Saturday, October 06, 2007

Selling a Dead Book

October 6, 2007

I had great expectations for my book Meet Me at the Butterfly Tree when I paid for the reprinting of it a couple of years ago. Luckily it's a pay-as-you-go online operation that gives me a chance to order books on demand. Luckily, because the demand has been dwindling over the years since the book sold its first thousand copies in late 2003. A little book of memories of an odd little American town in the 1950's, it apparently has not all that much long-term appeal.

However, I refuse to believe that its chances are dead. You can find out about the content of the book by clicking here. When I wrote it I thought of it as a low-key kind of Lake Wobegone Days that would reach out to people who had never heard of Fairhope and had no interest in the economic theory from which it sprang. I thought the characters I remembered would resonate generally and entertain audiences I could hardly imagine.

Over time there has naturally been less interest in the book, which stirred a great number of people after its first publication in late 2001. I thought, however, that the best place for a final splash would be at the reunion of graduates and former students from the Marietta Johnson School , an event that has been in the works for over six months and is taking place this very minute.

We expected 200 visitors to town for the reunion, but the guest list turned out to be more like half of that. Each event during the weekend has drawn a different crowd. The shocking thing is, with all the pats on my back by all the people attending -- they even gave me a silver bowl for service beyond the call of duty over the past 9 years -- not one book has been sold.

I tell myself they all already own copies. They have bought enough for gifts that they don't need to stock up on any more. I tell myself the readers for this book haven't really found it yet, and they will, one by one, year by year.

I also remind myself that there are two more events as part of the reunion -- a folk dance party tonight and a good-bye brunch tomorrow. Maybe they're just waiting.

Or, maybe I'll become one of those authors with a box of 50 unsold copies of her only book, a little treasure that she once wrote about her home town. Maybe I'll lug those copies around for the rest of my life and start giving them away at every opportunity. I know this sounds churlish, so much so that I am reluctant to post it at all. But you just don't know how hard it is to sell a book whose time has come and gone.

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