10,232 readers just downloaded my historical memoir, THE WOMAN IN THE PHOTOGRAPH during a 3-day free Kindle promotion. It was very exciting to watch the tallies on the Kindle report page, seeing the numbers jump by hundreds every hour. I was thrilled to watch the book rise to #1 in several categories, including Ethnic and National Biographies, and Women.
But what does that mean, to me, and to us as a community? Here are some of my observations. First, cyberspace and social media really do take whatever we have to offer far beyond the little pond of the people we can personally meet in a lifetime. I love the personal connections that happen at a book signing or a book club, but it’s also very inspiring when in one day six new reviews appear on the Amazon site from people who obviously downloaded the book for free, and then READ IT! Their comments tell me that though the story focused on my own journey––a twenty-year search to uncover my mother’s hidden past, a quest set in motion by the discovery of a photograph (seen on the cover of my book)––somehow it also touched on their life experiences and made them reflect on how their lives have been shaped by people they didn’t even know.
It tells me that people are reading, not just the best sellers or the hot tickets, but that the SPIRIT OF CURIOSITY is alive and well. People are trying out books they never heard of, and subjects that they may be new to. In her book, “Wired for Story,” Lisa Cron says what draws us into a story and keeps us there is the firing of our dopamine neurons, tantalizing us with the expectation that new information is on the way. Maybe that’s why we get excited when posed with a question, whether on the evening news or a chance to read something we don’t already know about. “Who is the woman in the photograph?”
I think the results of this phenomenal response go along with the David and Goliath theme from last week’s blog post. There are new cultural models springing up that don’t rely on the traditional entrenched institutions and authorities. People are interested in each other, and readers are willing to trust their own instincts on what they want to read. Any individual writer or self-publisher, a “David” in a sense, can find an audience, can be heard, will be read by someone. And that makes us all want to write more. Writing is not the solitary path it once was, it is part of a living circle that includes readers who write, whether it’s their own memoir, a blog or a review.
Will all 10,000 people read my book? I doubt it. But some of them will, and will find themselves reflecting on their own family secrets, wanting to talk to relatives and to uncover the missing links in their own history. Some of these people will be inspired to do some writing, to tap their own creativity and try their hand at telling their own stories.
Already six new 5-star reviews have appeared on my book’s Kindle site. I want to thank those people who are committed to being readers, who look at what the fresh and innovative new writers are putting out, who take the time to talk about books. I couldn’t find a way to email them personally, so I’m thanking them all here. Thank you.
[PS The Kindle version is now $8.99 or if you want to buy a print book with a personal inscription to give as a holiday gift, I hope to have the link up on my website by early December. They are also available online at Barnes and Noble, Amazon and in the Bay Area at Book Passage, Pegasus North Berkeley, and the Contemporary Jewish Museum in SF.]