I recently finished reading The Broom of God, by my friend John Bragg. A couple of years ago I’d read a book written by another friend, Bernie’s Bar and Girll, by Marc Rochkind. After reading the second book, I started wondering how many of their friends had bought and read their novels.
The reason I wondered is that very few of my friends bought my novel, A God of Manageable Size. The good people I worked with at Silver Creek Systems bought copies – probably because they saw me every day and would have been embarrassed not to. But even though I told all my friends and cycling buddies about the book, only a loyal few ( 🙂 ) actually bought a copy.
It can’t be a matter of money. A paperback book doesn’t cost much money, and anyway, how many of us have friends who write books? My thought is that people are very status conscious – a relic of our evolutionary past – and a friend’s success can give us feelings we’d rather not feel. I think Gore Vidal said it most eloquently: “Every time a friend succeeds, I die a little.”
So I asked John and Marc about their experiences with friends buying their books.
Marc: “A few of my relatives and friends bought copies, and I gave away a few. But most people who hear I wrote a novel don’t really care. I have a few friends, including you, who have written a novel, and I’ve read all of them. I think it’s fascinating to read something home-made, so to speak.”
John: “I sold quite a few to climbers at a couple of events here in New Hampshire early on. After that the sales to close friends were quite good, but to more casual friends not so good. I think that’s pretty typical from what I’ve read in the self-publishing world.
While it’s understandable from an evolutionary perspective, it’s also a little sad that you can’t count more on the support of friends. I was certainly hurt that so few of my friends bought my book. As a result, I decided to support any friend who has put in the time and effort to write and publish a novel. I would buy (and read) their book.
(I distinguish novels from non-fiction because not everyone is interested in the subject of a non-fiction book. For example, I would never expect friends to buy a copy of a book on computer programming.)
Hence Marc and John’s books. The wonderful bonus was that both novels are great reads – interesting and really well written. Buy them and read them!
Do you have a story you’d like to share about books and friends?
I’m more likely to read a physical book than an electronic book. I have a Kindle and lots of books on it, but many of my Kindle books I either haven’t read, or have read only some of. Having too many choices makes me less likely to finish any of them. Marc mentioned noticing a similar experience with his friends, although he came up with a different reason: “I noticed that everyone to whom I gave a paper copy read it, but very few read the ebook. I think they found the paper more impressive, although there’s no reason why, as it’s self-published.”
Links and Other Clicks
Bernie’s Bar and Girll, by Marc Rochkind
The Broom of God, by John Bragg
A God of Manageable Size, by me
Here’s an interesting article that compares reading a physical book with reading electronically.