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  • 现代作家的自我推销
  • 2014/6/7 11:15:14
  • 作家本该是用文字与读者见面的,然而,现在却不得不经常在市场上露露脸,签签名,美其名曰“与读者交流和沟通”,归根结底不过是推销和谋生。在普通人的眼中,这样的“露脸”对作家而言或许是一件值得骄傲的事,但个中的苦涩与尴尬又岂是外人所能知晓和体会的?来看看本文作者的小说推销历程,或许从中我们能够更加透彻地理解作家售书的别样滋味。

    “You’ve got to drink plenty of water,” Clyde said, and pulled a bottle of Evian from his bag to make the point. He had decided that the reason his last book tour had been so hard was that he had gotten dehydrated along the way. Of the three of us, only Allan was sanguine. “The only thing worse than going on book tour,” he said, “is not going on book tour.”
    I have so assiduously followed Clyde’s advice and chanted Allan’s words like a mantra in my head because these are pretty much the only guidelines I’ve been offered on what is a very important subject in my life. Even the ever-professional Iowa Writers’ Workshop, where I was a student in the middle 1980s, doesn’t have a seminar on book-tour techniques, though the thought of them having one is more chilling by far. Sometimes in life you’re better off not knowing what’s coming.
    When I published my first novel, The Patron Saint of Liars, in 1992, I was told I wouldn’t have much of a budget for publicity. Of course, I was free to stretch that budget, to drive rather than fly, go cheap on motels and therefore get to more stores. As green as a soldier first reporting for duty, I practically leaped to my feet. “Oh, yes!” said I. This was my book, after all, the rock-solid embodiment of all my dreams. I wanted to do anything I could to help it make its way in the world. I covered about 25 cities and kept my expenses under $3,000. I would drive to the scheduled city, go to the bookstore, and present myself to the person behind the counter. That has always been the hardest part for me, approaching the stranger at the cash register to say that I am the seven o’clock show. We would look at each other without a shred of hope and both understand that no one was coming. Sometimes two or three or five people were there, but very often I was just on my own. I did freelance writing for Bridal Guide in those days, and more often than not there was a girl working at the store who was engaged. We would sit and talk about her bridesmaids’ dresses until my time was up; then she would ask me to sign five copies of stock. My publicist told me that the success of book tour wasn’t measured in how many books you sold that night. What mattered was being friendly, so that the girl at the cash register, and maybe even the store manager, would like you, and in liking you would read your book once you had gone, and in reading your book would see how good it was and then work to hand-sell it to people for months or even years to come. And I believed this because if I didn’t, I had no idea what the hell I was doing out there.
    Signing books in a store is one thing, but book tour in its more advanced form is credited to Jane Friedman, the CEO of HarperCollins (my present publisher). She had started out as a 22-year-old publicist at Knopf, where she was assigned to work with Julia Child for Mastering the Art of French Cooking, Volume Two. Friedman contacted all the public-television stations in the major markets. After that, she scheduled appearances at the big department stores. “I said, ‘I’ll bring Julia to your town, we’ll work with the local public-television stations, we’ll get newspaper coverage, and then she’ll do an autographing in the department store.’” What followed was a perfect storm of media and retail. They sold 500 books that day.
    “Today you’re competing with six other authors on the Today show,” Friedman says, and suddenly she is speaking as the publisher of my books. The CEO who still has a publicist’s soul is shoring me up for my own next show. “What hasn’t changed is the connection between the author and the reader. The people who come out to your signings are real Ann Patchett fans. I’m glad I wrought that. It was always my intention.”
    And yet I struggle with my own intentions. I can never get very far from the niggling belief that something about book tour is inherently wrongheaded, that the basic premise of authors selling their books is a flawed one. We’re a country obsessed with celebrity, and trying to make authors into small-scale Lindsay Lohans does nothing but encourage what is already a bad cultural habit. Reading is a private act, private even from the person who wrote the book. Once the novel is out there, the author is beside the point. The reader and the book have their own relationship now, and should be left alone to work things out for themselves. Once the book is written, its value is for the reader to decide, not for the author to explain.
