Once I discovered an author with a first book that I thought our group would love. I asked their publisher if the writer could visit us.
What I got from the pub’s marketing department was a one-sentence answer: “How many copies can you sell?”
Well…our club had 15 members on a good day. That’s really as large as a book club can be. Any larger and the group will end up being dominated by one or two assertive voices. The milder personalities will get buried and then it’s not like a book family anymore.
I think this pub wanted me to say “200 copies” before they would even glance in my direction. I’m very glad to say that their book tanked.
So when Joshua Henkin sent me a link to a Daily Beast piece about how he had visited at least 175 book clubs to talk about his novel, Matrimony; I regretted that I didn’t know him when I was with the book club. I would have invited him.
Josh’s Matrimony is a beautifully nuanced take on marriage and friendship that I reviewed in Three Guys a couple of months ago. Josh writes rigorously crafted prose in a style that’s sympathetic to the fiction of Raymond Carver or Tobias Wolff with Flaubert lurking in the background as a distant ancestor. You can read my review here.
JH is working on his next novel right now. He’s a writer that takes great care. He doesn’t like to go on to writing the next sentence until he is satisfied with the one he is working on. I don’t want to rush him but I am dying to lay my hands on a galley of his new book.
If you’re a member of a minority group, then you know that you can’t depend on the majority that’s on the outside to get your message across. Minorities only make progress when they speak out for themselves. Maybe writers should consider themselves a minority group in that sense.
That would mean that writers should work on outreach to readers for themselves…as well as outreach to each other. Publishers are great agencies of culture…but maybe it’s like expecting a bunch of straight people to explain drag queens.
Here’s the Daily Beast link to Josh’s experience at book clubs. And don’t forget to consider reading Matrimony.