You would think, wouldn’t you, that when you announce to your friends and family that you have a new book out, a good number would buy it. It may only be out of a sense of loyalty – misplaced or not – but there would surely be a few dozen sales you could count on.
It surprised me when it first happened – or didn’t happen, depending on how you wish to construct the sentence in your head – and it continues to surprise me still. And that leaves me trying to answer a simple question. Why?
I think there are only two possible answers.
The first is that they don’t read books. Clearly rubbish. Okay, so they may not read poetry, say, but the vast majority of people do read books. And even if they only read Grisham, or pot-boilers, it doesn’t seem too much of a flight of fantasy to think they might just try yours… So perhaps we should refine this answer: they don’t read your sort of books. It’s nothing personal.
The second answer is more subtle in a way. Because they know you, a person in their immediate circle, what you write can’t be any good, can it?! After all, they don’t know Rowling or McEwan or Amis or Ludlum; but you… You! You’re just their friend from work / the pub / church / the badminton club. They know you. How can anything you write be good enough to read?! It’s not personal.
But it is, of course. Intensely personal. Whether it’s because of the first answer or the second (and, to be honest, in most cases it will be a combination of both) it is intensely personal – to you, as the writer. Not as their friend / colleague etc., but to you as an individual.
I often wonder what might happen if, one day, I were to get ‘picked up’ by a proper publisher and have my books suddenly appear on the tables of Waterstones or Barnes & Noble. The books won’t suddenly be any better, will they? They will be the same books; the same words, in the same order – but I wonder if my friends might just start buying them…?
It would be nice to find out!