Welp, the title pretty much says it all, but I’m proud to announce that both of my novels are now available at Parnassus Books here in my adoptive hometown of Nashville, TN.
It was my year’s goal to get into a brick-and-mortar store, so to have it happen so soon in the year is definitely confidence-boosting. As often happens in these scenarios, I’ve already tried to parlay my good fortune by extending the reach of the book by contacting other stores.
There is a lesson about writing embedded in this somewhere. Last year, I was so insane about getting the first book out that I didn’t focus any time or attention on extending the book’s circle of influence at all. I was happy that friends and family bought it.
Wait, I won’t say that. I was sorely disappointed in moments where I checked sales and saw that no one was buying the book at all, especially when I’d put it on sale on Amazon for $.99. I wasn’t doing any promotion, besides pushing the book via FaceBook and Twitter, so I shouldn’t have been surprised, but that’s not how dreams and aspirations work.
In short, it sucked.
Overall, I moved about 600 or 700 copies of the book, but that includes free and on sale versions of the book. In a single day on the Kindle Store, Boogie House “sold” over 400 copies, but that was during the free promotion, so it’s difficult to tell how much of that can be counted as legitimate. (Meaning that I wonder if people merely picked it up because it was free and not out of interest.)
These are all things I didn’t read about in Stephen King’s On Writing. It is the truth in the indie publishing industry, but as much as it can be frustrating and belittling, it can also be entirely gratifying in a way that is almost indescribable. (See the above announcement.)
So, enough discussing the problems I’ve endured over the last year. Most of them were my fault and were the result of a lack of experience in the industry, so I can chalk them up. This year, I don’t have nearly the number of excuses. If people are going to read the book, I need to get their eyeballs accustomed to seeing my name. Here are my (modest) means for getting more recognition outside of my friends and family.
Brick and Mortar Stores
I am completely astounded that Parnassus Books would accept both Boogie House and The Devil Came Calling. Owned by uber-author Ann Patchett, Parnassus is THE bookstore in Nashville. Author events in the recent past include the likes of Jonathan Franzen and Jon Meacham.
The fact that I am in the bookstore does not entail me selling hundreds or even dozens of copies.
That’s not the point. The point is, Parnassus sees a TON of foot traffic, so people well outside of my social circle will pass by the book, see the cover, see my name. Even if people do not buy the book, they are getting used to seeing all of the particulars.
That is a beginning.
Sure, I want to sell books. Every author wants that. But more than that, I want to build a following, what those with more transparent motives call a “brand.” I am not having a ton of success in the Kindle field, and I need to address that, for sure, but I can also make some in-roads by throwing my lot in with physical bookstores.
The overall strategy here is that I will be able to build long-lasting relationships with local businesses if I am honest and upfront with them about my works. I can grow and expand to a nominal degree, if I make the right steps and grow in the right ways.
The other point here is that I am not going to try to jump into every single bookstore I can find. This is a crucial point for me: it is not about getting as many initial copies into the bookstores as possible; it’s about growing slowly and gaining a following. Maybe with the release of the third Rolson McKane book, I’ll be able to expand into more stores.
I’m picking a few locations where I might be able to thrive, my secondary hometown of Athens and my original home of Soperton, GA being a few. I’m going to have a limited stock in both places, just to see how they do. By the release of the next book, I’ll be able to coordinate this, maybe, to have books on the shelves at release.
This one is simple. I’m going to focus my attention on getting a few copies into bookstores where it is feasible for me to do so (e.g. Athens and Nashville and Soperton). This will not be a huge seller, of course, but it will help in the long run.
Today, based on how buoyed I felt by the experience of delivering books to Parnassus, I contacted a bookstore in Athens, requesting an author event for the week of my spring break.
This will not only (hopefully) ingratiate me to the bookseller in Athens, but it will give me a reason to promote myself. I can get in front of some people — maybe even a few strangers! — and put my best foot forward. Seeing that I am a dude and not just some robot on the internet trying to steal money from people for a shoddy product, it will help. I’m also thinking that it will give me credibility in all the ways I want credibility.
This one is a little bit more tricky. As a self-published author, I should research cons very carefully and come prepared for them, but this is a truth for most things, so it sounds like a copout.
So, with that in mind, I’m going to attend one convention this year. I need to wet my feet, but I also don’t want to jump into something for which I am ill-prepared, so it has to be a step-by-step process.
The Killer Nashville con is a mystery / crime convention is one that I think would benefit me, so I’m going to look into doing that one. I have few to no details on how this will affect my writing career, so I’m going to hold off from speculating. For now.
The Little Things
I’m also planning on doing a few “little things” to get the books out there. One small idea is printing up bookmarks and placing them in coffee shops around the locations mentioned above. They’d be a way to just have my name in the mix, and even though it’s pretty old school, it might actually drum up some business.
What I did here was, I googled “custom bookmarks” and chose a company called Overnight Prints. Then, I used fiverr.com — what an amazing resource for hired contractors — and had someone mock-up a bookmark for me, including my social media accounts and so forth. Now, I’ll just get them printed up and leave them a few places in and around Nashville, Athens, and Soperton.
And that’s about it. I’m not going overboard, but the few things I am going to do will hopefully up my Q Rating — remember that? I guess it’s Klout now — and hopefully provide me with a few new readers and a stronger “brand.” Feel free to comment below to provide some of your own pointers on how to gain a readership in this age of social media.