There are many marvelous things about being a novelist. You can daydream all day long and call it a profession. You only need a pen and a piece of paper to work. You can do it wherever you want: in bed, on the beach, in a bar (in my case: mostly in my office at home).
For me, though, one of the best things about being a novelist has been the opportunity to meet some of the most wonderful and interesting people I have ever encountered. These people, like novelists, are dreamers―because they believe in the magical power of the written word.
They are people who work very long hours. People who work very long hours and never complain. People who work very long hours, never complain, and don’t make much money. They have various reasons for being in their line of business. Becoming rich is not one of them.
They are salespeople who care so much about what they sell that they don’t sell everything to everybody. They are salespeople who have a healthy distrust toward things that sell too well.
They travel a lot and rarely leave their hometown. They can talk for hours about characters and places, which only exist in their minds. They can get lost in letters. In letters!
They are booksellers.
I am a writer who does a lot of reading tours in Germany and Switzerland; therefore I have had the privilege of meeting a lot of independent booksellers who have kindly invited me to their stores.
Usually we have wonderful evenings together. They spread the word and thanks to their work, dozens―and sometimes hundreds―of customers come and listen to me instead of staying home. Sometimes the booksellers get caught up in a book so much that they organize a reading during vacation time and wonder why only a few people show up. Or they stage an event on the night of a major soccer game and are surprised and utterly disappointed when they spend the evening alone with the author. It has all happened to me―and I loved it. I have spent so many evenings in their company, had so many after-reading dinners and bottles of wine and enjoyed every second of it, because it doesn’t happen too often that you meet people who are humble but also so passionate about what they do.
As a reader and a book buyer myself, I find that there is something old fashioned and at the same time very reassuring about booksellers: they want you to come to their store, when you could stay home and order online. They want you to talk to them, when you could just press a button instead. They want you to pay the price a book is worth, when you could go and hunt for the deepest discount.
It is said that they are a dying breed. Threatened by extinction.
I don’t think so. Call me a romantic. Call me a dreamer. But I believe in the power of their passion and in the loyalty of their customers. I have met too many independent booksellers who are surviving, even thriving, in a niche they toiled to carve out and sustain.
Now that my book is being published in America, I must count my blessings once again. I look forward to meeting some very interesting people there.
That is one of the wonderful things about being a novelist.