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Words Without Borders

Author Seeking Reader

Who wants a book party? Rachel Donadio reports in the International Herald Tribune about the disappearance of this phenomenon, at least in New York City. "Publishers see book parties as a waste of money." And, "Publishers are hesitant to spring for more than a few bottles of wine and some snacks."
I remember going to a book party in New York where raw carrots were served. By the time the carrots had reached me, the dipping sauce was completely gone.
Nothing against raw carrots, but when the raw carrot is the only weapon against boredom at your party, you might be better off without party at all.
When my first novel, Blue Mondays, was published in the Netherlands, my publisher threw a small party at a bookstore in Amsterdam. It was May 2, 1994. There was wine and beer, with no snacks. Even then I heard the financial director whisper, “Is this really necessary for this book?” The novel became a bestseller, so my other book parties were a little bit more elaborate. In 2003, I travelled with a goat through the Netherlands for my novel The Asylum Seeker, and the book party, with goat cheese and ice cream made of goat milk was, thanks to the goat, highly enjoyable.
I do agree with Morgan Entrekin, as quoted by Rachel Donadio, “For a small first novel, spending more than $1,000 would be ten percent of the marketing budget--is that a smart way to spend it?” My answer would be no.
But is it smart to spend $8,000 for a small ad in the New York Times? My answer would be no, again.
Would it be smart to send the author of a small first novel on a book tour? In Dallas, four people show up, among them three homeless guys and the author’s niece. . . .
This is not to mention all of the books that are published without any marketing budget at all.
So what to do? There is a successful television show in the Netherlands, not very different from shows elsewhere, called Boer zoekt Vrouw. (Farmer Seeking Woman.)
As the title suggests, the show is about a farmer who is desperately in need of a woman.
We all know that there are thousands of authors desperately in need of readers. Why not start a show called Author Seeking Reader? Is this a respectable format for high literature? Maybe not. But who would argue that forty people in a living room on the Upper East Side, with some catering-service slaves handing out canapés, has anything to do with high literature? And for those authors who really insist on having book parties, here is some free advice: combine your book party with your wedding party or a baby shower. Or even better, Passover.


(Words Without Borders, April 27, 2006)