ON A RECENT night, my wife and I celebrated my e-book's recent success on an Amazon Kindle Bestseller list by dining at a local coffee shop. Party people, yeah.
My fiction debut, a novella/business parable called The Billionaire's Gift, somehow had soared on Saturday to a No. 19 ranking on the Kindle Bestseller List for literary fiction (free book list) -- one of many bestseller lists created by Amazon's clever algorithms that seduce authors into believing we're J.K. Rowling. Since then, my e-book has sank to near-obscurity. But let's pretend it's still rising, I'm John Grisham, and we're dining with Manhattan literati.
As I droned on about the e-book market, I noticed a bespectacled middle-aged woman, in the booth behind my wife, eating dinner with her e-reader. She looked tired, pensive, a tad sad. When I mentioned my book, she glanced up, then looked down when I caught her eyes. I thought of a quote from a novelist at last year's Los Angeles Times Book Festival: "I write for people who carry their loneliness with them."
As my wife and I got up to leave, I made polite chit-chat with the lady. She looked happy to talk with someone. I asked her if she liked her e-reader. Yes, she said, she reads a lot on it. When I told her that my fiction debut hit a bestseller list for two days, her eyes gleamed and her face lit up in a huge smile. She looked like another person. I left my business card with her, and thanked her for being such a passionate reader.
In the weeks before my e-book's roll-out, I had fretted over marketing strategies. I had gotten intimidated by savvy authors and their big reps. I had worried about what pros would think of my rookie efforts in the e-book game. As a journalist, I had stormed fearlessly into big news stories and business investigations. But as a first-time fiction writer, I was scared shitless. I knew there was a long trek ahead.
Sometimes, though, the most important things are right in front of you. Amid all of my nail-biting and head scratching, I had forgotten the most rewarding part of the writing journey.
The woman in the coffee shop was a stranger, and I'll probably never see her again. But the thrill on her face made my whole weekend. Clearly, she was a book addict, a devout reader. I hope that she got my novella and devoured it in one sitting. I hope that it touched a chord, made her ponder and reflect and even cry a bit. I hope that she enjoyed it, and that she keeps reading many more books and authors.
That's why writers write, yes?
- Edward Iwata