to the Author Counts
Carolyn Rants About How to
Make Reading Feel Real
new is afoot.
Publishers are trying to draw authors
and readers together. What a wonderful concept! And, yes, I'm being
This new program from HarperCollins was reported in the LA Times.
The giant publisher offered up their big name authors for an "Invite
the Author" program. Authors like Ann Patchett (author of Bel
Canto) and Wally Lamb (author of This Much I Know is True)
will speak by phone to the members of a very few book clubs--chosen
by lottery, no less!
This is a PR ploy to attract more
book clubs to the HarperCollins site, which is OK by me. HC publishes
lots of excellent titles including books that can be classified
as literary. What T'd me off is that these ladies from one of the
chosen clubs, the Digressing Divas Book Club in Michigan, were so
excited because they "had never met an author or talked to
one before." That made me wonder if there are a whole lot of
readers out there who think that authors are hard to come by. It
made me think that many of our most famous authors may be responsible
for this misunderstanding.
I am here to tell you that many authors
of literary works (and other genres, too) do not keep themselves
cloistered. They have websites. They have e-mail addresses. They
have bared their very souls to their readers in their writing, for
It's easy to find an author. Look
up her name on Google.com.
Once found, visit her site and sign her guest book. She should be
pleased to send you a signed bookplate if you ask. Most authors
will answer your note.
Lacking an e-mail address or website,
authors can also be reached by writing to her publisher; the publisher
will pass these letters on to the author. This is not a new process.
It has been going on for decades. What a concept! A personal letter
with the distinct possibility that a reader will get a personal
note back complete with a valued signature!
Oh, and book signings. Well, granted
some of the big chains get awfully uppity about who they will allow
to appear on their premises, but most towns, large and small have
the potential for an author to visit and chat with book lovers.
So, if "Digressing Divas"everywhere are all that excited
about chatting with authors, maybe they should be telling their
bookstore proprietors about their needs. What would happen if B&N
invited an author from a small press so their customers could get
copy of an autographed first novel, maybe even a honest-to-goodness
first edition? And what if they actually promoted this new
author? And what if the people who came actually found a new voice,
a new author to adore?
"Digressing Divas" could
also hound their libraries a bit. A former Nobel prize nominee,
Dr. Alicia Ghiragossian, Stephen Veres, author of A Light in
the Distance, and I spoke on "The Three Faces of Tolerance"
at our local library recently. Other authors like Pat Morrison,
Vincent Bugliosi and poet Bart Edelman have spoken to those in our
not-so-large community as part of this same series. None of us said
"No." If invited, most mid list-to-newby authors would
travel reasonable distances to meet fans or make new ones. Some
of these authors may someday be the Oateses or Faulkners or Roths
of our nation.
Here's more proof: Authors came out
of the woodwork to appear at hundreds of Wal-Marts (maybe thousands)
for Literacy Day on April 12th. They didn't have to be begged. Oh,
the "Divas" might not have found the world's most famous
authors at every single store, but it was an opportunity to meet
people who write, people with opinions and people with talent.
Maybe these book-clubbers could invite
authors to come talk to their clubs. I know several authors who
have spoken to as few as 12 avid readers cozied around the fireplace
at a club member's home. One of those is Leora G. Krygier, author
of First the Raven.
Some authors even teach at colleges
in your area. Take a class from Eve LaSalle Caram at UCLA or from
Aimee Bender at USC. For heaven's sake, Beverly J. Scott even took
a road tour in one of her collectible Edsels so she could meet people
in small towns!
So, to polish off this rant, what
ticks me is that this new program of HarperCollins is being treated
as if it is a huge opportunity. Well, how huge can it be? Lottery
indeed. Telephone conversations rather than face to face? Besides
that, HC wouldn't even give reporter Renee Tawa the number of book
clubs that have registered on their site, but they would say they're
drawing the names of only two book clubs a month. Every little bit
helps but let's also hear it for the programs that have been putting
readers in touch with authors for years. It's one way to make reading
real and you can be sure that you are getting in on the fun.
Real Ideas for Making Readers Feel
- Write to an author when you've
read his book.
- Look up an author on Amazon.com.
She may even have a link to a special biography page and/or an
- Check out AuthorsDen.com.
Wow! What an array of writers!
- Attend book signings. Occasionally
attend even if you don't know the author.
- Join groups like the Women of Washington
or the Women of Pasadena that invite authors to speak.
- Attend your local library's events.
- Let your bookstore know when you
have read something you enjoy, especially if you had to go to
Amazon.com to buy it. Ask them to invite that author to visit
- Read your paper's Book Review section;
use some of the website addresses you find there to contact publishers
- Most of all, just ask for your
bookish little heart's desire. You might get it.
- If you find an author who isn't
receptive, find yourself another.
Each month in this box, Carolyn
lists a writing or promotion tidbit that will help authors
and a tip to help readers find a treasure among long-neglected
books or a sapphire among the newly-published.
"Ask Roberta" is part of Roberta Allen's website.
She has taught a writing program at Columbia University's
School of the Arts so you'll be getting first-rate advice!
She's a coach and can give you help with "living a life
of free artistic expression" to "anything relating
to the writing process." Go to: http://hometown.aol.com/Roall
and click on the "Ask Roberta" link.
Readers' Tip: Go to www.Zinos.com
and click on "books" at the left side of the page.
You'll find news releases, announcements, etc. about new books
that the New York Times can't find the space (or the will)
MyShelf.Com. All Rights Reserved.