June was book launch month for my novel The Navigator. Anticipation met reality. I promised from the start here that my posts on Algonquin Redux would concern the book’s marketing. The wild ride of sales has now begun. It will continue hopefully unabated. Today, an experiment in economy: Six stories about the book launch, each exactly one hundred words, including this paragraph of introduction. If the poets can manage to muster sufficient artistic discipline to write a haiku, a sonnet, or an Alexandrine (you could look it up), novelists can be word-disciplined too. Or at least this one can try.
The maelstrom began at BookExpo America in New York two weeks before publication day. I became a public figure again. It’s not the first time in my life that this has happened. The feature in Publishers Weekly Show Daily delivered an impressive, impossibly long queue for my book signing at Macmillan’s booth. First in line was Patricia Sheppard Franz, college classmate, fellow English major, librarian. She smiled broadly. Providence delivered her here, a reminder of humility and perseverance. There are no accidents. Patty was the only person at BEA who knew thirty-seven years ago that I wanted to write novels.
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I signed hundreds of books at BEA. My distinction was that I personally inscribed every one. Forge Books publicist Sally Feller, a charming dynamo, accompanied me. I was scheduled to sign for thirty minutes. At twenty-nine Sally whispered, “Do you want to keep going?” Of course. The line grew longer for an hour and thirty-five minutes until we ran out of books. I observed a notable economic dynamic, especially as a game theorist (it was another life): People didn’t pay for books there, but they had to carry them—still a cost. The first hardcover appeared on eBay that weekend.
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Book launch day, June 11th. Lou Dobbs interviewed me in prime time—I was in studio in Washington, he was in New York. The Navigator is a super-contemporary financial thriller about the confluence of big government and big data, perfect for the immediate national zeitgeist, the disclosures of NSA leaker Edward Snowden. We had three minutes in which Lou and I were chatting before we came out of commercial. “Hell of a story,” he commented, offering, “I’m writing a novel myself.” “It’s the best way,” I responded, “to tell powerful truth.” “I like that,” he agreed as we went live.
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There are memory aggregations of arrival moments, high comfort to the ego. They burst meaningful when you publish a novel. This is different from nonfiction. My almost favorite was the moment in New York when I was handed my first hardback copy. Yeah, it’s real, at middle life. But my favorite was the ride up the escalator at the Downtown Washington DC Barnes & Noble Store. The formal national book launch, the big one, took place there. The display of The Navigator was stunning, unexpected, dozens of copies deep in brilliant color. My wife Barbara was with me. She understood.
A surprising number of people interviewed me, especially inquisitive bloggers. They were probative, good at what they do. People care about books. Seven things I said in my responses are worth retelling: I loved writing Horvath, the bad guy in the book. Publishing a novel today is like starting a new business. Supporting independent bookstores is a moral imperative. Publishers endure because they discriminate good writing from bad writing. Finding time to write is easier for me because I don’t golf. The beauty of writing a financial thriller is that it’s high-risk, just like deal world where I live professionally.
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Two of my favorite events came late in June within a day of each other. Booktalk Nation, where my incredible literary partner Kathleen Murphy chatted me up about the creative process. No one listening knew just how much hard work we put into making this a quality production—duck feet paddling furiously below the water’s surface. Then “Chez Mitzi,” the famous Washington salon requiring the deepest intellectual and political probity. Exhilarated, my brain hurt. My newest friend, an astronaut, grinned, saying as I inscribed her book, “This is cool. Usually people are asking me for my autograph.” Yes. Very cool.