Friday, August 22, 2008

Bit by bit, row by row

Sales have actually been pretty good at the marina office. I find the trick is to meet people face-to-face and let them know I have a book to sell and they almost always buy one and sometimes two. That happened yesterday with a long time customer who was just coming down for a day on the water. We chatted a little and then I asked if they'd seen my book for sale. Well no, they said, What about it? So I told them and they were delighted and even bought one for their kids. No doubt about it, being what is essentially an independent writer is like being a small family owned business with all the same issues and concerns. Not the least of which is marketing your product. I've written before about how hard it is to raise awareness for your product when you have very few outlets and no money for advertising or promotion. So far the efforts on the internet have provided little response. I should have expected that considering how vast the internet is and how websites and email boxes are bombarded with ads and junk emails. Heck some of my notes might not have even got past the junk mail filters. One thing I have not tried yet is the craft fairs and flea markets. Those will all be going this fall in preparation for the holidays. The issue there again is paying for the table, which is after all how they make their money. But maybe a good one or two day craft fair would be a good place to invest a few hundred bucks. You'd sure have to sell a bunch of books just to earn back the entrance fees. I love it on Antiques Roadshow when the appraiser tells the object owner..."In a well advertised auction this object would bring in the range of ten thousand dollars." And then the owner picks themselves up off the floor. But that's what I need - a "well advertised" auction.
I suppose I could also hit the road. I read a small book once called "Yankee Drummer" which was all about John Gould's life on the road as a farm implement salesman. This took place back around the turn of the century and the early 1920's. He tells about going to the fairs and showing off they new manure spreaders and then selling to the farmers on "spring terms". Well my book isn't exactly manure, even though some might think it has more then its share of B-S.
But if you can sell cow flap spreaders at a fair maybe you can sell some books.

Monday, August 11, 2008

Book sales up - publishers down

The good news is we're selling books. Not a lot, but some and in a few good places. Kittery Trading Post bought half a dozen to try. More friends have ordered some too. In two instances they were gifts to their friends. I also heard from Jessica at Maine in Print. She asked for a picture and details about the book and said she would try to include the information in the next issue. I have spoken with two prominent publishers in the state and laid things on the line with to speak. That is I let them know our publisher was jumping ship and we needed someone to come rescue our life boat. Their response was cordial and encouraging. Send us a copy the said, and so I have. Now we wait some more to see what they think and if they will get back to me. Meanwhile I've been sending out more unsolicited emails. Again this letter is pretty forthright. I've sent it to a variety of book stores and book sellers in Bangor and the Ellsworth area. The letter basically says "Here I am world. Please take notice." Oh well, its still fun. Thankfully it doesn't cost anything more then my time to hunt up the addresses and send these notes. If I send ten and get one response that would be success. Years ago in IBM we used to plan on a 100:1 ratio. That is you had to have 100 prospects that would eventually reduce to ten potentials that would become one buying customer. In those days we used to do mass mailings via the post office. Now we can just click SEND and accomplish nearly the same thing. What I like most about this though is meeting the folks. Eventually someone will call or send a note and then we can swap a few emails and get to know a little bit more about each other and our businesses. As far as finding a new publisher goes...if I don't make it with publishers in the state then I'll have to go across the boarder to NH and the rest of New England. I notice many "Maine" themed books on the shelves that have been published by firms outside the state. So that's not the worst way to go. I expect those writers also offered their works to the prominent in-state publishers and when nothing came of that, they went looking elsewhere. Or maybe the out-of-state publisher had better terms or catered to a niche market. For now it's a bit of a waiting game, waiting to hear back from the emails and from the in-state publishing houses. I have had one request to speak later this year at a local Grange meeting. That sounds like it could be a lot of fun. With a little luck it would be in conjunction with a pot-luck dinner which is one of my most favorite things.

Friday, August 1, 2008

Bump in the road

Oh oh. Things seemed to be going pretty well. Too well someone might say. I should have suspected a rat would show up eventually. They have a way of popping up. This rat turns out to be my publisher. Wouldn't you know. Well it's not all her fault....but then again maybe it is. She's going out of business. For whatever reason she couldn't keep the bills paid and the returns and low fees were killing her. Well sure, no one's in business to loose money. When you can't make it pay it's time to cut your losses and move on and that's what she's doing. But it does sort of leave us, her authors, in the lurch. For us its like we're starting all over again searching for a publisher, auditioning, selling ourselves. That's tough, because now I need to devote time to finding a new outlet for the book instead of concentrating on publicizing and selling the book. I've already started looking. Sent emails to some local publishing houses. No responses yet. And there are some online gigs which might be useful. Only the costs do go up. Bad time for that too as we are just beginning to pick up some momentum on sales. Little victories here and there. I look at it like a geometric progression. At first its just one or two readers telling other readers. But then those readers tell more and they tell even more and eventually you have nuclear fission! Or lift off. Or something good happens. So there it is. They say you should dance with who brung ya' , but when she dumps her date, you gotta drag the line and hope for the best. There are more fish in the sea and one of them is a publisher who will fall in love with my work.