Friday, June 27, 2008

Cold Calls

Today we hit the road and boldly walked into five different book shops. Hi, my name is Randy, I said to each one, and I'd like to sell you my book. (or words to that affect). Wouldn't you know, three of the store owners/ buyers were really nice and encouraging and actually agreed to buy a few copies. Hurrah. In another case the buyer was in a meeting but I got her email address and have since sent her a note. Then there was another buyer who was out to lunch. I wasn't about to hang around an hour waiting for him to return, so took a rain check on that visit. But the others went fairly well. The buyers were encouraging. They congratulated me on publishing the book and each wanted a "review" copy. That made sense to me, so I had prudently stocked ten copies in the truck. My wife says to keep track of those copies and we'll write them off as promotion and advertising. One of the owners of a small local independent book shop suggested I should try to have a story about the book in the local daily paper. I have launched an email to both the weekly and the daily paper asking how one goes about having a story written about - themselves! Hmmmm, just another example of shameless self promotion I suppose. But in every single case, the buyers today told me there was no way they would have known my book is available and applicable to their customers, except for my friendly visit. Go figure. It's no wonder publicizing a small book from a small press is so arduous. But I am encouraged and now plan on filling the truck up with gas once again and hitting the road to visit more book shops. Hey Mom....look at me. I'm a salesman.

Monday, June 23, 2008

Pick me! Pick me!

Do you remember school and that pesky kid in the back of the room who was always first to shoot her arm up into the air and holler Pick Me! Pick Me! Oh no, you might have thought. Give it a rest. I remember being cajoled along with all my boyhood chums into attending ballroom dance class where we were supposed to learn a few steps, practice some social graces and round off our rough edges, so to speak. The boys would crowd around in one corner and the girls would all titter and giggle grouped in another corner. When it was time for the "gentlemen" to ask the "ladies" to dance you could read the silent message in certain girls' eyes that said "Oh don't pick me. Don't pick me." Imagine some little kid with a squeeky voice standing many rows behind the assembled mass of the football team, soccer team, baseball team, basketball team and marching band raising his hand and saying "Pick me. Over here. Pick me." Dwell on these images for a moment and you'll begin to understand what it's like for a very small book written by an unknown author to get noticed. It's darned near impossible. The problem is we're now talking about advertising and publicity and self-promotion and most new writers have neither the skills nor the experience to carry off this important part of the book publishing endeavor. How to get noticed? I wish I knew. Pick me! Pick me! Without the might and money of a large publishing house behind you or the name recognition of a celebrity author, getting noticed is an uphill struggle. We settle for a little free publicity amongst our friends. We send out some email notices to libraries. We hope one reviewer out of ten might read the book and condescend to write a few favorable lines. Craft shows, a radio call-in show, some good old ground pounding and personal schmoozing by the writer all help, but it's like trying to a bail the Titanic with a bucket. Fortunately "Sandbox Camp Tales" is a regional book with most of the potential readers living in Maine or visiting Maine. But even then getting the word out just in this rural state is a huge task. With the price of gas the way it is, I won't be driving to many gift shops, libraries and book stores. Maybe the secret ingrediant is time? Maybe if we hang in there long enough and the book gets passed around enough - maybe, just maybe we may begin to get a few orders.

Friday, June 20, 2008

About the book

Ah yes....the book. What's it about? Well a lot of things. Mostly about me growing up here in Maine and then banging around the woods and the coast with my friends. There are some stories about my family and a few essays with "deep" thoughts. The book is a collection of stories and articles most of which have been previously published in other magazines and journals. After writing and selling stories to different publications off and on for four years, my wife just said "Your pile is big enough...maybe you should do a book." And so I have. If you interviewed a bunch of families who have lived and grown up in Maine for the past sixty years you would hear many of the same stories, or very similar ones. These are the stories families tell when they all get together for a holiday, or when everyone gathers at the old lakeside cabin, or when Grandpa begins to reminisce about the "good old days." My stories are not all factual. That is they are not journalistic reports of what happened and who did what. They are all based on real events and things that actually happened to me or my friends or my family, but in some cases the facts may be blurred a little - or a lot depending on what I was trying to write about. So they are "stories" like you'd tell around the kitchen table, and depending on who's doing the telling you may get a different point of view and some embellishments. But it's all in good fun and as I have said before my goal in writing these stories down has been merely to entertain and distract folks from their daily cares, even if only for a few minutes.

Thursday, June 19, 2008

Dreams come true

Have you ever had a dream come true? You know - like finally graduating from school, or getting your first real job, or hearing her say "Yes" when you get up the courage to ask, or making the team or maybe finally catching the biggest scrappiest bass in the whole dang lake. Sure we all have dreams of things we'd like to do, things we'd like to accomplish or of the person we'd like to be. For a lot of us the dreams finally do come true. My dream was to write a book, and now I've done it. My dream has come true. It wasn't easy. It only took about fifty years of waiting and doing all the other things having a career and raising a family demand. All of which I have done happily and with joy. But then when I retired, the old dream came back to me and I knew if I was ever going to publish a book I should get on with it as the days and years seemed to be slipping by way too fast. In other posts I will let you know how I went about writing stories and finding outlets for them and how I've had a bit of luck and how people have helped me along the way, but for now just know that my book is a reality. Writing and publishing the book has been a sort of happy adventure, and now we're embarked on a whole other phase of publicity and marketing. Even though I've had a great time writing the stories in the book, I figure the book is not really complete until other people read it. That's what it's all about isn't it? Putting it out there and sharing what I've thought and written with others. Maybe making them smile a little or causing them to think a little more deeply about something. It's scary you know - writing and publishing a book. Opening yourself up to public scrutiny and criticism. Its a challenge to listen and read what other people may say about the words I've slaved over and worked so hard on for the past four years. But you don't get anywhere in life without you take some risks and for an apprentice writer there's nothing more fraught with angst and risk then opening the covers and letting others read what you have written. You hope they will smile and laugh and read more and finally say "Ya done good."
You hope. After all, my dream has not just come true, but I am living it. My book is finally published and it's out there for all the world to see. I'm holding my breath.