Adventures in Publishing

So, you managed to write a book. You managed to get it published. You managed to make it available to the general public. Soar, little story, soar!

A novel in hiding

Not so fast.

You gotta promote it.

OK, all my friends know. Even my acquaintances know. In fact, I think they’re sorry they know. I really don’t want to bug them anymore.

Shouldn’t the publisher promote the book? Yeah, that went the way of the full-service gas station. It’s a self-service world, honey. If you want to make bank, or even just get the word out, you get out there and sell, sell, sell.

As a kid, I used to sell Christmas cards in summer in hopes of getting enough points for a new bike. I would knock on my neighbors’ doors and, in the heat of August, ask them to choose a wintry card style from my display book, and then get a box or two imprinted with the names of their family members. (The more text, the more $$$.) I did sell some cards, but never enough to earn the bicycle.

So, with that sales experience under my belt—and a few seasons of Camp Fire Girls cookies as the master class—I am thrust into the cold world of publicity. Me—the one more comfortable in front of a keyboard than behind a microphone—now needs to stand up and promote a book.

My first effort was a bust. I sat behind a table for local authors just inside the entrance of Barnes and Noble, smiling at possible purchasers. Heck, I would avoid me in that situation. I even attempted a short reading, my mic-less voice evaporating in the open, two-story building. I cut my losses and tried to learn what I could from the experience. I found that Silicon Valley residents, who come from all over the world, aren’t familiar with the setting of the Salinas Valley. They nodded and smiled and walked away. Even the mention of Steinbeck didn’t ring a bell. Some had never heard of cropdusters. I was starting at less than ground zero. Ground negative 25.

My next attempt was a public reading (with no sales involved) at a local Starbucks. The selection I chose came at the suggestion of my husband. Not trusting myself to be impartial, since I think the whole book is great, I took his advice. As a former pilot, his favorite scene involved flying, WWII, and an airport bar. Two paragraphs in, I could literally see my audience falling asleep before my eyes.

In for a penny, in for a pound, I didn’t give up. I mean, I gave up being serious. I just got up and decided to have fun. When all the readers had finished, the folks managing the reading asked if anyone would like to read again. My hand shot up.

I stood at the microphone again and talked like I was talking to my best friend. “The main character in my book has a real problem with commitment. I think you’ll understand why after I read this scene.”

Unlike my first selection, there were only two characters in the scene, not five. That seemed to score points. The scene included humor and a motorcycle accident, which oddly resonated with my latte-sipping audience. After I sat down, the other writers in the audience asked if I would be willing to give a talk at a local bookstore where I could sell books. I accepted.

I have no clue what I’ll say. But I’m game and hard to embarrass at my age.

My next step will be to create a talk about how I wrote FLYING BLIND, A Cropduster’s Story. I think I’ll start with, “Write what you know.”