Here is an excerpt of our interview with Christopher Locke for the IBPA Member Spotlight:
IBPA: How were you able to get the Latin American Spanish literary translation of your book, Eye of the Moon (translated as El ojo de la luna), carried in Colombia’s largest bookstore chain?
Mary Jo Smith-Obolensky: It was most fortuitous: a childhood friend introduced me to a well-known Colombian novelist, María Cristina Restrepo, who became a major fan of El ojo de la luna (her detailed review is on the back cover of the book). María Cristina introduced the translated novel to the head bookseller of Librería Nacional, Mr. Felipe Ossa. I spoke at length with him, and he was very generous with his 60+ years of experience in the book market worldwide. He then told me the number of books that he wanted. He felt it would make an excellent gift for the upcoming holidays. Colombians buy a lot of books at the end of the year, and often gift them. We had zero prelaunch promotion, and the marketing since has been all on social media, especially Instagram. Word-of-mouth has mostly been responsible for sales.
A thousand copies of El ojo de la luna were ordered on consignment for the day of the launch, October 16, 2020. As of the December statements, 250 have been sold. This is unexpected for an independent publisher, an unknown author in the country, a translated debut novel, and especially, in the middle of this pandemic.
IBPA: How did you react when you found out Librería Nacional had agreed to carry your books?
Mary Jo: It was the wonderful feeling that life as you love it still exists: printing actual books that will be available in stores, featured on displays, books given as holiday gifts, books being enjoyed while on vacation, books read furtively when you can, and being hooked on a good book. I was born and raised in Colombia, and it was a wonderful circle of life to reconnect with so many people from my youth and country, to experience how much Colombians of all ages and backgrounds are enjoying this tale! As a person in the translation business for 25 years, a native Colombian, and the editor and wife of the author, this project has been remarkably close to my heart. Did I mention I was thrilled?
Ivan Obolensky (author and Smith-Obolensky Media Vice President): I was thrilled to get the book out and in a major bookstore chain. Writing a book is one thing, getting into readers’ hands is another. What I, as an author, want to find out is what avenues will get the work out and into the hands of the public in sufficient numbers to be viable? When all avenues appear blocked, the best one can do is to try everything and anything, like pouring water on a floor. It will find the cracks, and once found, the opportunity must be capitalized on. It requires flexibility, out-of-the-box thinking, and a great deal of communication. One must be willing to be surprised, because often how a book finds its way into the world is surprising.
IBPA: In addition to landing distribution for Eye of the Moon at Librería Nacional bookstores, you received a review and recommendation of the novel by their head bookseller Felipe Ossa, and it was also prominently displayed in the stores nationwide. Can you share a link to the review?
Mary Jo: The original review is in Spanish, the translation is:
An impeccable story, masterfully narrated in style and plot, combining the right mix of intrigue, suspense and romance, in a perfect psychological and philosophical background.
A subtly crafted novel, written with elegance and irony. Very well-developed characters and a very good description of the environment where the story takes place, displaying the thoroughness of the great novel writers of the 19th century. Reading it captivates us from the first page and takes us through the labyrinth of suspense, secrecy, and adventure, to a surprising ending that finishes off a devilishly well-written work with a flourish. Rivaling the great suspense novels of all time…
IBPA: The pandemic has created a lot of obstacles for the publishing industry, especially for bookstores. How has the pandemic affected the launch of Eye of the Moon at Librería Nacional?
Mary Jo: Most stores are open, though they restrict entry by the even or odd numbers of their IDs, and the stores in the airports are harder to access due to the way travelers are routed to and from the gates. However, the website handles all deliveries anywhere in the country. We also have the book in Librería Grammata, a well-respected indie bookstore in my hometown of Medellín. We are reaching out to more indie bookstores in order to increase our availability and accessibility to the readers in that country.