1. My mother, Ruthe Winegarten, the author of 18 books, winner of multiple book awards and a Fellow of the Texas State Historical Association, among other accolades told me to. She said, “Sometimes you go to an author’s book signing and there are only 5-7 people there. And maybe they only sell 1 or 2 books. We need to support other writers. It doesn’t matter if you never even read their book, you can give it to someone who will appreciate it. I’ve read a lot of good new authors that way I wouldn’t have ordinarily read.”
2. My mother taught me to support my colleagues. She was a big believer in “standing on the shoulders of those who come before us.” Whenever I went to do research with her in some library archives somewhere, she taught me to go introduce myself to the other researchers and find out what they’re working on, because they may know some obscure fact that will help you with your research. I followed her advice and found a bunch of vintage aviation photographs of Katherine Stinson buried in a photographer’s collection at the Harry Ransom Center that hadn’t seen the light of day in, you know, almost 100 years.
3. Those we help on the way up, we might see on the way down. And the corollary, they might invite you to their party when they’re at the top. Those of you who know me well know that I’m pretty much a legend in my own mind. Even though I’m a fairly passable writer, in my imagination (I should write fiction), I’m a Pulitzer Prize winning author whose books have been on the New York Times best seller’s list for 60 consecutive months and likely to win the Nobel Prize for Peace before I’m 65. I once got to go to the Texas Book Festival’s Opening Night Banquet, $300 a plate. I recently was invited to and took Cindy with me to the University of Texas at Austin’s Hamilton Book Award for the Best Book by a UT faculty or staff member because my book, “There’s Jews in Texas?” was nominated for the award.
4. I’ve been in the book promotion business since my first book came out in 1998. I’ve learned a lot. I’ve spent a lot of money. I’ve invested a lot of time. And even though I now charge $75 an hour for marketing consultation (see 14 years of my life invested, above), I often meet with budding writers and give them an hour or more of my time and let them buy me lunch instead of writing me a check. And I’ll be honest, I will do this for a woman and I’ll make a man pay me for the advice. Call me sexist, but until women earn equal pay for equal work, that’s what I do. I will, of course, make exceptions to that rule in both directions.
5. I support Bookwoman, one of the last 11 remaining independent feminist book stores left in the United States. Why? A number of reasons.
a. I have launched 3 of my 4 books at Bookwoman (so far). I am not charged a fee for having a book signing there, unlike another large independent book store in town who know charges $100 (or more) for a book signing and if your book is self-published, a $25 shelving fee.
b. Independent feminist book stores are safe places for people. Battered women, lesbian women, lonely women, happy women, women with children, feminist men. On their shelves are books you can look at to gain information on menopause research, role model biographies, how to leave your abusive partner. Our local store is a wonderful venue which supports authors, musicians, poets.
c. I met my heart partner at a book signing at Book Woman, and we’ve been together 17 years now.
d. I went to continue to have a place that’s a safe nurturing place where when I’m having a bad day, I can go hang out and look at books and cards and be reminded that there’s still hope in our world.
e. She supports me. After my Mom died and I was terribly depressed for several years, I went to work at the book store as a way to start reentering life. While there, I learned the “back end” of the book business, which is terrific knowledge for an author. How books are ordered and distributed, how long it takes a book to get from here to there, how bookstore owners make decisions about which books to carry, which publishers are friendly to which genres, how to price a book, how book store marketing and location decisions are made–priceless information.
6. When it’s book review time, a lot of my friends are even better writers than me. And maybe, just maybe, some of them will return a favor I did so long ago, I’ve already forgotten, but they haven’t, and write a terrific review for me.