I follow a lot of authors, publishers, book editors, reviewers, libraries and bookstores in social media. This is important because I’m a writer with a debut book about the world’s first gourmand, FEAST OF SORROW, out TODAY (YAY!). Aside from the awesome feeling of having a book available that the public can buy, it also means that in order to make that book as discoverable as possible I have to work my A-game in the world of networking. I’ve been carefully building my audience over the last few years and developing my relationships with influencers who may be able to help share the word about my book.
All this hard effort was working exactly as planned until November 8th, 2016. Suddenly the conversation changed. People that normally talked about books like mine had other things to talk about, namely the impending POTUS. Then January 27th came along and the book world normalcy I had hoped would eventually come back took a turn for the worse.
People were talking about books, it turns out. Maybe more so than in previous months. The Handmaid’s Tale and 1984 flew to the top of the Amazon bestseller list and haven’t left it since. Brave New World, It Can’t Happen Here and Farenheit 451 weren’t far behind.
If you walk into a bookstore right now, you’ll invariably find a wall of “resist” books, or about women, or immigration, or racism. In theory, I’m totally okay with this. I truly believe that we need to read these books more now than ever. And if bookstores make some cash, great. There is a sadness within me, however, that we have to have these sorts of trending themes at all, or that so many of these books may never have received the readership that they are now if political events had turned out differently.
The other thing that I began to notice, particularly after the inauguration, is that book editors, bloggers and reviewers stopped talking about books. Not entirely, but for the most part the conversation turned to politics. To outrage. To activism. To shock and horror. The books they were talking about reflected these themes. My author friends with books long since out were also having similar conversations. They were rallying others to the cause, raising money, protecting the rights of the disenfranchised. My fellow debut authors and I have been left wondering if anyone hears anything at all about the books we are trying to share with the world. And we are wondering if it is wise for us to express too much of our political views when the sales of our books are at stake.
The thing is, I want the same things that the book world wants. I want people to read these incredibly important books. I want book bloggers to showcase books they might not have looked at twice in the past. I want my author friends to use their voices to help educate, to create dialogue and to try and understand what on earth is going on in our world right now.
But, and here is the selfish part of it all, which I freely admit, I also want people to buy my book. A book that, for the better part of the last decade, I’ve worked super hard to get published. It’s finally here and not only is it tougher than ever to be seen and heard as a result of the way that social media is structured, but it’s even harder to gain share the conversation in the midst of such political turmoil. “Don’t worry,” my friends tell me. “People still need an escape.” I know this is true. But will they escape deep into my world of ancient Rome or will they choose Animal Farm instead?
Reading is, in my opinion, more important now than ever. I encourage readers to look past the obvious novels and to dig into the world of historical fiction. Historical fiction puts you in the shoes of the people who experienced the stories that we should be reading today to learn from the past. As an example (and a shameless plug), Feast of Sorrow is a cautionary tale of the perils of arrogance, of spending exorbitantly, of narcissism, of gluttony, of extreme vice. Yet it is also a tale of human relationships, of love, and loss. And food–food as politics and of power.
If you don’t know where to start in the world of historical fiction, here is a fantastic list by Abe Books to get you going.
There will be a launch event for Feast of Sorrow on Tuesday, April 25, 2017 – 7:00pm
at the Cambridge Public Library (440 Broadway Cambridge, MA 02138).