Wednesday, August 01, 2007

It’s A Matter of Perspective - Clemons

I don’t claim to know how others think, but if I took a poll of authors, when it came to the question of book sales, I’m pretty sure most would say, “They’re never enough.” We start out unpublished neophytes crying: “Oh Lord, if I could only be published, then I’d be happy.” We pray, we weep, we persevere, and comes that glorious day our first book hits the market and we, in our naiveté, think we’ve made it, but no one has heard of us, and sales are disappointingly slow. If we’re energetic and savvy and stick with it, somewhere along the way, we get to the point where things really start to move, but not fast enough. That’s where I am now. I just released my fourth book, “Angel in the Alley,” and my distributor called to say the third largest secular chain in the US, Books-A-Million, ordered a 1,000 copies, and I said, “Great, but what about...” I suspect when they tell me I’ve sold a million copies of some future book, I’ll wonder why I haven’t sold two.

What about recognition? At the launch of “Angel in the Alley,” I met a man who told me he didn’t read fiction. He was there because his wife had bought a previous book, “These Little Ones.” When she couldn’t stop raving about it he decided to pick it up, and then couldn’t put it down. He asked if I’d written anything else. When I said I’d written two others, he ended up buying all four.

But wait, it gets better. A few days ago I was in town and chanced to meet him again. He told me he’d finished the new book and was enthralled. Standing beside him were his two teenage daughters and one of them piped up, “I read it too. I thought it was fantastic. Now I’m reading, ‘Above the Stars.’” Then her sister chimed in and said, “I read all four.”

“All four,” I questioned. “How long did that take?”

“Four days,” she said. “I read one a day. Once I started I couldn’t stop until I finished.”

And yesterday I received an e-mail from someone who said, and I quote, “I just finished ‘Angel in the Alley.’ I think it’s your best writing yet! It’s really good!”

Now, you’d think with compliments like that, I’d be higher than a kite. And I was, for a minute. Then I went home and started having computer problems and had to go all the way back to town grumbling about how I didn’t have time for interruptions and hadn’t sold enough books to afford a new computer. I was in a huff when I entered the store, and I rushed to get out, but I tried to be polite while conversing with the sales lady at the counter. I inquired about Bob (not his real name), who also worked there. I mentioned I hadn’t seen him in awhile.

“Oh, he’s on sick leave,” she said.

I nodded, only half listening as I pulled my wallet from my pocket and asked how he was doing.

“He has cancer. He went to the doctor about a lump under his arm and they discovered it was malignant and scheduled him for immediate surgery. By the time the tumor was removed there was little muscle left so they had to amputate his arm.”

I stopped, credit card suspended in air. I’d seen Bob only a few weeks before and he looked perfectly fine. “Well I hope they got it all,” I said, laying the card down. “Better to lose an arm than your life.”

She choked, her eyes filling with water. “They didn’t,” she said. “It’s already in his lungs, his stomach and his kidneys. He’s only got a few months to live.”

Talk about a reality check. I’d known Bob for quite some time. We’d talked about hardware and software, networks and peripherals, but not once had I ever talked to him about his need for a Savior. All my angst over my computer troubles, or not selling enough books, flew right out the window. I was reminded of an age old adage.

“I complained that I had no shoes, until I met a man who had no feet.”

Sometimes it helps to look at things from a different perspective.

God bless you, Bob. I’m praying for you. For your sake, as well as for mine, I hope it’s not too late.


Deborah said...

Great post, Keith. Congratulations on the launch of your latest book and thanks for the reality check.

Belinda said...

It was so wonderful to read of the gathering momentum of your book sales Keith. Praise the Lord! I can only imagine how incredible it must feel for someone they couldn't put your book down and then read four in as many days. Wow!

And yes, life is so fragile and fleeting.

violet said...

This is a story of a reality check indeed. Makes one wonder, when we stand before God one day - what will really accompany us!

Also, congratulations on your sales successes.

Marci said...

Great post, Keith. As one who's about to see my first novel in print, I say, "Thanks, I needed that."

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