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 Spill. http://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.