    And although you appear to be promoting your new novel; you never really tour for the book you’ve just written. You tour for the book before that, the one people have read and want to talk about. Unless, of course, you’re on tour for your first book, which no one wants to talk about. A few of the people who did eventually read my first novel came to hear me when I went out with my second novel, Taft. Then Taft readers came when I was in town with my third book, The Magician’s Assistant. Magician’s Assistant people came to see me when I toured for Bel Canto. No one wanted to talk about Roxane Coss, a famous soprano held captive in a nameless South American country. They wanted to talk about her six years later when I went out with Run.
    Perhaps I should go door to door through some neighborhood with my novels. The door-to-door sales perfected by Fuller Brush and various encyclopedia companies seem to operate on a more reliable formula than the schemes of publishing houses. Even as my audiences got a little bigger, most hovering in the 15-to-25 range by the Magician’s Assistant days, I could still fly halfway across the country to a room full of empty chairs. I never minded reading to three people. I had plenty of experience. The key is that all of you must sit very close together.
    All this raises the question: Why don’t I just stay home? Believe me, I’ve asked myself that many times. Partly because touring is in my contract. Selling is part of the job. But more important, I really do believe Allan. Watching a book wither on the shelf would be worse than never having the chance to fight for its success.

    “你得多喝水才行。”克莱德边说边从包里掏出一瓶法国依云矿泉水,以此表明他的看法。他认定上次的巡回售书之旅之所以那么艰难,就是因为他路上渴得都脱水了。在我们三个人当中,只有艾伦还算乐观。他说:“巡回售书是很糟,但不去只会更糟。”
    我坚持牢记克莱德的建议,同时将艾伦的话像吟诵咒语一样在心里反复默念,因为他们的话是我所得到的有关售书的唯一行动指南,指引着我生命中一个至关重要的主题。即使爱荷华作家工作坊这样向来以专业著称的机构——20世纪80年代中期我曾在那里学习过——也从未就巡回售书技巧举行过什么研讨会。不过话又说回来,他们要是真的举办这么一个研讨会,我想想都会觉得不寒而栗。有时候,在生活中,对于未来的事情还是不要知道的好。
