For my book promotion tours I spoke before synagogue congregations in synagogues and at the podium at Jewish cultural fairs in the New York/New Jersey area. You speak about your book and hopefully people will buy copies outside in the hall. My sister sold twenty copies for me. And at Jewish cultural fairs on weekends when parents come with their kids, the last thing they needed was a diary about the Intifada in the life of one Jewish mother of five. Three months later, my cousin, another believer in me, flew me, my daughter and son down to New Orleans (where my cousin lived) to do book signings. We set up a table with a pile of my hot-off-the press diaries at Barnes and Nobles. When no one came near the table my children tried to usher them in.
“I don’t read,” one woman complained to them. And then the bookstore owner told us there was a problem of widespread illiteracy in Louisiana. I am sorry about that. But my point is this. The book promoting campaign which made me feel very important and famous did not turn my diary into a best seller or me into a literary star.
But I kept writing diaries. I started a third diary called An Israeli Mother’s War Diary. I sent the first thirty pages (all I had) to Neil who got the executive editor of Harper Collins enthused. And me? I was flying high making plans about what I would do with the money that would be pouring in. And what kind of house I would buy for my family and where would that be? And what outfits would I wear for all the interviews and appearances. Would I let TV make-up artists paint my face again? No, I’d ask them to go light on the powder. I hate masks. When Neil arranged a meeting between David Hirshey and me in 2006 at Harper Collins executive office, I flew into NY with stars in my eyes. Literary World here I come! A nicer man in such a high position you will never find. Hirshey explained that he had pushed Harpers to make a deal for my proposed new diary at a board meeting. The writing was good. The subject, the second Intifada viewed from a mother’s point of view was timely. But the marketing people at Harpers Collins argued against him. The problem had to do with money. They couldn’t take on a book unless they could be assured of at least 10,000 copies sold.
He apologized. “Publishers can now track how much an author has sold in the past. Then they can predict future sales.”
Did he notice how I sagged in the leather chair across from him? I had to digest that my writing life might not lead to stardom. This was a hard morsel to swallow. The literary world had changed a great deal since I called the editor at Feldheim and described my book to her on the phone. It had changed even from the days I had got big advances from my Parisian publisher. I rose and shook his hand devastated at not having become a well-known author overnight. After a while, I became grateful that I had this meeting with the executive editor of Harpers Collins. As disappointing as it had been, I had gotten a peek into the highest echelons of the publishing world.
And I took comfort from the projects that I did have. I was now beginning my PhD on the mystical life of Franz Kafka. Four years lay ahead of me in which I would get a lucrative scholarship which meant a salary each month while I researched and wrote and traveled to deliver papers at conferences. I tried to bless and be thankful for what I had.