Having a new book to promote means leaving one's desk to go to places and talk to people. Writing stories is not enough. These days authors have to help 'sell' them. Part of me wants to complain. I am a writer, not a salesperson. If I had wanted to be a salesperson I would have gone into Sales and Marketing. I get stressed out about what to wear and what to say. Of course I think the story in my novel is compelling or I wouldn't have written it. But it seems arrogant somehow to set about trying to persuade everyone else of that view. Then there is the even greater worry that NO ONE WILL COME TO LISTEN ANYWAY. Even ticketed events are not a guarantee of bums on seats. People buy tickets on gusts of good intentions and interest, only to realise as the date approaches, that it is Aunt Agatha's eightieth or there's something good on the telly. If it is not a ticketed event the terror is all the greater. A terror one tries to mask, clutching one's notes in front of the empty rows as the clock ticks towards the advertised start of one's speech. My highest head-count is a hundred (ish). My lowest is five. (It was a library event on a dank evening and at least one of the attendees was simply seeking shelter from the cold.)
But then - always - I realise it doesn't matter. The terror melts. An audience at a book event, whether it comprises two, twenty two or a hundred and two, is an audience of people who are interested in books. They want to hear what one has to say. They ask good questions afterwards. I am always sorry when it is over. Always. I leave happy and humbled. Back at my desk something changes too. I feel reinvigorated, as if my imaginative muscle has been refreshed. Part of it is the effect if a holiday from the coalface. The other, better part is the renewed sense of connection with the world of reading. Actors need audiences. Novelists just need the sense of being read.