Saturday, December 19, 2009

Early Christmas Gift!

I LOVE receiving emails from readers. Love it. I respond to every single letter and I keep them all for those dark days when I sit at the desk and wonder why I'm doing this. Every writer has those days—the days where anything else seems easier than writing, where I think about all the people I know who aren't trying to write and how happy they seem… Well, the letter below was one of those messages than absolutely makes up for those days! And it was a reminder to me how lucky I am. I thank every reader who's written to me, and I'm eternally grateful to every bookseller, from the independents to the "Large Chain Bookstores," who has the passion of this letter writer below:

Dear Ms. Kittle,

I am writing to inform you that I have challenged myself to hand-sell copies of your book TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE. This is my 9th holiday season as a bookseller at a Large Chain Bookstore, although (and I don’t confess this lightly) my mother purchased your book on a whim from Sam’s Club last spring. She gave it to me to read even though I usually hate to take book recommendations from her because she rubs it in if I like them. Despite my reservations, I thoroughly enjoyed your novel, which was refreshing because I hadn’t gotten excited about a book in months.

I loved the characters in TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE, how they felt like they were really immersed their day-to-day lives. I was about five chapters in, I recall, when I slapped the book shut and exclaimed “Holy crap! This is the third person!” I would have sworn you were writing in first. It felt that close, that immediate. I’m a writer myself, and I struggle making a third person voice feel vivid and real. Kudos on that, and on the way you seamlessly slip in and out of the various heads of your cast. THE KINDNESS OF STRANGERS is genius in this way, too.

I’ve been working at the Large Chain Bookstore (LCB) for my health insurance and 401K while I manage my own small local publishing company, substitute teach (I read that you’re a middle school teacher—I spent the day with 8th graders last Wednesday and am still recovering), and work to polish my own novel to submit to agents. I’ve been at the LCB since my freshman year of college, and I get bored, burned-out, and otherwise alienated very often in that particular realm of my life.

Thus my hand-selling challenge. Since April, I’ve kept TWO TRUTHS AND A LIE as my staff recommendation on and off, and I sold 25 copies without batting an eyelash. But in my past three shifts, I have been actively recommending your book at every opportunity, and I’ve sold 8 copies just like that (insert finger snap).

Anyway, I’ll keep you posted. I believe my current number is 45 copies. The thing is, your book sells itself. I sneak it onto our Noteworthy Fiction table just for my shift, and when I see people browsing the table, I go over and slide the book in front of them. “If you’re looking for a good book, this is my pick of the year,” I tell them. Then I walk away. Ten minutes later, when I check stock, we’ve sold another one. There is something about that back-cover copy that draws people in. I just have to get it in their hands.

I hope you believe me when I say that I am not a crazy stalker (although there’s nothing like a stalker or two to boost a person’s self-esteem, I’d guess). I was just thinking that, praise the Lord, when I ever manage to to get one of my books out into the world, I’d probably be amused to know that someone was forcing my novel down the throats of the unsuspecting population of a medium sized midwestern city. Plus, I’d like you to know that I keep your book (the copy that I never gave back to my mom) on my short-shelf, the books I go back to most often. You are currently snuggled between Marisa de los Santos, Amy Tan, Charlotte Bronte, Henry David
Thoreau, and the Dalai Lama.

If I am successful in selling a significant quantity of your book, you will hear from me soon. If not, I’ll bury myself once again in anonymity. In the meantime, have a happy holiday season!

See how this is an early Christmas present? I'm honored to be on her shelves "snuggled between" so many writers I greatly admire.

Oh, and an addendum: She has already gotten back to me after selling seven copies of Two Truths and a Lie in four hours one shift! Her new goal is to hit 55 copies sold by Christmas. Music to my ears. And anyone who has worked in retail—especially at this time of year—will relate to her claim that, "I get so BORED at work, and this seems more productive than memorizing sonnets like I did last winter to keep my head from caving in."

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