Honk if you’re blowing your own horn

A fan. Can you believe that? I have fans. At least one.

So now I’m getting ready for another book signing, on December 3 at the Brick Ark Inn here in Albion. Not only that, but there’ll be another signing in late January, at the Noble County Public Library. I don’t expect to sell as many copies in those places – all my relatives who read have already bought a copy – but it’s nice to get out and meet readers, and it’s nice to support local establishments.

But I’m not supposed to be nice. I’m supposed to be bragging.

I can brag about being modest (there’s a contradiction for you), but I keep getting myself into situations where I have to sell – myself. Writing, running for office, proposing to my fiancée … all involve asking people to affirm I’m a guy worth having around. Most recently the answer from the voters was no and from my fiancée yes, which I much prefer to the other way around.

Writing is an inherently egotistical business, which makes it especially odd that writers are often shy and unassuming. At one time they could afford to be, but these days, with publishers doing less promoting and self-publishing becoming more popular, they have to force themselves to toot that tuba. Even before that they had to work hard to sell themselves, if only to agents and editors.

It took me decades to sell my first novel, which was hard on the old ego and tended to keep me modest. Now I’m a Professional Writer with my own website and business card, and I even have a short story collection coming out next May. Think about that. What am I saying?

I’m saying, “Look at me! Look at me!”

Gah. I hate that. But I’m going to sit there on December 3rd and hand out free copies of a short story, which I wrote as a – what? Reward? Treat? A thank you for showing up and touring the Inn? (Do tour the Inn, by the way – it’s beautiful.)

Okay, I could see people picking up a two thousand word Christmas story – it’s free, after all. And I can see people reading my column, because it’s there in the paper anyway, and don’t we need a few smiles? What freaks me out is the idea of people wanting to spend their hard earned money and a couple of weeks of their time reading a novel written by … me.

Really?

Okay, I’m going to throw away any shred of modesty and tell you people are raving over this book. It got nine 5-star reviews on Amazon. It got five 5-star reviews on GoodReads and four 4-star reviews. (What, you shorted me a star? How dare you!) It’s a nice affirmation, because I don’t know if it’s any good – I have to take other people’s word for it. Every time I do something for publicity or promotion, a little voice in my head screams, “Seriously? You think people want to read your stuff, when there are 70 cable stations? They’re just being polite.”

I keep expecting angry readers to figure out I’m a fake and show up with tar and feathers. And not nice quill pen feathers, either.

Yet I’ve actually signed copies for people who don’t know me. I keep warning them that it might affect the book’s resell value, but they ask for it anyway.

It’s embarrassing, but if I plan to someday be a full- time writer I’m going to have to hit the brass section harder and tell people I’m a talented and interesting writer. Or at least tell them my writing’s interesting; in person I’m dull as a January overcast.

I don’t even own a horn.

I live for the day when I make enough money to hire a publicist, so I can go back to writing and let them handle all that stuff. (Most writers never make that much money, so don’t bother submitting an application.)

The irony in this case is that the innkeeper of the Brick Ark Inn – there’ll be room for me in the Inn this Christmas! – is way more humble and unassuming than I, and deserves the publicity and business way more than I do. So maybe I’m going about this the wrong way: maybe, when it comes to doing a book signing at a business, I should blow their horn and just be there to take advantage of the tune.

Yeah, I like that. Forget the rest of it: come to the Brick Ark Inn’s open house on December 3rd! I’ll be there after 1:30 … and if I’m not, it only means all this ego stuff finally got to me, and I couldn’t fit my head in the door.

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