I was once illiterate. I’m a little better now.
Being illiterate in the realm of literature has led me some amazing discoveries, which was kind of the point of being purposefully unread (maybe someday I’ll explain.) One example of discovery I wish to talk about now is the actual act of discovering a writer. In this case, Neil Gaiman.
Yes, Neil Gaiman is famous, a literary god among men, a chap who read voraciously as a child and grew up to write great novels and win awards and garner a cult like following. But I knew none of that at one time. I do now, and this is the story of why and how.
One day I spent my lunch in a used book store and was browsing the speculative isle when I picked up an anthology, turned to the middle, looked partway down the page, and read a sentence.
What makes a sentence good? Rhythm, sense and sensibility, word choice? All these things might be considered style, but they go much deeper really. What does the writing convey, and how do I, as the reader, connect?
Instantly, I was like wow. This works. (Mostly things don’t work out so well for me. But this did, and there was almost a sense of joy about it.) I read the rest of the paragraph and several more, and I decided here was a chap that made sense and expressed it succinctly yet personally and eloquently without actually being eloquent. In short, good stuff.
So, I looked to see who the writer was, made note, and returned to the office where I looked him up and came to find out how this guy was sort of a big deal. Cool. But that was that. I had to get back to work.
You see, even after all that, Neil had not made a sale with me. I was busy and tight fisted too.
Here’s what happened next. I got an email from Amazon offering the ten-year anniversary edition of American Gods at a reduced price. I thought to myself, hey, I’ve been meaning to check this guy out and here is my opportunity. Serendipity. And so I bought it and I enjoyed the book quite well – and this without me even knowing that Odin was a thing.
Anyway, the point I’m making is the only way I ever bought a Neil Gaiman novel for the first time was the result of a one-two punch. One was my discovering him in a used book store where his writing stood on its own merit and stood up quite well. The second was Amazon’s marketing, which at the time I thought what an interesting coincidence that they would send me this message when I was interested in the guy to begin with; but now I realize they probably knew I was looking at his works the other day so I’d be a good mark. And I was. They made the sale back when getting a sale from me was difficult, especially since books at the library are free.
The take away from this, if a person wants to sell a book, number one, the writing must be awesome, and number two, you’ve got to get enough of it out there that someday someone will open a book and actually read some of that writing. And then the number three is the right push at an attractive price-point. Easy peasy. If Neil can do it, so can we!
For my next post I should say how the author of Gilgamesh stole my idea. Until then. Read a book, my friends.