Before I became a published novelist, I only bought one hardback novel a year.
I’ve always been a trade paperback kind of girl. I like to devour books, take them into the bath (and yes, sometimes even the shower) with me. I’m rough with books.
And there’s always the matter of money. I had little and still continue to have little–if I don’t count my sweet husband’s salary. The library is wonderful–but only one thing, I’m also a little absent-minded. So those fines add up, so it just makes sense to buy paperbacks.
But then I got published, and suddenly my hardback fiction collection exponentially grew. Suddenly I had all these colleagues and friends who were also published, and most of them were getting published in hardback.
My husband has watched helplessly as our living room china cabinet that we use as a bookshelf has continued to get filled with hardbacks. But let me tell you, he’s doing his share with all his sports books (he’s a roundball fanatic–he probably has every biography ever published on an American basketball coach).
Anyway, now I have a bunch of hardbacks, autographed and personalized at that. But I tell myself they are all an investment. I’ve suddenly become a book collector.
I know what you’re thinking. Naomi, personalized books are not as valuable as just autographed books. But again, it all depends who they are signed to–stranger, friend, or colleague. These signatures will tell a story of the relationship between one writer and another.
For instance, why did S.J. Rozan draw a basketball in my copy of her 9/11 novel, ABSENT FRIENDS? I love that bestselling children’s author Ken Mochizuki, a fellow ethnic press editor and reporter, signed his YA novel, BEACON HILLS BOYS, with "Remember when they told us to ‘get a real job’?" Gary Phillips appropriately penned, "Writing is fighting," in my West Coast Crime copy of his mystery debut, VIOLENT SPRING. And of course I’ll always treasure Walter Mosley scribbling, "Good luck with Summer of the Big Bachi," in BLACK BETTY.
My most emotion-laden autographed hardback book is not a novel, but nonfiction–late Iris Chang’s RAPE OF NANKING. It was another dearly departed figure, television newsman Sam Chu Lin, who had encouraged me to attend Iris’s signing at the Santa Monica Borders in January 1998 and I was so glad to have the opportunity to meet her in person before she tragically took her life in November of 2004.
As I write this, I see that books are actually physical footprints, emotional and intellectual markers of my life. My copy of RAPE OF NANKING not only brings to mind Iris Chang, but also the subsequent conversations it engendered and the many related stories on Japanese war crimes I placed in the newspaper I once edited. I also remember my pal Sam and how he mentored and befriended so many of us younger journalists. Perhaps that’s why I don’t think electronic books will ever completely replace actual bound books. There’s magic in those pages.
The book in my collection that is worth the most money is a first edition, first printing of Cynthia Kadohata’s KIRA-KIRA, which garnered the Newbery Award months after it was signed. The Newbery Award is the closest thing to literature’s Oscars, at least for writers for children. Soon after Cynthia received a 4:30 a.m. phone call announcing that she had won, she was whisked away for the Today Show. Now how glamorous is that? Soon Cynthia was deluged with e-mails requesting a first edition, first-printing book. The book was going for $800 at one time, and currently is listed for more than $1,000 for an autographed first-printing copy. And I have a personalized one.
By the way, Cynthia and I will be appearing together at the Torrance Public Library on Wednesday, September 27, at 7 p.m. so all you locals come out and see us. Cynthia will be showing her brilliant PowerPoint presentation, while I’ll be more low-tech with some show-and-tell surprises, nonetheless.
And for those going to the Bouchercon world mystery convention at the end of this month, keep you eye out–not only for current stars, but also for those newbies under the radar who may become stars of tomorrow. Especially those getting published by small presses or having limited print-runs with larger publishers.
And don’t forget about those paperback original writers! Robert Crais’ first book, MONKEY’S RAINCOAT, a mass market paperback original, in mint condition is going for three figures.
No more showers with books for me.
WEDNESDAY’S WORD: okanemochi (SNAKESKIN SHAMISEN, page 86)
Rich person. Pronounced "o-KA-neh-MO-chee." Okane means money and mochi is derived from the infinitive motsu, or to hold onto.
DISORIENTED EXPRESS LEAVES THE STATION: Mystery authors Eric Stone and Colin Cotterill’s joint tour, Disoriented Express, begins tonight at the Mystery Bookstore at 7 p.m. I was hoping to attend, but being the traffic wimp that I am, I’ve decided not to take the trek through downtown L.A. to the westside. But I know that I’m missing out on great, great fun. Asian snacks, beverages, and good company. I am hoping to meet Colin at Book’em Mysteries in South Pasadena tomorrow, however. A much, much saner drive for me personally. BTW, Colin has the best website ever.
EVENT SEASON GEARS UP: Come to the West Hollywood Book Fair this weekend on Sunday, September 17. At 1:15 p.m. I’ll be on a panel, "Who Am I?," with Rochelle Krich, Luis Rodriguez and Victoria Christopher Murray, moderated by Holly Hoffman. It’s going to be on the age-old theme of a writer’s identity. Should be interesting! I’ll also be doing a self-publishing and book distribution workshop in Little Tokyo this Saturday.