Sunday, May 6, 2012

Learning curves

Life is all about learning, of course.  I got a chance to get some life lessons just yesterday as I ventured out to see what it would take to get someone to accept my book for sales.  Considering the sheer volume of new authors and new titles that are pumped into the literary stream each year--especially now that it's ridiculously easy to self-publish--I wasn't surprised that people weren't jumping up and down to represent me.

I started out with a local library.  It's in a town of about 100,000--not too big, but bigger than my immediate stomping grounds.  Likewise, the library that services that town is about five times the size of the one just down the street from me. And that might be an understatement. Suffice it to say, the library recently hosted no less than Rick Riordan, author of the famed "Percy Jackson" series; they typically host events that pull in several hundred people. Small change compared to "big" libraries (county systems, etc.), but it's enough that the library turns away anyone not represented by "The Big 6" publishing houses (e.g. Random House, Simon and Schuster, etc.) or one of their subsidaries.

Considering that Breezy Reads is anything but "The Big 6," well... at least the lady was polite with me (and very friendly, actually) when she turned me down flat.

I learned something from my meeting with the library events director: who your publisher is may be even more important than who you, the author are, especially if you're a first-timer.  I think I'm safe in assuming that the truly "big name" authors probably wouldn't be visiting a local library to request an event anyway--they're too busy, and that's what agents and publicists are for.

Speaking of publicists, that brings me to the next stop of yesterday's short quest: a university bookstore.  It just so happened that I graduated from this university, and I thought it would be cool to be selling my book (eventually "books") there. In reflection, my encounter could easily be written into a book.

I approached the information desk, where a college-aged blond and a large, older gentleman occupied the zone with what looked very much like disinterest.  The blonde was closest, so I talked to her first.

"Hi," I said.  "I'm interested in learning how you choose which books end up on your shelves. Who would I talk to?"

She looked at me as if I were an unexpected line item that just appeared on her "to-do" list. Hooray for "service with a smile."

"You'd have to talk to him," she said, not bothering to point to the guy sitting next to her. He didn't so much as look up from what he was doing; I was pretty sure he was aware of my presence anyway.

"Okay thanks."

I took a step to my right, and addressed the portly man. Though I was certain he knew what I wanted, I repeated my question for politeness.

His enthusiasm couldn't have motivated a fire to burn a dry field. "We mostly get our material from catalogs." He held one up. "I read through about four hundred of these each season. There are three seasons. We also get recommendations from publicists."

He went on to tell me that the economy brought about a policy change that effectively cuts self-publishers (e.g. those who use CreateSpace and similar venues) out of the loop for consideration, let alone sales. He mentioned a couple of times that problems can arise when they buy from entities that don't have a return policy, which is a common ailment among self-pub authors these days.

To his credit, he was nice enough to throw me a bone. "If you'd like your book to receive special consideration, you can bring it to us, and we'll look at it."  Reading between the lines, "Please, I'm overwhelmed by the pile of work behind me, and I really don't have time to deal with some punk kid printing from a fly-by-night operation."

Honestly, I can't say that I blame him. Breezy Reads is small by age and be design; I could be any one of tens of thousands of other "no-names" out there.

But this is just the beginning.  Time, effort, and a healthy dose of Divine intervention tend to be game changers.  Here's hoping for that Divine intervention, eh?

And thus begins my journey into the land of the "actually published," as opposed to my previous two works, which were self-pubbed through an online venue that charged ridiculous rates (which is why I knew I'd never sell more than a handful of books; but that was okay--I was doing it simply for fun anyway).

More anecdotes to come, certainly.  Much legwork still to be done.

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