I'm back from vacation. Sort of. I mean, for one, I'm writing this, technically, while still on vacation. Also, I'd bet good money that when you read this, I'm not really back from vacation. I might be working. I might work super diligently. In my heart, however, I'll still be on vacation, and I will be for days. It's hard to come back from a week plus with nothing to do but binge TV, movies, stand-up comedy, and video games. It's broken my work ethic. And my sleep schedule. It's been murder on the diet, but that has more to do with Christmas being an eating holiday and my book release party producing an excess of stress eating and leftover cookies.
So let's talk about book releases. My first book release party was excellent by any first-book standard. I sold about twenty copies. I tell everyone that 20-25 people came, but that's a huge underestimation because not everyone who came bought a book. For instance, a lot of families came and bought one book among them, and several people had already bought electronic copies and just showed up to fly the colors. So the real numbers were likely in the ballpark of forty. We took over Hastur Games that night, spilling into other sections of the store, forming into sub-clicks, etc.
My second book release was not that successful.
There are a few likely contributing factors. First of all, it wasn't my first book release. A whole bunch of people are willing to miss your second event that would never miss your first. It's your first. They have to support you. Your second? Well, they were there for your first and they fully intend to be there for your third, right? Second, it landed right before Christmas, when people didn't have a great deal of disposable income left and holiday plans. I know it was the day after payday and I was already living on credit cards for that check. (Of course, a good portion of that had to do with the book release party.) Third and finally, the weather turned bad that night, and the moment I saw the streets and the snow, I knew there wouldn't be a turnout.
In fact, you could honestly call the turn out a disaster. The only people actually there on time for the event itself were the people who had to be there and the families who had ridden with the people who had to be there, plus my fellow podcaster JC Carter, who had lent us a piece of sound equipment. There were few enough people that Taylor Stapleton, the comic, tried to beg off going on, until I pointed out that every person there had told me that not one of them was there for my book. All the family members (and JC) had told me they'd only come to see Taylor's comedy. True story.
So she performed, and the one table of gamers in the store loved her. And the audience loved her. And we picked up a loyal friend or two by the time we really got started (I delayed a half hour). And the store owner didn't know that those seven or so people had to be there, so he thought it merely a really weak turn out. He didn't know how bad it actually was.
The irony, of course, is that eventually, people did make it, but because of the snow, almost all of them turned up after the main portion of the event was over, when I was just sitting around signing the very occasional book. I'd decided to stay for at least an hour and a half, and in that time I sold four copies.
Taylor said something to me after to make me feel better, and I said, "It's not like I haven't done worse events than this." She smiled and agreed. As a comic, I'm sure she has had worse experiences as well. The crowd we had was great. Just small, and that made it daunting to start. But I've done that book signing where no one comes. Almost every author has, at some point. And I'm sure every stand up has performed to a nearly empty room. Or worse, a dinner theater.
I've done panels with one attendee. I've done signings where every passerby refused to make eye contact. You think, when you start, that the loneliest part of writing is when you're at home with the blank page. Or maybe stuck on a terrible edit. It isn't. Its when you're sitting at that table, and no one has come. It can be worse when you're at that table in a full store and still no one comes.
But this is what we sign up for. A lot of people think they'll be a writer because it's perfect for introverts. That isn't true. The hard part, the most important part, requires you to hang, bleeding, in the open, in public. Smiling. Pretending that everything is all right.
And for me, it was. But I've done this before. Your first time, it won't be. Your first time, it will likely feel like your world has ended.
And maybe it has.
But we build worlds for a living, right? We do that every day. Maybe 500 words at a time. Maybe a thousand. It's the job. We do it daily. Weekly. We do it when we don't feel like it. We do it when we hate life. We do it and we do it and we do it some more.
So when your world comes to an end. You rebuild it. And you go on. Because it will happen again. I promise you. And it will keep happening. You'll keep needing to rebuild. This isn't easy. We don't do it because it's easy.
We do it because we have to.