Sunday, June 24, 2012

Mass marketing

The Church is my bulwark

Over the years I have been to a handful of book-launch parties. The most recent—and most impressive—was for the hardcover debut of John Lescroart's The Hunter. There was food, live music, book-signing (of course), and an overflow crowd of a couple hundred people. On the other hand, I've been to book events where chairs are set up for forty and only a quarter of them get used. That can be dispiriting.

Naturally I'm concerned that my own book events—which begin next month (watch this space for more specfics)—not be wash-outs. I want crowds of eager people to hang on my every word and congregate in lines to get my autograph. Of course I do!

Sensible people know that this is not a particularly reasonable expectation for a no-name, first-time novelist, especially one whose publisher is a small academic press. Although one can never tell what strange things might occur against all expectations (after all, people bought Twilight), sometimes a bit of divine intervention might help.

Exactly! And that's what I got!

Later this summer I will be featured at a book-launch event that is expected to draw 300 people. They will treat me with the utmost respect and consideration and it's likely that several will buy my book and get my autograph. The event can hardly go wrong, for it will be sponsored by the Roman Catholic Church.

Perhaps you are goggling in perplexity. Perhaps I took you by surprise, despite the giveaway title of this post. Why on earth would the Church be so nice to one of its lost sheep? I'll explain.

If my novel were not about a significant era in the history of Portuguese immigration to the West Coast, it would not have found a publisher so quickly. The university press that is bringing it out has a special interest in the Azorean diaspora and the professor who is its founder and senior editor was himself an Azorean immigrant to California. One of his older brothers became a priest (as so often happens in Portuguese families). As a favor to his younger brother, the priest is hosting my book-launch event. When the senior pastor of a parish crooks his finger in summons, the parishioners turn out in droves—especially in a parish full of doughty Azorean-Americans. If Father says he expects about 300 people to show up, then they'll show up. One needn't doubt it for a moment.

Has Father read my book? I don't know and I haven't asked. It probably doesn't matter. My novel treats the Church rather gently, given that the cast of characters is replete with devout Catholics. (The book is also dedicated to the memory of my baptismal godmother.) Sure, the character based on me clearly lapses in his religious practice as the plot progresses, but he's not the central figure in the novel and he doesn't spend any time on a soapbox denouncing the Church. Furthermore, his best friend heads off to enroll in a seminary.

I think Father can read my book without adding to his gray hairs. What's more, he gets to preside over a celebration of Portuguese-American culture and history, things dear to his heart. In return, I may have to sit through a mass or two. Not a problem.

Oh, and Father would appreciate it if I were to say a few words to the assembled throng in Portuguese.


This is going to take a little work, after all.


Karen said...

Oh, and Father would appreciate it if I were to say a few words to the assembled throng in Portuguese.

God's revenge?

Kathie said...

Oh, and Father would appreciate it if I were to say a few words to the assembled throng in Portuguese.

And you expect me to feel sorry for you because...? Remember, I had to give a whole 20 minute talk in Portuguese at a conference this spring, and I never knew a word of the language until less than 12 years ago. You've also got a whole family to consult, if you write out your comments first for them to check.

Oh, and it didn't bother me a whit to give a presentation at a Holy Ghost social hall, because their money is as good as the next person's. Besides, maybe you'll be subverting 1 or 2 thus-far religiously-devout readers ;-)

The Ridger, FCD said...

Just use Google Translate and then ask a Spanish-speaker to read it to you ;-)

Zeno said...

Thank you, Ridger, for your constructive suggestion, but Kathie knows I can muddle my way through Portuguese. It is, after all, my first language. The problem is that I am not educated in it and thus fear sounding like a bumpkin. Of course, I will write it out in advance and have it proofed by more literate people than me. It should be okay, although I am experiencing just a twinge of stage fright, a problem which under normal circumstances afflicts me not at all.

Gene O'Pedia said...

"...and have it proofed by more literate people than I."

Phalacrocorax said...

I realize The Ridger was joking (nice cat pic, btw), but just in case some naive reader stumbles upon these comments, I'd like to point out some of the reasons why the plan wouldn't work:

1. Google translate (at least for me) gives preference to Brazilian Portuguese over European Portuguese. Try to translate "I'm eating breakfast", for example.

2. Spanish and Portuguese have different sets of vowels. Without the distinction between the open "é", "ó" and the close "ê", "ô", you cannot differentiate "pode" ([s]he can) from "pôde" ([s]he could).

3. Moreover, Portuguese has a whole collection of nasal vowels to make pronunciation even more troublesome.

4. A Spanish-speaking person is not expected to know how to read the many peculiarities of Portuguese orthography, such as "lh", "nh", "ç", "ã", "õ".

5. Spanish lacks many voiced fricatives, so that a Spanish-speaker saying "casa" /"kaza/ (house) would probably sound more like "caça" /"kasa/ (hunt).

That's all I can think of for now. I hope it was annoying enough.

Before I go, I'd like to wish Zeno good luck and hope your godless aura can lead some of the padre's flock astray.

Kathie said...

Ridger, it's a good thing I hadn't taken a sip of tea just before reading your comment, because it would've gone straight out my nose and all over the computer keyboard ;-)))) And next time I need something in Russian, I'll just run it through Google Translate, then have my Ukrainian-American friend read it for me, OK?

Kathie said...

Phalacrocorax, you sound like my Portuguese professor in disguise (LOL!).

João Paulo said...

I'm sure Zeno will have a perfect speech (in Portuguese) ready for his audience when times comes. Nevertheless, he already knows I'm available for proofreading should he need any help.