Pity the Squirrel


I’m having too much fun with readers’ responses.  If I can keep collecting reviews, observations, and questions of similar quality, I should be able to post regularly to my blog, even if I don’t have the time to think and type out original material on a semi-weekly basis. 

From John M.: 

I will keep looking for that truly bigfoot.  Did you send Dean a copy of your book?  If not, I’ll gladly drop one off at his house.  I finished reading it this weekend and thoroughly enjoyed the read.  Any regrets for having shot the female squirrel and not the male squirrel?  Shooting the male squirrel would have been a scenario that most of us want; die instantaneously while in the throws of passion.   Of course probably the decent thing would have been to wait till he was finished.  Of course, if that squirrel was like me, you would have been waiting for hours and missed the opportunity to shoot pigs.  Similarly, if that squirrel was like Rhett that squirrel would have been done and out of there before you could get your crosshairs on him.   So, thinking out loud, you probably did the right thing shooting the female.

Tropical Storm Lee Drowns Book Sales

My Book Debut on September 1st is worthy of a blog entry all to itself, so I hope to come back to that event shortly.

I set myself a lofty goal in publicizing my book.  I would attend and promote Year of The Pig (YOTP) at 100 events before the one-year anniversary of my being published.  Because I already have a full-time job, I fully recognize the sacrifices this will entail.  I will spend as much time on the road with my book tour, as I had spent on the road hunting during the Year of The Pig

This is my first book.  While I am recognized within the small professional world that focuses upon restoring and managing the longleaf ecosystem, in the literary world I am a complete unknown.  For YOTP to have any chance of persisting and furthering my hoped for career as a published author, I must devote as much energy into publicity, as I invested in writing and publishing this book. 

My first event occurred in June, 2011, a little over two months before my official publish date of September 1st.  I was interviewed live for a web conference called Capital Ideas, by the Alabama Forest Owners Association (AFOA).  The audience, true to its name, is primarily forest landowners – a target demographic for my book.  http://www.afoa.org/CILive/CI1107.htm

In the week just before publishing, I stopped by our local newspaper to show them a copy of YOTP and tell them about the book debut.  It resulted in an article:  http://www.andalusiastarnews.com/2011/08/20/local-biologist-pens-novel-on-yearlong-feral-pig-hunt/

While this was valuable and appreciated coverage, I decided not to count this towards my goal of 100 Events.

Next, was an 8:15 AM live interview on August 31st with our local radio station – WAOO 103.7 FM out of Andalusia. http://www.waao.com/  Once again, it was great coverage the day before my book debut and because it required my active participation, I called this “Event #2”.

Event #3 was the Book Debut on September 1st.  It was a smashing success. 

Event #4 was a short notice book signing at my favorite local coffee and bakery in Andalusia – the Sugar Rush http://www.sugarrushbakery.com/  It was scheduled for Sept 2nd from 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM.   Because I was slow in talking to a printer, I didn’t have posters and fliers quite yet.  I’m hoping to mail materials to future venues well before future scheduled signings. 

The Sugar Rush doesn’t have many author signings, but they thought my best chance for sales would be around the lunch hour.  They let me pull together two tables and I put up a large foam-board with the cover of my book, about five hog skulls with protruding tusks, and a stack of books.  I was ready to sell.

Eventually, a young lady walked over and asked me about YOTP.  I explained what it was about and she appeared intrigued.  She asked her husband if he had $17.00, and he forked it over for my first cold book sale.  

As the lunch crowd trickled in almost everyone avoided eye contact.   Apparently, a real live author with books was so far outside their comfort zone that they refused to even acknowledge my existence.   I penned an entry to my journal, “It is an incurious world in which we live.”

My next sale was to Karan, a friend who had already read my book and taken home three copies.  She stopped by to purchase copy #4 for a friend of hers.  I appreciatively signed it and handed it over.

I guarantee first-time authors – publishing a book gives your real friends an opportunity to shine.   I’ll never forget the many contributions that some of my friends and family made in bringing this project to fruition.   

At the end of two hours, I had sold three copies of YOTP.   It’s only 15 miles from my house to Sugar Rush, so my investment was a 30 mile round trip and three hours of my time.  From my discussions with other first-time authors, this wasn’t a bad outcome.  Perhaps I netted $1.00 an hour for my time. 

