Until two months ago, my desk, computer, books, the hummingbird that perches on the tree outside my window and waits for my husband and me to join him in the afternoon so he can buzz our cheeks and nose and chin were the fill of my days. My little kingdom. My ivory tower. My husband and I and our hummingbird in a bower of roses. No need to advertise my books; their charms will carry them on bird wings right into the hands of readers.
Then shock! My seventh book, THE TEXICANS, published in 2006 to reviews like "luminous," "radiant," "should be required reading in the immigration debate" was being buried beneath an avalanche of books by writers who understood that books don't sell themselves, who understood the market-boosting possibilities of the internet. Someone should have lit a firecracker in my ear when I gave up on society and started cozying up to that damn hummingbird.
Publish or perish? Well, I won't perish if I don't publish, but what will I do with all those millions of words skirling like windswept leaves into papery nests on desk and floor and chair? And what about my new book, the one my agent says she "loves SO much," the one about the fractured lives of Jewish refugees in Shanghai during the Holocaust? Will some publisher out of some sudden burst of altruism overlook my dismal sales record and sweep me and my coffee-spotted pages into his/her arms?
And so I stepped out my door into cyberspace. I stepped tentatively, gingerly, not knowing the road, testing first one direction, then another. I dug deep into the online cosmos and finally came to a place unlike anyplace I'd ever seen or been told about, a virtual universe that anyone who loves books can enter, a stitched-together bazaar where book reviews, book recommendations, book giveaways, and book-reading contests bring readers together, where their emails and blogposts sail through the ether like confetti. I found the world of the book blogger.
I approached it as I would the study of a foreign language, memorized terms of art, examined book blogger profiles, studied their book lists to judge their reading preferences. And then I began sending out emails: a free copy of THE TEXICANS to any book blogger who would read and review it. My once silent email inbox soon hummed with activity. I ran out of books. I ordered more. I sent out copies of THE TEXICANS like bread crumbs and waited for readers to follow the trail. I happily responded to online interviews beamed to me from as far away as Malaysia.
My son-in-law is fond of telling me that no one reads anymore. Reading is dead, he says. Tell that to the book bloggers, that army of stalwart readers. They are oblivious to my son-in-law's opinion. They are busy hunting down neglected books, consoling authors, cheering the winner of the last giveaway, mining publishers' lists for the next good read, knitting friendships between people with no more in common than the book that keeps them reading until dawn.
So has any of my frenetic emailing and book-sending and interviewing increased my sales? I don't know yet. It's too soon to tell. But one thing I know: I'm out in the open, have shed my disguise. Anything anyone wants to know about me or my work can be found somewhere in Google-land or on my blog (yes, I'm even blogging), Nina Vida on Writing. I have laid myself bare. I have shucked the modesty. I am my own publicity mill, my innate diffidence sweetened by my genuine desire to connect with readers and tell them about my book.
Copyright Nina Vida 2009