I spent the first part of this week in New York: people to see, business to do, obscure books to consult, and a visit to the Norton fall sales conference cocktail party. Which was delightful because I got to put on a snazzy dress (normally I work in my husband’s discarded T-shirts and sweats), and because I got to see all my favorite Norton folks (well, a good cross-section of them), and because I got to go the 21 Club (although mini-burgers and mini-hot dogs with sauerkraut didn’t exactly fill me with the desire to stuff food down by handfuls).
Also because I got to hear people say nice things about the history series. See last week’s post for my thoughts about why this doesn’t really work as motivation for the long run, but after bashing my head against the enigma of early medieval Indian chronicles for months and months, I can totally deal with an evening that involves dressing up and listening to kind words about my prose.
And getting the occasional dose of reality at the same time. One of my favorite sales reps came up to tell me that she was going through the upcoming titles with one of her regular independent booksellers, and that the bookseller stopped at The History of the Medieval World and said something like, “Ah, Susan Wise Bauer. All history books should be written like hers. THIS is what history should be like.”
Me (feeling warm and fuzzy and waving away tray of mini hot dogs with sauerkraut): Aww, thank you!
Sales rep: The bookseller loves your books. Just thinks they’re wonderful. I wanted you to know what a fan you have.
Me: That is so encouraging. It means a lot to me.
Sales rep: That bookseller is so enthusiastic about your work. Really a huge supporter.
Me (feeling happier by the moment): Wonderful to hear!
Another W. W. Norton staffer (standing by and listening with interest): So how many copies did the bookseller order?
Sales rep: One.
But hey, I’ll take the enthusiasm. When I’m trying to figure out exactly how long the last king of the empire of Orissa reigned, it will help to remember that SOMEONE thinks this is how all history books should be written.