I’m relatively new to the publishing game—three books out in the last three years after a very long, eleven year journey to breaking through—but I’ve met a lot of readers for this reason: I spent fifteen months on the road with my husband, kids car-schooled in the backseat, as we toured bookstores, libraries, and book clubs all over the country.
When I proposed this nutty idea, which would come to be known as “the world’s longest book tour,” my publisher begged me to stay home. They said I would walk into a lot of empty rooms—and I did. This is what happened in one of them.
Oh—first I should say that I also walked into a lot of crowded rooms, although that is for a different blog post. Here’s the lonely room story.
One wintry night, early on in my first book tour, I visited a large, rambling bookstore in rural Indiana. The size of the place only cast into sharper relief the emptiness of the room I was placed in. Not one person inhabited it when I arrived, nor for a painful, slowly ticking ten minutes after.
Then somebody came in. A man with a shy, eager expression on his face. He shared with me his own writing dreams. We talked for two interesting, revelatory hours. Closed that big bookstore down.
At the end of the night, this gentleman did not buy a copy of my book. I was horrified. Not for me, really—I mean it wasn’t as if one book sale was going to pay my way to Indiana. But the bookstore had staged this event, hosted me, even stayed open late. I had recommended a book during the course of our conversation, and my one attendee decided to buy it. The cash register rang once on account of my coming, and my conscience was a little salved.
Then the man turned to say goodbye, and he explained why he hadn’t bought my book.
See, he already owned three copies. One to “keep pristine,” one to read over and over, and one to lend. And he had to hurry now, because he had a three hour drive home.
My publisher, Ballantine, was then an imprint of Random House, which is now Penguin Random House, which is part of the huge media conglomerate Bertelsmann. I like to imagine that there really is a Mr. Bertelsmann at the helm—even though there isn’t—and that if he existed, I would say to him, “Boy, do I have a marketing plan for you. It involves sending me to a small town in Indiana where one reader will show up, and he’ll already have bought the book.” Somehow I don’t think that’s going to be every publicity department’s dream.
But it sure made a dream of mine come true.
Here was one reader who thought my book was worth having multiple copies of. Who thought it was worth driving three hours to meet me.
For someone who’d faced eleven years of rejection—that was a reader worth meeting.
Jenny Milchman is the Mary Higgins Clark and Silver Falchion award-winning author of three critically acclaimed domestic thrillers, Cover of Snow, Ruin Falls, & As Night Falls. She founded Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day, is a board member of International Thriller Writers, and speaks all over the country about writing and the importance of sticking to a dream.
You can connect with Jenny Milchman at the following places:
Books by Jenny Milchman
Thank you, Jenny, for joining us today and sharing your story. It’s so wonderful to learn how much authors value interactions with readers, and the lengths you go to to make it happen.
TNC Readers: We are so pleased to announce that Jenny is officially our first confirmed author for TNC event in the NJ/NY area next Fall.
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