One of the things that has made this year so amazing was the publication of a book I co-authored (it’s down there on the right side of this blog). By all rights it’s been a success. It’s on it’s third printing, it’s being republished in a ridiculous number of countries and languages, and it’s offered us some amazing opportunities in terms of media and publicity.
That said, even a successful book doesn’t sell that many copies. It doesn’t make you a ton of money, and it doesn’t make you famous. I can’t tell you how many times I’ve had to say, “No, Oprah hasn’t called yet.”
On Wednesday, Rachel and I trekked all the way over to Bloomington to do a book signing. We’ve had a number of really good ones. But this time, not one person showed up. We signed no books. Zero. A few people picked a copy up – right in front of us – and then put it back down and scurried away. It doesn’t matter how much you’ve succeeded; that hurts.
Which is why this piece by Robert Draper made me so happy:
the author shows up at the bookstore just before seven in the evening. He is a lanky young fellow, with shirtsleeves rolled up and no tie. The store’s two owners greet him with the usual congratulations. One of them has in fact read the book all the way through. The other has not: He found it too long, especially all that stuff about the author’s time as a community organizer in Chicago.
Their store, Eso Won Books, is the leading African-American book vendor in Los Angeles. The owners serve wine and cheese when famous writers such as Maya Angelou and Walter Mosley come by to read. Tonight they hand Barack Obama a glass of water and bring him to the back of the bookstore, where his audience awaits him. All nine of them. None of his former classmates from Occidental College have shown up. He is getting used to this. The reading at his neighborhood bookstore in Chicago—57th Street Books, a Hyde Park co-operative of which he was a member—drew at most thirty, including only one colleague from the University of Chicago, where he teaches constitutional law. The tiny gathering at his book-signing party in Chicago consisted largely of folks whom the hostess, Valerie Jarrett, Obama’s friend and one of the Chicago mayor’s top advisers, had personally begged to drop by.
I feel your pain, President Obama. I really do.
Bonus: This guy has obviously written a book.