A couple of days ago a friend wrote and told me my psychiatrist was crazy. Work on getting close to people, he said. The rest will follow.
The next day I walked through the blizzard to meet a friend who was deeply depressed. I told her she needed to admit other people might know her better than she knows herself. She said, Powerlessness is a big thing with you.
It isn’t, I said. I mean sexually yes. But I was talking about taking responsibility, recognizing a problem and doing something about it. Letting go of all the little reasons you have for being miserable. It’s not advice I always take, but I wasn’t giving myself advice.
Then yesterday Alina and I took a train to Nick and Lily’s farm house. Here, from the upstairs window, I can see the pond and the naked trees and three deer running along a ridge. In the kitchen, in the cupboard, there are glue traps to catch mice. When a mouse gets stuck you have to drown the mouse in the soup pot then throw the dead mouse into a bag in the entryway. I told Alina that was her job. I would take care of the dishes. She said she didn’t want to drown mice. She’s a vegetarian. I told her it was the only humane thing to do.
When you go on your book tour here is some advice: Read in people’s homes, create a lecture you can give around your book, do at least two events in every town because the hardest part is getting there. It’s more fun to do events with other people but you sell more books when you’re alone, when it’s all about you.
If you read in a person’s home that person is throwing you a party. If they don’t look at it that way, if they’re just loaning you some space, then don’t do it. What you need is a commitment. They should promise at least 20 people. Tell them you prefer the living room to the cafe.
Have more than one book to sell. If you only have one hardcover book you might only sell 12 copies, but if you also have two earlier paperbacks you’ll sell 20 books.
If you read at a university you have to get some money, even just a little. You’ll sell more books reading in a soup kitchen than you will to students in a private college.
Stay as long as you can. People buy books on the way out. In a reading, in someone’s home, they won’t buy the book when you’re done reading. But at some point they think, the hell with it.
When people say they forgot their money I tell them to mail it to me later. I write my mailing address inside the cover. I write, Don’t Forget, and, Please Remit $20.
At my last reading from my book tour I was zipping up my bag and someone said, Is it too late to buy a book? It’s never too late to buy a book. I sold three more books at that point. I sold eleven hardcovers and five paperbacks at my last home reading, the last event of my book tour, which started September 15 and finished December 19. After that reading I was trudging to the train station, dragging my roller bag through the snow, worried the remaining books would get wet. I thought, I hope this isn’t a metaphor. The snow was coming in sheets. I thought, This is the opposite of glamorous. But I was OK with that.
The book tour. I read at or participated in 73 events in 33 cities in 95 days. I sold 700 copies of The Adderall Diaries which I bought wholesale, as well as 150 copies of Happy Baby and 80 copies of My Girlfriend Comes To The City and Beats Me Up. Roughly. But that doesn’t count all the books the bookstores sold. At maybe 20 events, or more, a bookstore was selling the books. It’s safe to say I hand-sold around a thousand copies of The Adderall Diaries. It’s safe to say I generated more sales than that indirectly from write-ups in local newspapers and blogs, interviews with small radio stations. 500 more. 300 more. 1,000 more? Hard to say. It depends what you mean.
For why? For the same reason I wrote it.
Lily and Nick were there to meet us when we arrived at the farm house. I cut sumac with Nick and went for a winter hike with Lily. At night we downloaded Paper Moon and projected the film on a wall. In the morning they left with Nick’s brother taking the cats and the dog and the baby, leaving Alina and I to work until Christmas.