The Value of One

By Edith

North of Boston

We sometimes think we need many. Lots of positive reviews. A big audience at a stack of cookiessigning. Dozens of interested buyers for your house or car. A plate full of cookies, a resume full of jobs, a shelf full of your own published books. At certain times of life, perhaps many suitors, many friends.

But what about just one? When our house in Ipswich was on the market over a year ago, and we didn’t get an offer from the first open house, Hugh remarked, “We only need one.” And then we got one great offer and accepted it.

I know someone who seemed to be without any close friends for a few years. Then he met a guy who he really clicked with. Now he has a best friend. And a close friend in the guy’s girlfriend. And met his own girlfriend through them, and then started making a few other good friends. But some people really only need one good friend.

The other night I went to a nearby library. They had invited me to be their guest author for their adult summer reading program. They had publicized it. I had pushed the word out. I arrived a few minutes early, set out my books, checked my prepared remarks. One woman sat at the end of the front row and we chatted for a few minutes.

The appointed start time came and went. Nobody else arrived. So I pulled up a chair across from the woman and we proceeded to have a very nice, very intimate chat about my books, the process of writing, her recent unemployment, and much more. After about 45 minutes our conversation seemed to be winding down, so I Edith Maxwell with her booksthanked her. She glanced over at my book display and asked if she could buy my books. Well, sure! She bought four.

It might seem a little pathetic that I could only attract one reader for my talk. But hey, I’m still a beginning author. I now have a new really big fan. The library knows I am reliable and agreeable. My name and my book were publicized all over town. True, it was only a fifteen-minute drive away (and they paid me). If I’d driven two hours to Connecticut or Maine for the same experience, I might be somewhat less agreeable about it. But even multi-published authors have been through these tiny-audience situations. We just keep going.

What about you? What were your times when one was enough, or maybe it wasn’t enough? Are there situations when one simply isn’t sufficient?

17 Thoughts

  1. Edith, my husband and I are both authors and, since we love libraries, we try to support them in any way. We have a program with slides and a funny dialogue between the two of us which we have done in front of a literary group of over one hundred, but we often get small groups of less than ten at the local libraries around the Upstate New York area. Last month we did another of these programs and got four people plus the librarian. Two of them were trying to get out of the horrible heat we had, one was a friend doing me a favor and the other a friend of a friend. But we sold books to all but those ducking the outside heat. And we had fun doing it. Most important, I think, was that those who came had a good time and were entertained enough to want to buy a book. Little steps.

  2. What a thoughtful response to the situation, Edith. I, too, have experienced times when running a program or a course and “only one” showed up. There are times when I just sat down and we talked and other times, when that first session was critical to the others, where we changed the date and broadened our outreach. You established credibility with both the library and that person. They may have been “just the one” you’ll need down the road. Good for you!

  3. Good post, Edith. I’m a debut author and traveled to Phoenix recently on my own dime to read at Poisoned Pen Bookstore with another author. We were warned that it was a tough time of year, August, and that a lot of people were out of town. We had only seven people, but it was an engaged group and we gave it our all. The moderator had some great questions and everyone seemed happy. I wrote to the bookstore, thanking them for the opportunity, saying that it was a small but lively reading. Here’s his reply: “Start small, work big!” And invited me back. I had been given the advice by seasoned authors that you might have only one person there, but that you are there not just for the people who attend, but to establish a personal relationship with the bookstore or library.

      1. I’ve had two book signings at a small used book store. At both signings only a few came even though the owner advertised, but she had sold some of my books in advance. The first one was on a very, very rainy Saturday. The next time it was a beautiful Saturday when probably most people were working in their gardens or doing outside things. I was happy to see the few who came and appreciated having them buy my books.

  4. Been there, done that–only it was across the state, pouring rain, the local roads were torn up, and the only person to show up for the event already had the book (the library staffer who had put the event together didn’t even bother to put in an appearance). Them’s the breaks in this illogical business–and I’d planned other activities for the trip anyway.

    But on the plus side, I gave a talk for a library not far from there, that has an excellent readers’ group (and they offer dinner), and it was standing room only. You never know.

    And all of it gets your name out there, by way of the library’s publicity.

    1. Sounds like a lousy evening, Sheila! The library staffer the other night didn’t sit in on my talk, either (one reason I didn’t mention the library by name). But getting our authorial name out there is always good.

  5. What a great blog, Edith. As I think about publicizing my book next year I will keep this in mind. A positive attitude is key and you certainly have one! But I confess I’ve never eaten just one Cheeto.

  6. Happened to me at my very first “book” event. The librarian came. I had invited a couple friends from work and they finally showed. Whew! Sometimes weather is to blame, and sometimes you just have to suck it up and smile.

  7. Well, one cookie is never enough. Unless it’s a bad cookie! I’m doing my first library talk in two weeks in Cut Bank, a small town east of the mountains, so while I hope for good attendance, thanks to you I know what to do if there’s just one good attendant!

  8. Yes, happened to me last December. but my one turned into multiple opportunities. She went home and convinced her local Friends of the Library group to sponsor me in March. That talk yielded 40 people in the audience. And the talk in turn spawned three more invitations — one to return to the library, a book club choosing my book for discussion, and one to an author tea sponsored by a local Woman’s Club. I’m off to visit all of them his fall. You are absolutely right. All it takes is one.

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