On Sunday, October 16th, I attended an author event in Thunder Bay. My original incentive was to hear Jane Urquhart read. Jane used to live a few houses down from me.
Well, that’s not strictly true. She lived in Little Long Lac, a suburb of Geraldton, about the same time I did, but I was oblivious to her existence, and I was oblivious to the fact that she was going to become a world-famous author, and, I was oblivious to the fact that someday I would be a locally-famous one.
The first reader that night was James Bartleman, an old duffer like me, but unlike me, a distinguished civil servant for 35 years and a former Lieutenant-Governor of Ontario. He read from his debut novel.
The second reader was Johanna Skibsrud, a long-time student, then a part-time teacher and a sales associate, and now a student again, who scooped last year’s Scotiabank Giller Prize for her debut novel.
Then Jane read. Wow. Wow, wow, wow.
Now, why did this author go to listen to those authors? Two words: to listen. And another word: curiosity.
Curiosity. That’s code for, What’s he got that I haven’t got? And what’s she done that I need to do?
I listened hard. And I got answers.
The Wednesday following, I did a reading for, what is called in the trade, “a small but appreciative audience”. That’s code for “family and friends and some total strangers who are wondering what I’ve got, or done”. I talked up a storm.
And, I sold two of my novels. I’m getting what I must get: readers. An author must be read. MUST.
This past weekend I attended an author event in Kenora, called a “literary festival”. There were locally-famous authors and provincially-famous authors, the province in question being Manitoba. I listened, and I got more answers.
And I got a chance to talk. No, I wasn’t a presenter. But at the end of a workshop on self-publishing, I stood up boldly and insisted that everyone accept a promo card from me. That was brash of me. And I boldly and brashly self-asserted, “If you’re a self-published author, you must self-promote.” And, someone else chipped in, “Yeah, shamelessly self-promote.”
Everyone, every self-published author and every aspiring author in the room, nodded, and smiled, and accepted my card. They know what I got, and how I did it.
And I sold two novels. Well, I sold one, and gave one away as a promo so that a reviewer can promote me . . . locally, of course.
Hundreds of dollars spent and one novel sold. A very successful author event. One more reader gained. One more. One more corner that my light is shining into. Whoopee. And I mean that most sincerely.
Now getting back to that first author event, the one in Thunder Bay. Why did those authors present? Because . . . Wait for it. Because . . . You know the answer already. Because . . . They were self-promoting.
Sure, they had their expenses paid. They sold a few books . . . with the emphasis on “few”. That author tour is costing somebody, probably us taxpayers, a bundle, and the payback will be minimal.
So, why do authors do it?
One simple answer: to get read.
Authors must be read. MUST be.
And they know they’ll be paying a high price. Because . . .
For hours, days, and maybe weeks . . .
They are living in sin.
They are not writing.