When I published my first novel, When We Get Home (Bantam) twenty years ago, it was a different world. There was no Amazon, there was no twitter or internet or google, and certainly no blogs. This was before Oprah's book club. And I was under the magical delusion that if one wrote a wonderful novel and was lucky enough to get it published, that one's book would pretty much sell itself. So other than telling friends and family, I pretty much sat and waited for my book to take off in the publishing arena. And of course nothing much happened. I did a few readings, one book club, and my friends threw me a lovely party. When I passed bookstores, I would always rush in to see if my book was there-- sometimes it was and often it wasn't. I never saw my novel featured in a book store window, there was no front page New York Times book review. But ignorance can be bliss-- I could imagine that my book was indeed selling all over the country. When I sold the rights to Australia and New Zealand, I imagined my novel was selling well there too.
Today, we can be under no such illusion. Sites such as Amazon and Barnes & Noble state our ranking. One can see activity, or lack thereof, just by going on line and googling one's name or the title of one's book. Is anyone twittering about my new novel? Has anyone discussed it on Goodreads or Redroom or on Facebook? All of this can be entertaining, but it is also a great distraction to a writer. And it truly has nothing to do with writing.
So, my misstep on my first novel will probably remain my misstep on my second novel, Looking After Pigeon. Yes, I want my book to sell well, yes I'd love to actually make some money as a writer, and I am on facebook and redroom and goodreads all in an effort to drum up readers. I even have my own website. But the publishing world -- back twenty years ago and today in the wired age-- has nothing to do with why I write. I write for readers like me who appreciate a well written story about characters who reveal some insight into themselves, and into their lives. Readers who love language, and the joy of escape. And when I am writing, I imagine these readers with my book in their hands, not wanting to put it down to make dinner, or weed the garden, or answer the ringing telephone. And although that is not going to sell my book, it is still very satisfying.