    我的第一部小说《利亚尔斯神圣的赞助人》在1992年出版时,我被告知没有多少预算可以用来做宣传。但是,当然了,我也完全可以精打细算地使用这笔预算,比如自己驾车,不坐飞机,住价格便宜的汽车旅馆——这样就能去更多的书店宣传。当时,我稚嫩得就像第一次上岗的新兵,听完这些话后几乎是一跃而起。“好的,没问题!”我说。毕竟,这是我自己的书,它实实在在地承载着我所有的梦想。我要倾尽所能,使它在这个世界上拥有一席之地。我去了差不多25个城市,成功地将开销压缩在3,000美元以下。我一般都是驱车前往计划中的城市,直奔书店,然后向柜台后面的服务员自报家门。对我来说,那始终都是最难的一关:走向陌生的收银员,告诉对方我就是七点钟售书活动的主角。接着,我们会面面相觑,心里不抱一丝希望,谁都知道不会有人来。虽然有时也会有两三个或三五个人过来,但更多的时候,只有我孤零零的一个人。那个时候,我是《婚礼指南》的自由撰稿人,而在书店里工作的女孩中常常有已经订婚的。于是我们就坐在那儿,一起聊聊她的伴娘应该穿什么衣服合适,一直聊到活动时间结束;然后,她会从备货里拿出五本书,让我签名。我的媒介专员曾告诉我,巡回售书的成功与否不在于你那晚售出了多少本书。重要的是,你要表现出你的友好,这样那个做收银员的女孩,甚至还有书店经理,就会喜欢你;一旦喜欢你,在你离开之后就有可能读你的书;读了你的书,就会知道你的书写得有多么好;然后,在接下来的几个月甚至是几年里,他们就会不辞辛苦地亲自把书推销给其他人。我相信他说得有道理,因为如果不相信的话,我就不知道我在那里到底是干什么去了。
    在书店里签名售书是一回事,但更高级意义上的巡回售书就是另一回事了,它出自简·弗里德曼的手笔。弗里德曼是哈珀科林斯出版公司的首席执行官,也是我现在的出版商。她最初是克诺夫出版社的媒介专员,当时才22岁,公司派她为朱莉娅·查尔德的《精通法国烹饪艺术(第二卷)》作宣传。弗里德曼联系了主要市场所在地的所有公共电视台。之后,她精心安排日程,让朱莉娅在各大百货商店露面。“我说:‘我会让朱莉娅到你们那儿去,我们会和当地的公共电视台合作,会在报纸上做宣传,然后朱莉娅会亲临百货商店签名售书。’”结果,该书刮起了一场媒体宣传和销售的完美风暴。那天他们卖出了五百本。
    “在今天的《今日秀》节目里,你要和其他六位作者竞争。”弗里德曼说。突然之间,她已成了我的出版商,开始以出版商的身份和我说话。这位首席执行官的身上仍然保有媒介专员的激情,她正为我的下一次售书活动打气。“作者与读者之间的关系依然没有改变。那些来参加你签名售书活动的是真正的安·帕契特书迷。我很高兴促成了这一切。这一直是我的愿望。”
    然而我却在和自己的意愿作斗争。可能是我爱找茬,我一直认为巡回售书从根本上来说就是一个错误,让作者自己去推销自己的书,其基本前提就是错误的——这种想法我一直挥之不去。我们的国家喜欢崇拜名人,但让作者们个个都成为小林赛·罗韩却毫无意义,只会怂恿一个原本就十分恶劣的文化陋习继续恶化。阅读是一种个体行为,即使是书的作者也不该干扰这种行为。小说一旦问世,作者就要靠边站了。读者与书之间会建立起自己的关系,这时应当让读者自己去发掘作品的意义。一本书一旦写成,其价值就应当由读者来决定,而不是由作者来阐释。
    而问题还在于,虽然你好像是在推销新写的小说,但实际上你巡回推销的根本不是刚刚完成的那本书。你推销的其实是它之前的那一本,是人们已经读过、有话要说的那本。当然,除非你巡回宣传的是你写的第一本书,而这本书通常没人愿意谈论。在我为第二部小说《塔夫脱》四处奔走时,前来捧场的都是那些最终真正读了我第一部小说的少数读者。当我为第三部小说《魔术师的助理》签名售书时,前来捧场的都是《塔夫脱》的读者。在我巡回推销《美声》时,来的都是《魔法师的助理》的读者。那时,没有人会去谈论罗克珊·科斯(编者注:《美声》中的女主人公)——那位被囚禁在南美一个无名国家的著名女高音。只有六年后我推销《奔跑》时,人们才想要谈论她。
    也许我应该在社区里挨家挨户地推销我的小说。这种挨家挨户的推销方式在富勒刷子公司和一些百科全书公司的推动下已经变得完美无缺,它的运行模式似乎比出版社的推销方案更为可靠。就算参加我售书活动的听众逐渐多起来时——在推销《魔法师的助理》的时期,大多数时候都是在15~25人之间徘徊——我飞越半个美国到达的仍然可能是一个座位空空的房间。但哪怕只有三个听众来听我阅读,我也不介意。我早已有了丰富的经验。对付这种局面的关键所在是要大家坐在一起,彼此间靠得很近。
    这一切引出了一个疑问:我为什么不干脆待在家里?说实在的,这个问题我已经自问过无数次。我想一部分原因是因为巡回售书是合同里规定的。销售是我工作的一部分。但更重要的是,我确实相信艾伦的话。与其看着一本书在书架上慢慢“枯萎”,倒不如抓住机会,为它的成功奋起一搏。

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