This fact is brought home to me every time I'm around other authors. A couple of years ago, at the Virginia Festival for the Book, I was signing books with a mystery writer so much my superior in self-publicity that I began to wonder if we were in the same business. Arrayed on the table before her: business cards, a custom-made nameplate, bookmarks bearing the cover of her latest title, a special mini-easel for displaying said title, and Xeroxed copies of her Big Review. "I wish we didn't have to do this," she whispered, even as she reeled in one passer-by after another. "Would you care to read my book?" she called. "Would you care to read my book?" Even if the person in question didn't care to, she managed somehow to extract his e-mail address, which she filed away in her database, from which she would then send monthly e-blasts of her progress.
And then there was me. The table in front of me was bare. Bare even of my latest book because I had forgotten to bring copies. (I did have a copy of Farley Granger's memoirs.) Even eye contact with pedestrians seemed to me too large a declaration. I watched, in silence, as my fellow author cleaned my clock.
Fast forward two years. I am signing books at the very charming Decatur Book Festival in Georgia, and the delightful author next to me pulls out a sheet of blank paper. "What's that for?" I ask. "Oh," she says, "I ask everyone who wants a book signed to give me their personal information so I can send them my monthly newsletter."
Mon ... thly ... news ... letter.
Once again, a whole world of publicity potential rears up before me... and, in the same breath, leaves me utterly spent. I try to imagine writing a monthly newsletter.I try to imagine having enough life to write a monthly newsletter. And it seems to me I would need to be ten times the man. With ten times the carbon footprint. All in all, I decide, it's better for the environment if I remain, relatively speaking, anonymous.
I'm Nobody. Who are you? Are you Nobody, too?
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Louis Bayard is the author of the national bestseller The Pale Blue Eye and Mr. Timothy, a New York Times Notable book. A staff writer for Salon.com, Bayard has written articles and reviews for the New York Times, the Washington Post, Nerve.com, and Preservation, among others. Bayard lives in Washington, D.C.
Books mentioned in this post
Louis Bayard is the author of The Black Tower