Thursday, January 23, 2014

Nine-year anniversary - What took so long?

Well, yes, nine years and I do hate to admit it, but it took that long for the Lucky Lobsters- my first children's book that has two sequels yet-to-be-published-to gain traction. 110 copies might not seem a lot but after the book became lost in one of the myriad deserts of the publishing world, 110 is like it dove into a freshwater lake. I do know or believe I know what happened. I'll get to that shortly.
The point of this tale is to underscore to aspiring writers in particular that patience, persistence and endurance (I know nine years' worth sounds like a joke) is useful if not necessary for many authors in today's writing market.  "Just stay with it and hope for the best" is a common piece of advice. When I first started a retail business some years ago, an older gentleman fellow merchant told me, " You gotta keep shooting."  Yes, true in the figurative sense. 'Don't give up', 'stay the course', 'keep on truckin' ', 'don't give up the ship,' etc. Then one day you just sort of forget about it and the book can sink into oblivion.
In my case, I consciously made a decision to not promote it in any way in the very beginning, just to see what would happen, I guess. Also, then, I hated the idea of promoting a creative product (I even hated the idea of my book as a 'product.') It would, 'rise to the top,' I told myself, or it would go unnoticed until some future time.
Up until early 2013, I did nothing almost to improve the book's prospects. However, I had started reading some of the expert bloggers such as my personal favorites, Jeff Bullas )and Joe Warnimont and I began to understand that self promotion as a writer these days isn't simply optional, it is crucial to a writer's success.
So, I revamped the book, gave it a new glossy cover using Google's Picassa and Createspace's wonderful tools, added some pages including a bio and several glowing New York City teacher reviews (all friends of mine, of course) and voila, I had a new product that looked ten times better than the original one that looked sickly in comparison (coloration etc.)
Still not much happened. A few copies sold here and there. My sister and my niece and my other relatives bought some. All very encouraging. But the book remained fairly unnoticed on Amazon and Barnes & Noble, etc.
Out of the blue one day last fall I got an email from an NYC teacher who I didn't know and she had just happened to see this "wonderful" book on Amazon and asked if I would speak to a group of NYC teachers about my book as they were about to have a workshop designed to establish units/curricula in the city schools regarding animal rights literature. Well, that was a nice opportunity but unfortunately I had just retired from the NYC school system and was in the process of becoming busy with other enterprises in New Hampshire to where I had relocated in September. However, this teacher had purchased 15 copies to distribute at the workshop. There were some sales during the holiday season but I had begun to be doubtful -given the book's previous history- that anything much would occur. Then on Jan. 19 I was about to check a poetry book I was compiling on my Createspace website for my daughter, a first-year UConn student, and voila, I noticed that 68 copies had sold the day before. You must understand that the most the book sold at any one time prior to then was 15 (October, 2013)and before that only one or two at a time. The next day someone purchased another 42 copies. Talk about pleasant surprises.Well, of course, 110 is okay but now (we humans are never satisfied) I'm hoping for the explosion across America's school systems and the movie. Somewhere in the process I hope to have another couple of thousand to hire the book's illustrator again, Jennifer Taylor, of Victoria, British Columbia, as I believe no-one else could capture what she was able to do in terms of the underwater world - we're both divers - and humor she helped to inject into the story. The next book is entitled, The Lobster Dance. Stay tuned, but don't hold your breath.