Is it harder or easier these days to be an author? Innumerable ways exist for one to be published, traditional, indie, self-publication, e-publication, but that’s just the first step in a long, exhausting process. An author has to court his or her public, create a buzz, build that audience by tweeting, book-trailing, facebooking, blogging, and maybe even tap-dancing.

If one is a phenom or a rock star like Stephen King, J.K. Rowling, Jonathan Franzen, and Jodie Picoult, crowds come in droves without much more than a whisper. These authors have brand recognition, cultivated in one form or another. Each may have a story of first starting out and facing the empty chairs at a reading. However, the fact remains not every author burns down the house without significant huffing and puffing.

I attended a Chuck Palahniuk signing earlier this year which RiverRun Bookstore of Portsmouth, NH, hosted. Chuck is an icon, and yet, he brought a giant bag of tricks. He tossed blow-up hearts and Academy Awards and turkeys at us and incited inflation contests. Even if one were not a Chuck fan to start, he deserved props for his show. I assume he had as much fun watching the audience make doofuses out of themselves as we did being doofuses.

Though most authors do not have to go to the Chuck level of performance, the author reading has become, perhaps out of necessity, so much more than a reading. Bookstores need authors to offer that extra something to help bring readers off the porches and into the stores. This is so difficult. I mean, how could anyone want more than the book the author bled onto paper or the screen, right?

Although I missed the launch party for Johnette Downing’s There Was an Old Lady Who Swallowed Some Bugs, I have seen pictures and heard the stories. She sang. She dressed as a bug. She offered bug juice and gummy bugs. She awarded prizes for the best bug costumes. Adults and children were enthralled.

Authors have to be a little willing to take it to the next level, and that is difficult. We tend to be a reclusive species. That’s why we write. We just need to determine how far we want our words to go.

Veronica K. Brooks-Sigler

Bookseller/Social Medium


Maples Street Book Shops