The online article on marketing one’s novel stated that authors had to do it themselves unless they’d written another Fifty Shades of Grey, and it advised in twenty-nine helpful hints what I should do to sell my books. “A million books are published a year. You must find and sell to your audience.” My problem is that my audience, while growing, may not be reading so much.
Where could I find people who want to read about older women? A conversation with my husband, invalided with an injury from falling off a rowing machine, sobered us. Maybe we should think of a retirement residence, he said. “They have safe exercise rooms and you wouldn’t have to cook every night.”
“I wouldn’t have to cook very night if you cooked on Tuesday and Thursdays.” But the idea stuck, not about cooking, but about where my audience might be found
I called the social directors of ten local retirement residences. My goal was to encourage others my age to write. ”It has meant so much to me,” I said. I didn’t say that I’d mention a few of my books along with how to buy them. I set up four meetings
I must have misread my first gig’s blurb in the telephone book. Its sign read Assisted Living Residence, not Retirement Residence. My audience, about twenty people, was led in, quiet, attentive, mostly deaf, some asleep, except for the two who had had yearnings to write about their Second World War experiences. I cheered them on. One fellow who nodded to me all through my talk, came up afterward, his hands gesturing and his eyes eager. Live one, I thought. He told me several very elaborate jokes. Then his nose started bleeding. I lent him a tissue and waved goodbye, mid-joke. The best part of the hour was that twenty folks showed up, and that I had thought to tuck a Kleenex in my purse.
The numbers declined. Eight at the second talk, unnerving because my presentation was scheduled in an auditorium that seated fifty, but good because two of the women had been writers, one of them very angry about a rejection she had received a few years back. I offered my sympathy. It felt good to commiserate.
At the third residence, I sat for long minutes in an empty room. Then a couple in their nineties wheeled through the door and asked where everyone was. The two, rich with world experiences, English accents, and a marriage that sounded similar to mine, disagreed on who remembered what. She read an essay she had written long before, her memories of internment in WWII Shanghai. I left , but I said I’d be back. I want to know more, the way a good book makes me feel.
At my last stop, the audience I had dreamed of circled around my chair: seven people who wanted to write. My personal mantra* brought smiles and many minutes of conversation. As I walked out of the building, a novel prodded at me. About a writers’ group made up of old ladies with dreams.