• Kamy Wicoff
  • Do Bookstore Events Sell Books? Who Cares. They're Awesome.
This blog was featured on 08/30/2016
Do Bookstore Events Sell Books? Who Cares. They're Awesome.

Last Wednesday, I took a 6:40 a.m. flight home from San Francisco. Why so early? So I could land in New York in time to have dinner with my kids. (This month, I really needed the in-two-places-at-once time travel app I gave the main character in my novel!) In just four weeks, I'd been to Phoenix, Portland, Seattle, Houston, Austin, San Antonio, Los Angeles, Palo Alto, and San Francisco, and had had my official launch party in New York. I'd stayed in one airport motel, but mostly on pull-out couches and in guest rooms, crashing with family and friends, hauling my roller bag from town to town. At one event, only five people showed up. At another, we had almost sixty. Book events are notoriously hard to make into a success. They are so hard to make into a success that this parody of them in The Onion almost fails to be a parody. Tim Ferris, author of The 4-Hour Work Week and mega bestseller, says they are the biggest waste of time there is for an author. But you know what? They are my single most favoritest thing about the difficult, long, sometimes thankless process of promoting a book. I love them. In four photos, I will tell you why.

Exhibit A: In Portland, where only five people showed up, I got to meet Linda Cohen and Melissa Strongwater Dodson, two writers who honored me and my fellow SWP authors Celine Keating and Leanna Lehman with their presence at Annie Bloom's Bookstore. (If you live in Portland, stop in to pick up a signed copy of one of our books!) Melissa recently lost her mother, and has been working to write her way through her grief. Meeting her and signing a book for her was totally worth the trip. Linda, meanwhile, wrote the beautiful book 1,000 Mitzvahs, and she showed her generous spirit in being there for our event. (That's a shot of Melissa and me.) it was a wonderful night.

Exhibit B: In Austin, where my mom and dad live, my mom got every book club she's in (she's in four!) to show up at the incredible indie institution BookPeople. I also saw friends from high school I hadn't seen in twenty years, and I got to see my name on a marquee. And I made my mom and dad super happy and proud! (There are signed copies of Wishful Thinking you can pick up at BookPeople, too.) My boys came on that trip as well, and got to see their mommy read from her book. Hey Tim Ferris--can you put a price on that?

Exhibit C: In Los Angeles--where I felt the warm glow of the She Writes Press sisterhood while reading with Donna Stoneham, Laura Nicole Diamond, Paolina Milana, and Constance Hanstedt, whose books, and bravery, blew me away--I got to meet Kelly Hayes-Raitt, who I feel like I have "known" for years here on She Writes, but who I've never gotten to know (or hug) in person. Having founded She Writes nearly six years ago now, there are members I have been communicating with for years, and Kelly is someone who always participates and brings a lively spark and valuable knowledge to the conversation. It was such a pleasure and a treat to say hi after all this time.

Exhibit D: Last but not least...I created a secret Facebook group for what I call Superfriends of Wishful Thinking (if you'd like to join, please let me know in the comments here), a place for early supporters of the book who, in exchange for more intimate and regular contact with me, as well as some special perks, have agreed to go the extra mile in spreading the word about the book. One of the first members was a writer in Seattle named Suzanne Shaw. Suzanne is an alum of the Hedgebrook Writers Colony (check it out!), like me, but we'd never met, and she had never been very active on Twitter before becoming my Superfriend. Now she fearlessly retweets just about everything I put up. Guess who also made the trip, and it was a long one, to give me a cheer and a squeeze at Third Place Books in Seattle. (Another store with signed copies of the book if you live in the area.) Suzanne. Wow.

The fact is, this doesn't even begin to cover it. In Austin, the novelist Sarah Bird, who I've admired from afar for years, did me the honor of introducing me. In LA I got to meet Bella Mahaya Carter, whose contributions to the She Writes blog have been enlightening and inspiring me for some time. My best friend from growing up, Anne Tramer, joined me for my reading in San Antonio, and reminded me of the fervent adolescent pledges we made to each other that we'd be writers someday. So far I've gotten to read with even more fabulous spring SWP authors, including Hollye Dexter and Jo Ivester (who came to my reading in Austin!) and will read with more next week in Brooklyn, and later in Philadelphia and Chicago.

If you can, I hope you will join me for one of the events I have coming up, or consider attending a She Writes Press Spring 2015 tour event that our other authors will be headlining. They are a wonderful way to ground yourself--to remember what this writing business is all about. For most of us, it isn't about making money. (Even if we wish it were, the truth is the majority of writers don't make a living selling books.) It's about telling a story, and connecting with the readers who love it. And when you are a writer, all audiences, great and small, are treasures beyond anything money can buy. 

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  • Hi Kamy!  First of all thank you for starting Shewrites.  It has helped me a great deal.  I agree with you that book tours are valuable.  I haven't finished a book yet but my husband have finished our memoir and will be eventually going on book tours.  Reading your pages and then meeting people who like your book is a great experience.  Also I love book stores and libraries who have authors come and read.  It makes our lives richer.  I am in the process of buying your book.  Good Luck with sales.  Crystal Meinstein

  • This is great, Kamy.  Thanks for remiding me what matters: heartfelt connections. So glad you enjoyed your tour. It was awesome meeting you! Thanks for your kind words about my SW blog. Can't wait to read your book!

  • Planning to catch the book tour in Boston.  Looking forward to it. ~ :0)

  • Thanks, mom, and Crystal. Can't wait to meet you Shakuntala! And Michelle, you're going to be great. :)

  • Michelle Cox

    Very encouraging piece!  I'm living in fear of having to go out and - God forbid! - speak to a group; however, I do love talking about my novel with friends and family who have read it.  It's so fun and a natural high, so I have to train myself to think of possible future events this way.  Talking with people who might have enjoyed my book - fun!

  • It was a lifetime highlight event for me to hear Kamy entrance an audience, which included many of my friends, at BookPeople where I've gone to so many other wonderful readings by outstanding authors.  What an evening!  Thank you, Kamy, for writing this delightful book and working so hard to share it with as many people as possible.

  • Hi Kamy, I am looking forward to meeting you in Chicago.

    You are right. It is not just the number ofbooks you sell at the bookstore events that matter.

    The endorsement from one person who read your book, or the adoration from yet another who is writing a book, just because you have put your story in print, makes you want to go home and write more.

    And, if you have encouraged one more person to read....., well you have done your part to support literacy!

    Hurray to you.


  • I love this beautiful piece, Kamy!