Last night I attended an event for author Stefan Fatsis’ new book, A Few Seconds of Panic. The event was held at Barnes & Noble and, arriving a few minutes early, my colleague Rich Gallagher and I noticed something interesting about the crowd. It was made up predominantly of people who we wouldn’t immediately peg as hardcore football fans; the type that would be interested in the inner workings of the NFL. Rich wondered if perhaps these weren’t Stefan Fatsis fans who knew the author from his previous book, the New York Times bestseller, Word Freak.
During the Q&A session and overhearing some post-event chit chat it became clear that yes, the audience was filled with diehard Scrabble junkies. “Stefan’s Scrabble posse rolls deep,” Rich commented. Indeed.
Why had all these people, at least the ones that weren’t related to Stefan, come to see him read from his new book, when his foray into the world of competitive Scrabble had occurred six or seven years ago? Because Stefan had not merely reported on Scrabble, he immersed himself in Scrabble, he became one of them. This is a level of authenticity that comes from truly spending time with a subject and understanding what makes the people involved do what they do. Not coincidentally, this is the same approach he has taken with his latest effort. Not merely writing about football the way Michael Lewis wrote about baseball in the excellent, Moneyball, but by actually seeing how he would do if he laced ‘em up and tried to be a professional kicker.
The people at Barnes & Noble are fans of Fatsis, and will no doubt remain so regardless of his subject matter not because he is a talented writer, which he undoubtedly is, but because it is clear through his writing that he truly cares about his subject. That level of authenticity requires a commitment not all writers (or brand managers) are willing to make. But the results – loyal customers – are worth it.
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