Smoke & Blood

My book’s official publish date is September 1st, 2011. I’ve been scheduling book stores, interviews, lectures, and conferences for every spare moment between now and the end of the year. I’ve already got somewhere between two and three dozen venues, interviews, and presentations scheduled, and that’s in addition to my full-time job
I travel and talk a lot for my dual position with a major southern university and a nonprofit organization. Most of this time is spent in the natural range of longleaf pine which stretches from southeastern Virginia through eastern Texas.

Examining my calendar, I saw a scheduled presentation in west Alabama on an early Monday afternoon, followed by presentations in south Mississippi from Tuesday through Thursday of the same week. Since travel time allowed, I decided to schedule a book signing somewhere in east Mississippi while traveling between venues. Things didn’t work out quite the way I expected them to.
I’d be passing through Waynesboro, Mississippi on my west, so I got on Google and looked up contact information for the one bookstore in a pretty big area that did not limit itself to Christian publications.
I called them up, and a pleasant young lady answered the phone. I said “I’m looking for a bookstore in Waynesboro, would that be you?” She assured me it was and after I explained that I was looking for a venue for a book signing, she said “I’ll let you talk with the owner.” She passed the phone over and another feminine voice asked if she could help me.

“Yes, I’m giving a talk around Grove Hill on a Monday afternoon, and then I’m headed over for a workshop in Hattiesburg. I was wondering if you would be interested in hosting a book signing.”

She said “Tell me about your book.” So far so good.

“It’s being published by the University of Alabama Press. It’s nonfiction. It’s about hunting feral pigs and land management.” This was the usual introductory line that I start off with before going into a more detailed explanation while referencing all the great reviews that have been coming in.

She cut me off, “I’m not interested. Thank you.” And she hung up on me!

Now, if I had been calling a book store in San Francisco or Los Angeles and I had gotten this response, I don’t think I would have been quite as shocked. But in fact, I have called bookstores in LA and the Bay City, and no one has come close to being this rude to me!
This was Waynesboro, Mississippi for God’s sakes! It’s a little off the beaten path and it is completely surrounded by: forests, feral hogs, and people who should be very much interested in my book.

I had planned on calling other venues to fill a few holes in my calendar, but I put the phone down after that kick in the gut. Call me over-sensitive, but I’m just not used to be treated like scum because I was trying to set up a book signing.
After thinking it over a bit more, I believe I should have used my other book description.

When I first started planning my book tour I called a friend who’s a professor at Humbolt State University to see if I could lecture to some classes while on my west coast leg of my tour. Considering the students and professors I’ve known from Humbolt, I constructed a slightly more evocative description of my book:
“When you open this book you will smell smoke and the pages will drip blood and bourbon.

This is a true story of a goal set and pursued relentlessly.  It’s an accounting of an 11-state, odyssey over a 12-month period in which I pursue and kill feral hogs using every means available. I describe the hunts, how I saw the pigs affecting their environment, how the pigs came to be in the areas I hunted, and how the land managers viewed these pigs and were addressing the invaders.
In the end, I believe the reader will find, as I did, that pigs are but one symptom of a larger disease.”
I practiced this talk on my five-year old son. When my advance copies finally arrived he asked me “Is this the book with smoke and blood?”
So the big book debut/kickoff is Saturday September 1st. It’s my first book. It’s all new to me. I’d be happy to answer any questions that arise.

Among other topics I’m considering:
How to get into venues – that don’t immediately hang up on you like that rude woman in Waynesboro did!
How sales go at different venues.
Ways to publicize different venues.
Ways to get your book into the mass media.
The larger world of hog hunting literature.
The larger world of literature associated with longleaf pine.
Authors I know, and advice they’ve given me.
Taking my book back to the small town I grew up in.
Tying in book events with University lectures.
How I lined up my publisher.
How to survive on feral pork, squirrel, and boiled peanuts.
Whatever else comes to mind over the coming one-year post publishing.