I’m afraid of hubris. You see, my academic career was not exactly distinguished, and as an editor you’re encouraged to keep to the background. Still, when you write a book you need to promote it a little, which is one of the things I learned as an editor. I was equally parts embarrassed and pleased to see the bookstore display for my upcoming book signing in Bethlehem. I mean, although I wrote Holy Horror for a general readership, the publisher tends more toward academic books and their pricing, so this is not an inexpensive purchase. Those who write are nothing, however, without readers. Those chosen for interviews are writers who’ve made a sales impact or who have a university behind them. When it’s just me, it feels like maybe I’m trying to ascend Olympus on my own initiative.
I was in the Moravian Book Shop to purchase Neal Stephenson’s Fall; or, Dodge in Hell. I’ve fallen a bit behind on Neal’s work, largely because Goodreads challenges are measured in numbers of tomes read. I was pondering this, book in hand, when I noticed—there I was with my own display. You see, Holy Horror was meant as a guilty pleasure read for those of us who like the scary time of year. The book price is the scariest part about it, however. I feel a profound gratitude when anyone actually buys it. Since there are now copies available on sites such as eBay, I’m guessing some who’ve read it want to recoup a little of the cash outlaid. While all of this is happening, however, I know that I have to learn the art of book promoting. Still, it feels like that self-promoting I was warned against as a kid, an unseemly thing.
Writing is a form of conversation. When I’m in a room with a bunch of other people unless I’m the teacher I have trouble making myself heard. I’m soft-spoken by nature. I suppose it’s obvious, then, why a book signing feels hubristic. Perhaps it’s appropriate for a book about fear to engender this sense of discomfort. Entering the conversation has always been difficult for me. At the same time, as the beneficiary of so many books, I feel compelled to give something back. My insights, if such there be, won’t rock the world. As I think of myself signing books, I wonder what I could possibly say to someone who’s willing to pay that price for something I produced. If you’re going to try to climb that mountain, you’d better think about what you’ll say when you meet the gods at the summit.