Friday, September 29, 2006

After You Write the Book

I glanced at the last post to the blog--way back in August--and discovered the final line: Now I've got to sell some books.
How prescient.
My approach to this task was the same as my approach to all tasks (WARNING: CLICHES AND MIXED METAPHORS TO FOLLOW): hitch up my pants, grab my lunch pail, and grind it out. (OH! That felt so good! That's been building up inside me for ages!) But as hideous as that sounds, it represents my attack. I knew it wouldn't be easy, that accolades and money wouldn't just roll into me. I was ready to reinvent myself as a book marketer. I was ready to suspend disbelief.
What I've learned--so far--is that it takes more than just willingness and vision to get the ass-end of book publishing moving. I takes friends, it takes family, it takes a few serendipitous moments. But most of all, it takes single-mindedness, a focus and a belief in yourself, and an ability to step outside your existence and objectively listen to comments and criticism, no matter what corner they come from. That might mean taking some advice from someone who has not the least interest literature, but who knows something about selling things. Or talking to someone who has success in a medium different from yours.
In this way, I've been ultra-liberal in my outlook. I've solicited information from every corner, devoted time every day to this question: "What have I done to sell my book today?" The one difference I've found is my situation with my publisher. There's a clause in my contract that requires me (and the publisher) to mount an advanced selling campaign that must gross $3,200 by the end of November or the deal can be called off by the publisher. (Lawyers reading this will notice the lopsided feel to that clause, because there's no clause in there that says I can call the deal off if I feel the publisher isn't doing enough.)
Has it been enough? The publisher's part in the initial campaign has amounted to mailing out an announcement and order form from a list I provided for him. The problem with that was the presentation: it looked like junk mail, and many of the recipients threw it away without opening it. And once opened, the media wasn't succint and smartly presented. I've created a website to promote myself and my book; I've added an option for purchasing my book directly through my website, or downloading the order form; I've purchased promotional postcards that I designed myself and mailed at my own expense; I've gotten media coverage by landing a regular column in the local paper about the ups and downs of publishing a book; I've gotten independent media coverage about me and my book; I've purchased business cards to hand out to people while I'm telling them about my book; I've linked my website to places that might drive business to me, and I've undertaken email marketing blitzes to target potential buyers.
I haven't exactly been loafing around.
Yet I have so much more to do. Anyone who wants to jump in with me, here's my website address again: www.shawnkerivan.com.
Now let's see, where was I? Oh, yeah. Selling books...