Friday, October 03, 2008

Fiction Rule of Thumb

The Fiction Rule of Thumb by xkcd.

Someone once told me that xkcd was a comic for nerds and geeks and I didn’t qualify enough for either category to be a believable fan. I had to respectfully disagree.*

While some of the physics humor is far and above my level of schooling, more often than not Randall Munroe manages to produce a comic that is both intelligent and accessible. And he’s not afraid to skewer anything, hence the comic above. Sure, there are a few notable exceptions to that graph (see: Tolkien, J.R.R.) if I didn’t know better I would say he got a hold of a self published novel that one of our stores did an author event for.

There are many wonderful self-published novels out there as POD-dy Mouth proved during her blogging tenure, but sadly this novel wasn’t one of them. It was so filled with misspelled words, bad grammar, made up words (again see the comic above), and mishmash of every famous fantasy novel out there that it hurt my brain to even look at the thing when a coworker who worked at both stores brought a copy in.

And it wasn’t like I could avoid the thing as said coworker insisted upon reading passages aloud and then identifying the origin.

“Tolkien. It’s Tolkien. Could he make it a little less obvious?”

“Did he think we wouldn’t have heard of a little thing called Dune?”

This in and of itself would not be that interesting. Books hold author events for all types of authors and booksellers world wide mock one book or the other. It is the circle of book life. What made this interesting was that this author talked our fellow manager into ordering in 700 copies of his title, swearing he could sell them all.

We told the other manager he was a fool. We asked if he were sure he could return them. In short, we gave him hell based on the quality of the book.

A book that the author managed to sell every single copy of.

That’s right. Despite everything working against this book—self-published, bad editing, poor plot—the author hand sold every single one. I’m sure it didn’t hurt that he was an attractive man, but the sales were due to his relentless drive to build word of mouth about the event. He publicized it on his website and talked it up at this day job. He wandered around the store and talked it up to the customers as they came in. He had his elevator pitch down so that it sounded natural and he managed not to come across as overtly pushy.

That novel, which stands out in my mind as one of the worst books I’ve ever had the misfortune to listen to/read, which proves the theorem of the xkcd graph, gave that bookstore one of its highest sales days outside of a Harry Potter release.
I learned a week ago that the bookstore has been closed down, and I have no idea what the author is up to now, but that event lives on in my mind as an example of the power of what an author can do if they're willing to try.

*All respectful disagreements involve cursing right?


Val Kovalin said...

That is absolutely amazing. That man (the attractive one) missed his calling. He shouldn't have been an author but rather should have gone into sales of a more lucrative product like diamonds or copy machines or weapons of mass destruction. :) I mean, it sounds like he could sell anything.

Anonymous said...

I love the little comments in xkcd's comics that you get when you hover the mouse over the image. In this one:

"Except for anything by Lewis Carroll or Tolkien, you get five made-up words per story. I'm looking at you, Anathem."

Bookseller Chick said...

Well, Val, he was a bartender by occupation and so I think he had the whole "when to speak and when to listen" thing down well.

Michael, I didn't know about xkcd's hover comments until a few weeks ago and I kicked myself. How much have I been missing out on?