll share, the characters you'll see before you that may wind up in a future book...you just never know. It's give and take, this beautiful dance between author and readers, and sometimes, they don't even buy the book! Sometimes, they just talk. Or ask where the bathroom is, or tell you about a loved one. Or just touch you in some amazing way.
When my husband asks me how many books I've sold, I still cringe. I can't help it. "It's not about that," I tell him. Being a numbers guy and all, this book-writing business is all about the number of books I sell. It only makes sense to him. But being an author, I can assure you it's not about that at all. Sure, big numbers would be terrific, I won't lie, but if that's why you do it, you will be sorely disappointed in this profession. Being an author is about people, emotion, connections. It's about intangible things no numbers could ever quantify.
How many books will I sell at my next event? Don't know. Could be 1000. Might be zero. I may be able to count on my fingers, possibly my toes. But how many incredible book event experiences have I had since my first novel, The Spirit of Sweetgrass, came out in 2007? I don't know. Too many to believe. I stopped counting long, long ago.
Nicole Seitz is the author and cover illustrator of four novels. Saving Cicadas was an Indie NEXT List Notable (Jan 2010), a Pulpwood Queens Book Club Bonus Selection (Feb 2010), and a 2010 SIBA Book Award nominee. A Hundred Years of Happiness was a CBN.com Summer Reading Pick and 2009 SIBA Book Award nominee. Trouble the Water was chosen as one of the Best Books of 2008 by Library Journal and went into a second printing two weeks after release.
Nicole lives in the beautiful lowcountry of South Carolina with her sweet (and good with numbers) husband and two children. When traveling, she always goes first class. Find her at http://www.nicoleseitz.com/.