October 11, 2011

(Apologies — I forgot to post this when I got back from Palestine. A post about the US book tour will follow shortly.)

Palestine was a lot of fun. I’m sorry I haven’t had time to write about it. Book touring is a lot of work, especially on a budget. The logistics are seemingly endless. Place, time, venue, coordinating with local organizers, number of books, delivery of books, transport of books to the venue, travel, accommodation, publicity, flyers, social media outreach, rides and public transport, all of it multiplied by twelve…

Once all the niggling details are worked out, though, book touring can be a lot of fun. In Palestine I met so many amazing people and got to know quite a bit about the world of book distribution in the Middle East. Most of all I’ve been overwhelmed by the amount of support I’ve received, given that I’m a relatively unknown author.

People in Palestine really seem to get what I’m trying to do, and to understand why I wrote it the way I did. They even seem to enjoy the book itself even though they’re not the target audience. I have to admit to feeling a little ridiculous sometimes, sitting in front of roomfuls of Palestinians reading to them about their own situation. But of course the particular stories I tell are new to everyone but the people involved, and I guess I could enjoy a book about Oklahoma written by an outsider if it was done well and honestly. The 72 books I sent to Palestine sold out quickly, and I wished I had sent twice as many.

One of the most fun aspects of the entire thing has been taking the book around to friends in Palestine, restaurant owners, and the charming woman who runs the Ramallah Turkish Bath and showing them the parts of the book that are about them or their establishments. I remain befuddled that no one has written about Ramallah this way before, but people seem excited that someone’s doing it now.

Probably the most surprising part was that everyone I talked to in Egypt and Jordan wanted a copy, too. Those who read it said they couldn’t put it down and learned a lot from it. Who’d have thought? I’m working on figuring out how to get more books there — perhaps even just sending the PDF files and letting a printing company print them out. It’s not a very elegant solution, but neither is the enormous expense and length of time it takes to ship books from here to there. (Seems it would be simplest for people to just buy the electronic version, but most people prefer paperbacks — even in the US I sell far more paperbacks than eBooks.)

I talked to a Palestinian-Jordanian book distributor, and he’s reading the Kindle version of the book now. After he reads it, he says he’ll try to think of the best way to get the book to the Middle East.

My short three-week visit to Palestine wrapped up with Taybeh’s annual Oktoberfest, always a highlight of the year. Ramallah, more than ever, is over-priced and over-run with foreigners and their NGO salaries. There’s no longer a sense of being able to go to “the” spot and see everyone you know. There are too many bars and restaurants and too many people to keep up with. But Oktoberfest is still the place where you’re guaranteed to run into all your favorite old and new friends, and this year was no exception. It was also nice that my team won the Second Annual Palestinian Street Hockey Tournament. 🙂

And my friend Dan came in from Israel to join the Beer Fest fun, and I knew a few other Israelis who were there, and the weather was perfect, and everything was just incredibly lovely — a feeling of how things ought to be, and how things can be, one day. Inshallah.

In other exciting news, after almost a year of living in Hoboken, NJ, my boyfriend and I finally moved into Manhattan. He’s lived in the States for three years, and even though he works in Manhattan, for some unfathomable reason, he’s always lived in New Jersey. I convinced him to try out NYC for a year, and I’m over the moon to be back in the City.

Finally, I have a modest but important request. A literary agent in New York recently read my book, loved it, and decided to take me on as a client. I’ve sold about fifteen hundred books, and that’s pretty good for being on my own. If I keep working like this, I can probably eventually sell 10,000 copies. But if I want to have a reasonable chance of selling 100,000 copies or more — let’s face it — I’ll probably need a big boy behind me.

Any publisher worth his or her salt will check out my book’s Amazon page. The most important thing they’ll look for is the reviews. If my book has 51 reviews (like Mornings in Jenin, which has sold well over 100,000 copies), they’ll sit up and take notice. Right now it has only 33 reviews.

So… would you mind reviewing it if you’ve read it? It takes about five minutes. Your review doesn’t have to be brilliant. It doesn’t even have to be coherent. It just has to have at least 20 words, a title (e.g., “I liked it!” or “Crapola!”), and a star rating. You don’t have to give it 5 stars. Just say what you think, honestly, in a couple of sentences. I would appreciate it very much.

Here’s the link. Just click it, then click the button that says, “Create your own review.” If you’re signed into your Amazon.com account, the review-creating screen will pop right up. Start typing. Really, a monkey could do it. 🙂 And it would be awesome.

Thanks so much, guys. I hope to see you somewhere along the road ahead.

Yours in excited exhaustion,