After Sugar Rush I swung by my house before driving about 125 miles south to Page & Palette in Fairhope, Alabama.  It was the First Friday Art Walk and there were supposed to be hundreds, perhaps even thousands of patrons walking the streets of Fairhope for the scheduled outing.  I had high hopes until I hit the outer bands of Tropical Storm Lee.   By the time I made it to Section Street, the bottom had fallen out and rain was falling in torrents. 

Page & Palette is one of the best known bookstores in Alabama and it is located in one of the most interesting communities in America.  Fairhope was founded many decades previously with the lofty goal of being a Socialist Utopia.  Just in case you didn’t buy or get that on the first reading, Fairhope was originally founded in Lower Alabama as a Socialist Utopia.  Look it up. 

Page and Palette pulls in thousands of tourists and some of the biggest name authors out there.  I was very happy for the opportunity to sign and sell my books at Page & Palette, and they had done a considerable amount of advertising prior to the First Friday Author Roundup.  http://www.pageandpalette.com/event/mark-j-hainds

There were five other authors in attendance and three of them had driven all the way from Decatur, Alabama.  Their trip made my 125-mile drive look like a short hop, skip, and a jump. 

There were four books on display in the small coffee shop at Page & Palette.  On the table to my left was In Search of Sanctuary by Jaime Kirby. She was self-published through Create Space, and the cover of her book was just gorgeous.   http://www.amazon.com/Search-Sanctuary-Jamie-Kirby/dp/1453778276/ref=sr_1_1?s=books&ie=UTF8&qid=1315247798&sr=1-1

Sharing the same table with Jaime Kirby were her author relatives, referred to as “K. C. Lindberg.”  They also published their first book through Create Space: Rise of The Red Crescent.  Their book description reads “What if after 9/11, the terrorists moved into the US and then struck the nation from inside across the Eastern, Central, and Pacific times zones in coordinated and total surprise. This is the premise of Rise of the Red Crescent based on a dream and the research of a mother/son team in AL.”

Although I have not read it, their description to patrons came across as something akin to an updated “Red Dawn”. 

At one point, the son of the mother/son team that wrote Red Crescent glanced suspiciously at the book I was reading – The Family by Jeff Sharlett.  While his newly written and published book was a fictional story of Muslims rising up and conquering America, Mr. Sharlett’s book was a well documented nonfiction accounting of how one branch of Christian Fundamentists are seizing the levers of control in our goverment as we speak.  This made for an interesting dichotomy in our worldviews, and I pledged myself to avoid political discourse at all costs.   

I was the only author in the group who was not self-published.  Out of curiosity, I checked their Amazon sales rank two days after the event.  At that time, they were well ahead of YOTP.  This served to keep my “published author ego” well in check.

Ilene Baskette sat at another nearby table.  She is one of multiple authors of a childrens’ book series called Boat House Buddies: Deal With the Big Spillhttp://boathousebuddies.com/  I suggested that she contact a good friend of mine who is an author, producer, and director, named – Roger Reid.  Roger was a producer and director for a documentary film on the Gulf Oil Spill that one two Emmy Awards in 2011! 

http://discoveringalabama.org/   There may be room for collaboration with their educational efforts.

Tropical Storm Lee had virtually emptied the streets of Downtown Fairhope.  The crowd was quite sparse, but the hardy pedestrians who wandered into Page & Palette were much more receptive to interaction with the handful of authors on site.  I sold two books.

On the surface, it certainly appeared to be a poor investment of time and mileage.  Coffee, a hamburger, coffee, eight hours of my time, coffee, and a 250 mile round-trip worked out to about $100 dollars spent for each $1.00 earned in royalties. I think it was worth it.

Page & Palette had publicized my book in multiple media formats and thousands of people would potentially come across a blurb on my book.  Page & Palette had purchased multiple copies of YOTP and my book was displayed prominently.  Other big-name independent book stores in the South would see my name headlined at Page & Palette, so it should assist with booking future book signings.  Put simply, this was laying the necessary groundwork upon which I would structure my ongoing book tour. 

I drove home in the rain and got into bed about 11:30 PM. The alarm was set for 3:45 AM.  It would take about 2 hours in the early morning hours to prepare for the farmers’ market and two book signings on Saturday. 

It was raining when we got up.  Tropical Storm Lee had set up shop. While the precipitation was a welcome relief to the farms, forests, creeks, rivers, and lakes of the Deep South, the timing could have been a little better.

