Michelle Richmond asks, “Where’s the love for Trance?” Trance is Christopher Sorrentino’s new novel. And from where I’m sitting, there seems to be some love making the rounds. I’ve had a few positive emails about the book this week.
Publishers Weekly editor Michael Scharf has been following Sorrentino on his book tour. So far, Scharf has two reports available online. But Michelle quotes from the latest installment (which isn’t yet available):
The store has done its legwork: ads for series have gone in every major weekly. They’ve even printed up little baseball-card like promos featuring the author photo on front, and a little synopsis of the book on back, with in-store visit date at the bottom. The cards are available weeks before the reading, and are kept on a rack front of store. There are cards for Jonathan Ames, who was here last week reading before an audience of about 50. Francesca Lia Block and Aimee Bender (like in L.A.) are due next month…
The question that I pose in Michelle’s comments thread is this: In the year 2005, do newspaper advertisements translate into book signing attendance? I suspect that one of the reasons that so many people attended the Ames signing is that Ames himself maintains an e-mailing list, reminding people every so often about what he’s doing. I have yet to receive a single email from Mr. Sorrentino and would have been happy to have noted the event (and possibly attended it), had someone bothered to remind me about it. (Even though the Booksmith is my neighborhood bookstore, this doesn’t mean that I commit every known reading to memory. I am, like most souls, all too forgetful.)
With such a saturated publishing environment, it is the responsibility of the author and the publisher to provide more than just “Booksmith, 7:00 PM” in their information page. We need details, folks. What will happen at the reading? Will there be a band? Will there be canapes? Will each person who buys the book get a personalized hug from Mr. Sorrentino? (And, hell, maybe a penile conflagration might be in order just to liven things ups.) I’m not suggesting that every author feed into the cult of personality, but I am suggesting that they accommodate the reading public instead of expecting them to feverishly scour the weeklies for the latest tours. Readers may be passionate when it comes to books, but they do have outside lives and they are not wolves.
Authors need to reach out to the literati by directing them with non-intrusive emails like Ames’ updates (which are often framed in a polite and non-intrusive personal story) rather than assuming that people will jump out of their seats to attend. In short, they need to do the legwork. And that means taking their heads out of the sand and understanding that the literary culture is solidifying: online and in other places. They just need to be realistic about where the hot pockets lie. I’ve got a few answers to this query, but if these folks are ten years behind the curve, then they really need to sweat it out a little.
[UPDATE: Sorrentino's San Francisco stretch can be found here.]