Yesterday I went to the inauguration of the Salon Du Livre in Geneva. It’s an annual event that I’ve never attended in part because I assumed there would be a language barrier and I ashamedly admit I know very few French authors. But yesterday was free entry and I thought, what the heck.
The book fair was a four-day event at that showcases authors, writing associations and books from all over the world. There were seminars, cooking demonstrations, signings, book readings and as I suspected, books. Lots of books. In fact, it was more like one huge bookstore, which was a dangerous place for both my wallet and I to coexist. Oh mes péchés mignons.
I had hoped the fair was to promote a writing-reading community but in the end it was primarily a market to sell books. As much as I love books, as a novice writer the presence of so many was overwhelming, almost discouraging. It was like looking at the competition and wondering how many of those authors ever get read? How the hell am I ever going to stand out?
As a reader I wondered what percentage of these books were any good? Despite a clever title or interesting subject matter, there were only two things that stopped me from scanning a whole table of books; cover and a well-known author. And from experience, these are not necessarily golden rules for a good book. I gravitate towards bright, simple covers because they require less effort to skim and I assume that whatever is in them won’t be about an orphaned, illiterate, impoverished Indian boy with missing limbs, award winning books I end up reading and resenting the hell out of. But then I think about my favourite authors and I have to say that their book covers are less to be desired. I found them by word of mouth.
So, despite a room filled with hundreds of thousands of books, I'm still going to need to use word of mouth to expand my knowledge of French writers. That and the objective lady who runs the local, more particular bookstore. I'd be interested to know where most of you found your beloved authors. I suspect it's not by happenstance.