We pulled out of Harts Bridge Rd at 6:00 AM.  At 7:45 we pulled up to an empty Palafox Farmers Market. http://www.palafoxmarket.com/  They had just called the Market because of tornado advisories for the surrounding area.  Counting dismal sales at Page & Palette, Tropical Storm Lee had just claimed its second casualty – my 8:00-10:00 book signing at the Palafox Farmers Market.

This was starting to get into my pocketbook.  Beside potential book sales, we’d now lost an estimated $200-$250 dollars in sales of wild elderberries, wild muscadine grapes, pears, jams, jellies, smoking woods, and free range eggs. 

On the bright side, we all got to visit with Mom a bit more before her flight out of the Pensacola Regional Airport.  After that we made an early delivery of eggs and pears to the East Hill Market on Ninth Street and had plenty of time for the short drive to Ever’man Natural Foods http://www.everman.org/default.asp and my scheduled 11:00 AM to 1:00 PM book signing.

At the store, Elie, the Marketing & Membership Services took ten of my books.  Ever’man sells books at 15% below suggested retail so we had to agree upon a price to the author – me.  We conducted a backwards negotiation on the price where I offered a low price over cost and she negotiated me up.  Elie explained that Ever’man had scheduled this event for the local community and they wanted to support me as one of their vendors.  They are cool people!

When Elie saw my hog skulls, she made me promise to clean and prepare one of my recent kills so she could buy the skull for addition to her bone collection.  Elie is my type of girl!

11:00 arrived and I had an audience of one.  We conversed on longleaf pine and feral hogs while the staff made an announcement to customers in the store.  At 11:15 I started my PowerPoint presentation titled “Longleaf Pine, Foraging, and Year of The Pig.”  Halfway through my talk there were about a dozen seats filled. 

I sold six books directly and Ever’Man purchased the other four copies to sell off their book rack.  Of the four scheduled events on Friday & Saturday, this was the stand-out winner. 


One Reader’s Review

I will not adequately convey how much I have invested in the publication of my first book – Year of The Pig.  At the best, I can tell you that it took more effort, determination, and sacrifice than anything I have attempted since my Master’s Program at Auburn University.  While initial reviews have been uniformly positive, I can’t help but grit my teeth and wait for the first reader/reviewer who sees more negative than positive in Year of The Pig.  In the meantime, it is comments from educated forest landowners like Paul L. that help put me at ease.  He sent the following comment today (August 30, 2011) via email, and I thought I would share it with the world at large. 

Mark, I picked up your book yesterday to check it out before the grand event and couldn’t put it down until done.  I don’t know how to entice people to pick one up, but the deal is done once that happens.  It was fun getting to know you better vicariously.  My condolences to Katia, but she must have known you well enough to share the blame.  Joseph is a lucky boy.  I grew up in AL, but wouldn’t compare to the novice “inside the fence” hunters, but thoroughly enjoyed the experience despite my inadequacies in your comfort zone.

Two questions you can answer at the meeting:

1.       How do you find anything but a large school in Pleasant Home?

2.       What happened to the intended book about panhandle flora and fauna?

Thanks for all you do helping restore the Piney Woods.

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.

My first try

This is the very beginning.  My first blog entry at Sweetbill.com occurs approximately six weeks prior to the official book debut and publish date of September 1st, 2011.  The debut party will take at the Auburn University, Solon Dixon Forestry Education Center http://sdfec.auburn.edu/ in Lower Alabama (LA).

I’ve worked out of the Dixon Center for a little over 16 years now.  My first introduction to the Dixon Center was as a Teaching Assistant (TA) for Forestry Summer Camp in the summer of 1992.  It was hot and wet that summer.  This summer (2011) started off hot and dry, but it’s getting wetter.

I didn’t know I was going to write a book in the summer of 1992.  I knew I was working my way towards a career in forestry.    Except for a few months when I toyed with the idea of become a commercial diver, and a few more years considering an island life as a SCUBA instructor, I’ve stuck with the idea that I’d be a forester.  I studied forestry for between 7 and 8 years.  I worked summers in a sawmill while I was getting my undergraduate degree.  And now I’ve worked full-time in the profession for 16+ years.

My first attempt at writing a book started about 10 years back.  It will probably take at least ten more years to bring that project to fruition.

Year of the Pig - book Pig Hunting Methods, Ethics & Land Management

I came up with the idea for Year of the Pig in early 2007.  I immediately put pen to paper, or fingers to the keyboard, and I didn’t stop until I handed in what I thought was a near finished manuscript in July, 2008. It wasn’t as polished or as finished as I thought it was.