Readers, Buyers, and Evangelists

My sincere gratitude to the folks who filled the large room at the Alumni Center to capacity and waited patiently in line to buy and get books autographed. I tried to acknowledge all the folks who came from long distances, showed up with gifts or special memories, but I know I missed some.

Larry and Elaine Whitlock brought me a framed photo of the Delta County Champion Indians in the charter year for Little League. Gerald Dewitt of the Giants was also there.

Jim Ainsworth signing copies of "Go Down Looking" for Tory Humphries of Sulphur Springs and Sarah Stevens of Sulphur Bluff

Dr. Stephen Turner came from Plainview with his latest book On the Western Trail. And poet Wanda Myers Glawson, ninety, came from San Antonio. She’s one of those people I knew, but didn’t know that I did before Rivers Flow.

My attempts to chronicle the past through fiction brought about more connections than I can list here. Wife Jan said I should write about them all.  When I saw the faces of people that I would never have known if not for the books, saw old friends reuniting for the first time in decades, I discovered an answer to a question I have been asked many times.

Some of my friends seem incredulous about my now decade long venture into writing novels (most are guys who might buy a book, but never crack the cover). Their questions range from a simple “Why?” to  “How many novels are you going to write before you give up? Have you had a best-seller yet? Why don’t you write a thriller so it at least has a chance of selling big?”

I now have an answer, but they still may not understand.  Someone said that writers write to explain the world we live in to ourselves. But during this signing event, I learned that I also write because of the people in that room, people who are sending in orders, all the people who read my books, people who read this blog, and people who reconnect because of the books.

And writing has given me a whole new appreciation for songwriters. One of my favorites is Tom T. Hall. A particular line in one song often pops into my head when I hear those comments and questions.

You remember how the young boy follows Clayton Delaney around because he is “the best guitar-picker in our town?” The young boy asks Clayton why he doesn’t “pick up his guitar and head on down to Tennessee”.  Clayton’s reply, “Son, you better put that old guitar away. There ain’t no money in it; it’ll lead you to an early grave.”

That part about the money could certainly be said about writing. And writing non-genre novels could leave to an early grave, I suppose.  Publishing and marketing those babies is tough.

But writing allows me to be more introspective and reflective. I hope it helps readers to do the same as they identify with my stories.

The few early readers of Go Down Looking want to know if any of the stuff I wrote about happened. Again, I turn to a song. Remember when George Burns recorded “I Wish I was Eighteen Again” when he was in his final years?

I always thought one of the lines was “Going where I’ve already been.” Turns out it was “Going where I’ve never been.” Well, both lines apply to this book and me. Writing allows me to be eighteen again, going I’ve already been and where I’ve never been.

Ken Ryan, who came to the signing from Lufkin, has already read the book and sent me his comments. We were both astonished to learn that he was an eyewitness to at least one critical scene in the book. I can’t share all that he said without giving away too much, but suffice it to say that the connections are uncanny. And he is a guy I never met before the signing. We connected through this blog.

It is said that writers have buyers, readers, fans, and evangelists. I appreciate every single person who fits into any of those categories. I know a few folks buy the books, never intending to open them. I still appreciate them because they want to support my efforts.

I also recognize the tendency to think that someone we know can’t be a real writer. That’s even truer if you are related to the writer. Some readers read to see if they recognize the characters.

I know there are readers who are indifferent or just don’t care for my books. I even appreciate them. At least they gave me a chances.

Author Jim Ainsworth with Elizabeth Young of Reilly Springs, left, and Mr. and Mrs. Avon Acker of the Union Community

Fans are the good folks who read them and take the time to let me know they liked them and why. I need more of them. They encourage me to keep going.

Then there are the evangelists. They hold a special place in my heart because they like the books enough to make their reviews public and to spread the word. They are the biggest sellers of my books. I need many more of them. They may keep me away from that early grave.

About two years ago, I sold out of Biscuits and Rivers Flow books and could not get more.  A publisher went out of business; a set of plates damaged by storm. To get those books back in print, I made a deal with a new publisher.

Long story short, that deal replaced me as the only source in the universe for Rivers Crossing and Rivers Ebb. All my books are now digital. That means orders from bookstores and Amazon are now filled elsewhere, leaving me with an overstock of quality hardbacks.

I gave books to wounded vets, VA hospitals, etc., but who better to have the surplus than the people who have been fans and evangelists.

With that in mind, I am offering a two for one deal. With the purchase of any of my books, I will send a free copy of either Rivers Ebb or Rivers Crossing. I know that many have purchased these  books already and I thank you for that. If so, please consider giving copies to friends or family (with your recommendation).

If you haven’t read them, I hope you will. There are no catches or tricks to this offer. It’s two for one, four for two, any quantity as long as they last. We are updating the website for this offer now, but just e-mail or call and we will work out details.

If you purchased your copy of Go Down Looking before this offer, just let me know and I will see that you get your free copies.

The publisher wanted to know if I wanted a catchphrase on promotional items for Go Down Looking.  Find the Flow, Hear the Music, sort of tumbled out in a split second. Those six words underscore an underlying theme in all my books. Did I know that when I started writing? No. It began to emerge only after three books.

A few days ago, one of the connections I made through writing sent me a poem written by a terminally ill young girl. Here are a few lines from Slow Dance.

You’d better slow down
Don’t dance so fast.
Time is short.
The music won’t last.

Ever told your child, we’ll do it tomorrow?

And in your haste, not see his sorrow?
Ever lost touch, Let a good friendship die
Cause you never had time to call and say, ‘Hi’

You’d better slow down, don’t dance so fast.
Time is short–the music won’t last . . .  Life is not a race.
Do take it slower
Hear the music
Before the song is over.
When you run so fast to get somewhere
You miss half the fun of getting there.

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