Well, that was a Meet-Up I won’t soon forget. Last night, my agents (Jenny Meyer and Kristin Nelson) hosted an event here in Frankfurt so I could meet my foreign publishers in person. Really, it’s the reason Jenny and Kristin suggested I come to the Frankfurt book fair in the first place, as so many publishers are now on the eve of launching WOOL in their territories, and most of them would be in town for what is the largest book fair in the world. I had no idea what to expect from last night’s gathering. It will go down as one of the absolute highlights of my life.
Jenny, Kristin, and I took the train from the book fair to the venue. We were the first to arrive, which gave us time to toast the end of three hectic days. The venue itself was amazing (kicking myself for not taking pictures of the space), and wonderful food started flowing out just as publishers began to arrive.
I’m totally going to leave someone out, but I met my publishers from: Korea, Japan, Sweden, Norway, Israel, the UK, Romania, France, Spain, Italy, Croatia, Finland, the Netherlands … and I’m definitely missing one or two. There were forty or so people there, including Jon Fine from Amazon and the fine journalist Porter Anderson. Can I tell you how crazy this was for me? I was chatting with people from all over the world, and they seemed really excited to be there and to chat with me. The event went on for FOUR hours! My Korean publisher whipped out their copy of WOOL (my first time seeing it), and I can’t wait to show you this one. Freakin hologram effect on the front wrapper. Truly a gorgeous book. The Croatian publisher had a stack of books to sign for giveaways, and everyone had amazing plans or news about the book launch.
The Spanish edition just went live a week ago, and that’s a language I’ve been getting a ton of emails about. In Finland, they launched last week and sold (not sure if I’m supposed to say) a number of copies that left Kristin’s jaw sagging. The buzz in Brazil is already strong, and the book doesn’t come out until February! Quite a few of these publishers are experimenting with releasing the e-book ahead of the print book in order to build some excitement before launch. Some are serializing the release and keeping the prices as low as they can. These publishers are really being innovative. The excitement in the room was intense. I met so many wonderful people, and several were asking when I was going to come visit their countries (my poor passport).
Several times, I just had to take stock of the room and pinch myself. How crazy lucky can one guy be? I’m working in a bookstore, writing stories in my spare time, and two years later I’m at a party in Frankfurt meeting fifteen of my foreign publishers. Two years! It was just in October of 2011 that I noticed WOOL taking off. All that existed back then was that first short story. It went on to sell 1,018 copies in the month of October, and on November 1st, two years ago, I started writing the rest of the series. Hell, if I was simply a normal amount of lucky, I would probably be landing an agent right now. We’d be shopping the book around to publishers. If I was lucky!
I don’t know what can be learned, if anything, from such a wild and fortuitous sequence of events. Which is why I have to remind myself and others that I was writing all those years ago simply because I loved to write. Sure, I would allow myself in moments of weakness to dream of being a bestselling author. I would dream of having a work discovered and appreciated by hordes of readers. But then I would go back to my perfectly happy state of making up stories for my own delight. I would continue to publish them for the dozen or so people who cared to partake. And I was saying the exact same things to college classrooms and middle school classrooms and on message boards and to whomever would listen back then that I’m saying right now: There’s never been a better time to be a writer or a reader. A revolution is underway. Anyone can be an author. Write because you love to write. Don’t listen to the doubters. Get your work out there. Be brave and be proud. Trust your work.
Heh. People thought I was crazy two years ago. After last night, I think they were half-right. I’ve been crazy lucky. But that doesn’t mean I wasn’t on to something. I had discovered a passion for telling stories that was magnified by seeing them available on the marketplace. I had discovered a passion that was expanded a thousandfold by hearing back from one satisfied reader. Here is the feedback loop that no query-and-rejection cycle can hope to replace. Here is a much stronger and healthier reason to hone one’s craft than being told your work isn’t good enough. Here is learning by doing—learning by practicing—like artists in every other medium are celebrated for. Here is the cost of printing and distributing your work plummeting to zero, which is what the digital age has brought us. Here is democratization. Here is the reader in charge. Here is the chance, however slim, to be crazy lucky. Because luck doesn’t happen unless you put in the work and then get the work out there. I’m so crazy lucky that I decided to get my work out there.
Happy writing, everyone. Move that masterpiece forward one more sentence today. And please feel free to say crazy things, to dream, but most importantly to be happy in the now. It’s the best time we’ve got.