I did something after it was clear Hurricane Ike wasn’t going to hit Key West that I hadn’t done in more than 12-years, I drove almost 500-miles to St. Augustine, Fla. I was invited to participate in the first Florida Heritage Book Festival as a panelist to discuss journalism. I was also offered two different signing opportunities for my mystery novel, “Chasin’ the Wind.” Unlike many events, the festival paid for my hotel room.
Round trip from Key West to St. Augustine took six tanks of gas, so there was no way I expected to make that cost back on book sales. In fact, I only sold eight books! One to my co-panelist, Kay Day and three to a woman who had each one personalized to different men in different mid-western cities.
“Are these old boyfriends?” I kidded her.
“No,” she laughed. “One brother and two beer-guzzling brother-in-laws.”
So, I signed the books as she directed and mentioned that there was always a good supply of cold beer in Key West and no snow, not even in the coldest months. What I saw, as I signed, were three guys reading the book, enjoying it and passing it along, or at least mentioning it.
The fifth book went to a woman who assured me a dozen members of her book club would read it also. Of course, I told her of the small print in the back of the book that didn’t allow the passing of the book along without compensation to the author. It took a second or two, but then she got the joke and laughed. (I wasn’t joking!).
An attorney, a friendly talkative guy, bought a book and talked to me about his family’s property in Key West. According to him, they own the property where West Marine is located and he was going to town to check on it.
“I thought your book might give me an idea of what to expect when I get there,” he told me. “I haven’t been there in 20-years.”
Brian Gordon Sinclair, the Canadian writer/actor who comes to town for Hemingway Days and does an incredible one-may Hemingway play, told me both the short story and novel helped him find some local hangouts he didn’t know existed. I took it as a compliment, since Brian has been coming to Key West for years.
I don’t know who bought the other books, I guess they didn’t care if they were signed or not, but I do know that more that eight people will read the book and that is good for name recognition. And, that’s what the book signings are about. Not sales, but name recognition. Though, sales are nice.
On the way to St. Augustine, Celine and I stopped in Vero Beach and had lunch with an old Key West friend, Bob Soos. How many people do you know that if you spell their name backward, it’s still right?
Since moving to Vero, Bob has created his own morning FM radio show. And, it just so happens, I will be signing in Vero on Oct. 4, at Borders/Waldenbooks, and Bob will interview me on Friday the 3rd. Free publicity, can’t hurt and the radio station will have a give-away contest, with the winner getting a signed copy of “Chasin’ the Wind.”
Promotion has a lot to do with name recognition!
My Friday panel at the festival was on journalism and my topic was “working your own backyard.” My co-panelist, journalist Kay Day, talked about national and international outlets for freelance journalists. Kay had a lot of good insight to offer the full room. She promised to review my book on her blog, so you are likely to hear more about her. She has been published in many of the country’s leading newspapers and magazines.
The festival actually had to turn people away because the Friday event sold out!
Friday night, Celine and I tried to find a place to park in Old Town, but couldn’t. The tour of the old city was great, but I’d wanted to walk around, since so many people told me it was a lot like Key West. I’ll take their word for it.
I did get to have lunch Friday with another friend who had left Key West, Jen Musselman, and her daughter Sydney. Also got to see a friend from my days in Los Angeles, Kathy Shea. Kathy was a volunteer at the festival, so she was kept pretty busy. It was nice seeing two old friends and catching up on things.
The Saturday event was free and held at the student union at Flagler College. I got to sign books from 9-10 a.m., and then headed south.
Was it worth the time and expense? Yeah, I believe so. I was told going in that promotion was as much involved as writing; and that is the truth. I’ve been to NYC, LA, and South Florida, and now North Florida, met a lot of nice people and hope created a fan base, no matter how small. www.michaelhaskins.net