Whew, what a couple of weeks it’s been. I feel like I should be crashing, but instead I’ve come up for air to take stock and marvel at all that’s happened.
It began when I appeared in my guises as WAG editor and author of the new novel “Water Music” at the pre-Mother’s Day “Indulge” event in The Westchester, White Plains. Less than a week later, I sat down with Pat Casey, editor in chief of The White Plains Examiner and host of “Examiner Talk News” on Pleasantville Community TV to discuss WAG and “Water Music.”
That night, I was film critic Marshall Fine’s guest for a discussion of the relationship of words and images at the Emelin Theatre in Mamaroneck after a screening of the new Juliette Binoche-Clive Owen movie, “Words and Pictures.” That discussion would continue a few days later at The Lionheart Gallery in Pound Ridge where I read from “Water Music” and then opened up the floor to consider the way text is used in David Hutchinson’s paintings and drawings, which are on display there. (More on this in the next post.)
In-between the movie and the art gallery appearances, I was at Crunch Fitness’ one-year anniversary party in White Plains. OK, you say, it’s not the Cannes Film Festival. Maybe not, but the same principle applies: You’re putting yourself and your work out there. And along the way, you learn some valuable lessons.
The first is that you have to gauge your audience. You can’t profile your audience, mind you. I hate profiling, because I hate prejudice. (Indeed, the selection I read from “Water Music” is about an incident in which Iraqi-American tennis prodigy Alí Iskandar is profiled.) But you have to be realistic when it comes to your sales pitch. When someone comes up to your table, looks around, smiles and says, “What’s free?” – as someone did at The Westchester event – chances are you’re not going to be selling her a book. Or when a guy in a fireman’s T-shirt and a scowl passes by – trailed by a wife, a baby carriage and two crying toddlers – it’s a safe bet that he would not have stopped for a synopsis of a book about four gay athletes anyway.
There were pleasant surprises. I think of the woman who bought a copy of my book at The Westchester and, clutching it, told me that she was spending the night celebrating herself and that it took her 60 years to learn the importance of doing just that. Her song of herself made me feel great.
It certainly made up for the guy at the outdoor Crunch Fitness event who picked up the book, did his speed-reading thing and then told me my book needed more substance.
“Well, I’ll just have to make the second one fuller for you, won’t I?” I said, smiling sweetly.
He then proceeded to talk about UFOs. Unfortunately – or perhaps fortunately, as the case may be – I couldn’t hear him that well, as other event attendees were doing Zumba to propulsive rock and an even more propulsive wind that had the WAG magazines flapping furiously. (Good thing I had extra books and bottles of water to use as paperweights.) After a respectable period, I offered my speed reader some free magazines and sent him on his way with a smile. You just have to take people at face value, whether they’re buying your book or not.
But then, selling isn’t all about making an actual sale. My time on the Emelin stage and in front of the Pleasantville camera and the Pound Ridge audience reminded me not only how facile a speaker I am but how skilled Marshall Fine and Pat Casey are as interviewers and how gracious, too, they, Lionheart Gallery director Susan Grissom and the staffs of The Westchester and Crunch Fitness were to let me shine. In all these instances, I gained valuable experience and exposure and made some potentially key contacts.
There’s a lot more to the book trade than dollars – even if you hope that in the end, dollars are among the results.