“Even if what you’re working on doesn’t go anywhere, it will help you with the next thing you’re doing. Make yourself available for something to happen. Give it a shot.” —Cormac McCarthy
When I was little, I wrote letters to celebrity fan clubs to collect the glossy 8×10 autographed photos they would send back out. I don’t remember all of them but one that stands out is Nancy McKeon. Remember “Jo” from the TV show “The Facts of Life”? Yeah, that one. Why does that one stick with me? I have no idea.
It was an exciting process though. Writing the perfect letter, addressing the envelopes to “Fan Club” with my name and address in the return spot. And then waiting, waiting, waiting…checking the mail every day after school until, hopefully, a photo sized envelope showed up. Cheesy picture and form response letter aside, it was the way to make celebrities accessible. Pretty exciting stuff for a kid.
As an adult, I still try to find ways to make those connections. It must stem from my curiosity as a kid about finding a way to make contact with people that affect me in one way or another. Today it’s authors—and they make that easy with book tours and speaking events.
I’ve had a chance to listen to and meet several of my favorites, such as Kate Morton, Elizabeth Gilbert, Mitch Albom and, closer to home, Michele Longabaugh. Hearing them talk about how their stories came to be—the back-stories, the inspiration and the process—is one way to keep a good story from ending.
They make themselves accessible. And real.
Jodi Picoult is an author of some great stories, a few which have been turned into movies. When asked at a Kansas City book tour event how it feels to release a book into the hands of the movie industry, her answer was as real as it gets.
(The ending to her book “My Sister’s Keeper” was hacked apart, in the worst way, when it was turned into a movie with Cameron Diaz.)
Picoult compared releasing the rights of her book to giving up a child. I’m paraphrasing but she basically said, “Sometimes they go to a loving home where they are loved, nurtured, sent to the best schools and raised to be upstanding contributors to society….and sometimes they end up being raised by a crack whore.”
Obviously a tongue-in-cheek comparison, but hilarious and leaves a clear visual, wouldn’t you say? That’s an inside scoop you won’t get from a traditional book review.
Not too long ago I sent an e-mail feedback to an author I follow. Within a day I received a personal e-mail back from her. I wouldn’t have expected that from someone with the No. 3 book on a New York Times bestseller list, leaving on a national book tour.
I doubt any PR person could come up with a better marketing strategy than that kind of accessibility. On any level, when somebody is accessible, they become relatable and more genuine. Not everybody will “get” what they’re putting out there, but that’s OK. Not empathizing with the specifics doesn’t mean you can’t appreciate the message. And I bet it doesn’t hurt their book sales.
If only I could have e-mailed Nancy McKeon way back when! But a stamped letter was the best that decade had to offer. Oh well, you take the good, you take the bad, you take them both and there you have…the facts of life.