One really stressful prospect for authors is that we will be the only ones to show up for our readings. Anne Patchett’s wonderful take on the problem (excuse me for repeating myself), from “My Life in Sales” in the Atlantic, is
I never minded reading to three people. I had plenty of experience. The key is that all of you must sit very close together.
I did this once, at a modestly attended reading on a glorious Saturday afternoon when even I was balking at being inside for a reading, and it was my reading, at Copperfield’s. It was great advice.
This morning I read in Shelf Awareness Richard Russo’s view, shared at Book Expo America, and drawn from an experience from his first book tour, at a reading at Barbara’s Bookstore – which now has a half dozen fabulous Chicago locations:
I remember that they optimistically set out five or six chairs. I didn’t learn until later that they did fill the chairs, but they were all Barbara’s staff…. My sense was the employees at Barbara’s Bookstore had read the book. I was astonished. Those people who filled those five or six chairs were going to be handselling that book and the next book and the one after that. I was disappointed, but they weren’t disappointed at all. They felt buoyed they had discovered a new writer. They had more faith than I had.
Isn’t that comforting?
Russo has contributed the introduction to My Bookstore: Writers Celebrate Their Favorite Places to Browse, Read, and Shop, a celebration of Authors’ Favorite Bookstores to be published this November by Black Dog & Leventhal. No doubt many of us contributing to the anthology love the bookstore we write about for many reasons, but I would venture to guess most of us appreciate the careful early reading booksellers at independent bookstores have given us. – Meg