Tuesday, July 21, 2009

Five Laws of the Novelist

American psychiatrist Stephen Bergman (who writes fiction under the pen name Samuel Shem) contributes an anecdotal piece called Five Laws of the Novelist to The Boston Globe.

I liked this :
Law Four: There Is No Humiliation Beneath Which a Writer Cannot Go. My second novel had come out in paperback, and my wife and I were on a hiking trip in New Hampshire. We stopped in a mom-and-pop store for lunch. There, in a spindle bookrack, were two copies of my novel. I immediately suspected my wife had placed them there, to make me feel good. Nope. I took both books off the rack and went up to the little old lady at the counter, and announced, “I wrote this book.’’

“Oh, you wrote that book?’’ she asked.

I averred yes. I asked if she would like me to sign the copies.

“Oh no, our folks would never buy a book that was writ in.’’

Another standard humiliation: At an author-signing in a bookstore, sitting at a desk near the window, facing a wall of Grishams, watching people hurrying past as if you are a child molester. Not fun, especially if your publisher has overlooked advertising the event.
Also worth reading is his paper Fiction as Resisitance.


Amir Muhammad said...

It would be more humiliating if:

Not fun, especially if your publisher *has* advertised the event.

Anonymous said...

Ahh ... yes. Humiliation (or its cousin, humility), the struggling author's familiar companion. Gotta learn to embrace it.

I was at a book signing at one of our largest book store chains one city across from mine. It was a Sunday morning just before 12 noon (high traffic). When I stepped in, nary a soul was at the author's desk which was set up right at the entrance. I took pity on the author and chatted with her for twenty minutes, during which time no one came by. When I left about forty minutes later, she was still alone, probably scribbling the notes for her next book.

It must be a privilege to be on a book-signing tour ... if you can tolerate your travelling companion.

ah pong said...

sometimes, i always wonder why the need for book readings ...for many un/lesser known writers book reading can become an exercise in masochism.

book readings sometimes have an opposite effect on me to what is intended....it can put me off the book or /and the writer...

Richard said...

Yes, talking to empty chairs is an experience all writers should taste. Hahaha!

BorneoExpatWriter said...

If you're going to do a book signing, make sure you tell all of your friends to show up, so if a few do, you're not alone! One writer told me he had people lining up to buy his books but the books only arrived the following day....He ended up selling his own copy and once that was gone, he had nothing to show anybody.

Humility, it goes with the territory...

Anonymous said...

That's crap, Amir. I KNOW people come up to you and ask you if you're Amir Muhammad :)