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ENTRY

2009 Reviewed
December 31, 2009

Adios, 2009, a good year for me as OH! came out in May, launched at the Book Expo America in NYC. The book got many great reviews (visit www.ohthenovel.com to read them). Especially gratifying were the NPR pick as a summer best read, the Japan Times review, the Asian Art Museum (San Francisco) selection as a 2009 notable book, and Avid Bookstore's pick as a top 5 best reads in 2009.

As you know, I spent two months on the road promoting it: some 20 events, at an average travel expense of about $300/event (I stayed with friends/family at least half the time, hotels the other half). I took over 20 flights, totalling over 25,000 miles flown. Attendance averaged maybe around 25 people/event, low was 0 (... that's right, zero) to over 100. Out of a total of around 500 people attending, maybe 200 bought books, gross $4500, publisher share $2500, my royalty $600. Bottomlining it, the tour didn't make financial sense, although intangibles include the publicity from the events, future sales from word of mouth, meeting new and old fans, getting word out about Chin Music Press (a great small press), playing tourist, and getting to see my mother and father (he's read all my books, she hasn't ready any). The publisher and I pretty much split the travel costs. And out of the publisher's share of the gross sales you'd have to deduct the book printing and production costs, publicity and marketing, distribution, and the travel expenses to figure out if any direct profit was made. Overall, I think it was worthwhile and would tour again, although I'd do a few things differently (like not see my mother until she reads my books, just kidding Mom).

I read a few good novels this year, not as many as I wish I could have. The best was Brothers, Yu Hua?s over-the-top, ribald farce which compresses the last fifty years of Chinese history through the lives of two stepbrothers. Baldy Li is rough, sex-obsessed, gnomish, and an inveterate opportunist. Song Gang is tall, good-looking, and loyal and selfless to a fault. They live in a village, Liu Town, only a day's bus ride from Shanghai, but in sophistication, a light-year away. (Read my full review at UPIASIA)

While traveling, I re-read a few of Michael Dibdin's Aurelio Zen mysteries. They are set in Italy, extremely well written, and makes you want to be in Italy drinking grappa and espresso, and eating the local cuisine while looking over your shoulders for criminals. Dead Lagoon takes place in Venice and is my favorite. Philip Roth had a good novel (or was it two?) out this year. Good friend Wendy Nelson Tokunaga's new novel Love in Translation made me laugh heartily. Can't beat that.

Amazon's digital book reader Kindle was supposedly taking over the reading world (according to Amazon), as publishers like Chin Music Press try to keep readers interested in paper-and-ink books (and do a good job at it!) Here is a blog entry about the numbers purported by Amazon: December 30, 2009. I also wrote a blog entry about the future of books, titled, coincidently, The Future of Books.

John Updike passed away. I liked most of his novels, a couple were stinkers, but as I noted in a blog entry ("Murder Makes the Magazine"), he and I collaborated on a novella together, ironically for Amazon publicity in its early days.

Resolutions? Read more, watch less TV, write more regularly, lose a few strokes at golf, lose a couple of pounds (love handles), blog more. And have more face-to-face and less Facebook-to-Facebook social interaction. Have a good 2010!

COMMENTS

Number of comments: 5
click here to add a comment

Jo Reed
Interesting figures on the book tour, that's actually not too bad for traveling two months. Plus it's all deductible.

Lee Witte
Yeah, I read somewhere that publishers spend more than $1000 for each event.

Lee Witte
And congratulations on the great press for OH!, well deserved.

Gail
Thanks for the recommendation of Wendy Nelson Tokunaga's book as well as Mieko Kanai's book. I have put them on my "to read" list. I recently started reading Soseki, and his book "Kusamakura" reminds me of your comments "aware". That's what Soseki's book is all about.

Todd
Thanks Gail, I've never read Soseki's "Kusamakura" but will soon!

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