This It takes a lot to get me down. I try to move forward. I despise looking back, because the moment one takes a look in life’s rear-view regret tends to attack. As many of you know, I have been dealing with my Mother’s death, and was driving to what was slated to be the biggest book-selling day since the launch of Farming, Friends and Fried Bologna Sandwiches, (Small Business Saturday) when BAM! Out of nowhere, an accident. That’s why we call them accidents, they are unexpected and certainly ill-timed. Needless to say I missed all three events and as the tow truck loaded my mangled car I couldn’t help but think, there goes my yearly income.
During what I am now calling my recovery time, a time when I am forced to sit still and recuperate, something other than regret has slipped inside my noggin’. I have begun to replay spoken phrases, hence the title of this blog, Enjoying the Show. As y’all know I adore meeting readers. I traveled great distances with my first book, In the Garden with Billy. This is what artists do, travel. We travel a lot. Recently I met an individual, a charming individual, who lingered for my entire event. However, this individual did not purchase a book. This happens often. People want to meet you, but they do not want to pay full price for your book. They don’t even want to pay the discounted bookstore price. They want to order from Amazon because shipping is free. This is why authors call Amazon a necessary evil in the book-selling business. These days, people are window shopping. They attend events trying to determine if they want the book, then they purchase elsewhere, even when local booksellers match Amazon’s price, even when that same bookseller employs the neighbor’s kid.
Let me pause for a moment to share something you may not know. If you purchase a used copy of my book from Amazon, I do not receive a dime. Not a penny. Zero. The seller, who may have actually received that copy for free as part of a publisher’s promotion, receives all of the money. How fair is that? Amazon doesn’t tell you (the consumer) that part, doesn’t tell you that unless you click the very first tab (the one that ships from Amazon) authors don’t receive anything. But I digress… back to the individual at the bookstore.
This person was engaging. Cheerful. Delightful. However, when this person left, h/she said, “I have enjoyed your show.” My show? You’ve enjoyed my show. This is why bookstores are ticketing author-events, because not everyone buys books at events . . . some are as bold as to bring galley (free) copies and Amazon-purchased used copies into events and ask for a signature. Giving this individual the benefit of a doubt, I humbly disagree with the statement. While I nodded politely, what I wanted to say was, “I beg your pardon. I don’t put on a show. This is my livelihood.” And the reason this comment angered me is that this individual wanted a photo with me, then posted on social media the image complete with a tag at the store. This individual had previously contacted me, saying ” I will rally readers to your event.” (although every reader in attendance came because I had invited them . . . except the one customer in the store who decided to hang around (I guess for the show). In return for my driving, my presentation, my freebies given away to those in attendance, I received an atta girl, but very few sales.
Don’t get me wrong. I had a great time. I got to spend 4 hours with my readers, with friends. I had lunch. I contributed to the local community, but as I pointed the car home I did so having made nothing. I actually lost money because my contributions to the local businesses. This is the life of an author. This is what we mean when we say blood on the page. This is what we speak about when huddled in circles with out colleagues. This is what we dare not share with the public. . . until today. (I’ll get emails from fellow authors, those who dare not breathe a word of this aloud). But y’all expect more from me. You read this blog because you know that I post true-life experiences. That is why I needed far more than a Thanks for the show. I needed book sales. Authors have grown weary of constantly begging readers to “buy my book.” We have grown weary of the “show.” Authors have a track record of expending countless hours for $1.05 in royalty. We need more than kudos and a packed room. We need readers to buy books. And I understand the need to obtain the best price. Trust me, I do. I buy used books, and new books; but I also support authors and I am a champion for the Independent bookseller. I don’t attend book events without buying something, even if I have previously read the book. I still hold authors in high regard. Perhaps I share this today because I am traumatized from the car accident, still processing my grief, or perhaps I am just weary of working so hard only to watch my effort go for naught. I am a darn good author and I hope to the heavens that my reading public knows that I am not putting on a show. What you see is me . . . the real me. When I travel to an event, especially a Saturday event, I do so at the sacrifice of my family time. They deserve better. I did as well.
Renea Winchester is the award-winning author of Farming, Friends, and Fried Bologna Sandwiches; Mountain Memories: True Stories and Half-Truths from Appalachia. A Hardscrabble Christmas. Her first book, In the Garden with Billy: Lessons About Life, Love & Tomatoes earned her a SIBA and GAYA nomination. Email her through her website at www.reneawinchester.com. She welcomes new friends on Facebook. Follow her on Twitter Here.