Working for an independent press is, at times, a bit depressing. Unlike other traditional presses, the authors really have to sell their novels because independent presses, especially the smaller ones, don't have the distribution network that the national ones (Simon & Schuster and Penguin for examples) do. The authors have to, in essence, be their own promoters and publicists.
I am the publicist for Drinian Press, and I do what I can to promote the press and the authors. I run giveaways on Goodreads.com and post on Facebook under Drinian Press; I also register many books on www.bookcrossing.com to get books out into the hands of the reading public. In the end, word of mouth often sells a book better than I.
Despite this, there are times when my husband and I are invited to book sales where we will set up a display of all our titles and try to sell books by our various authors. Frankly, it isn't easy to convince students and other writers (as many of these open book sales are held at writers' conferences and colleges) to buy books when they have little or no money of their own and have a book to hawk as well.
We have learned to lower our expectations as to what we hope to accomplish in the sales department. If we sell a book or two, we re-evaluate whether it is worth doing a particular venue again in the future. If we sell a few more books (that is, enough sales to basically pay our expenses to get to and from the event), then we consider it worth our while. If we sell enough books to make a few dollars, well, that is fantastic, and we consider it a day well spent. In other words, we don't expect to make much money, but hope to break even. It is, after all, a way to help build the platforms for the authors and the press.
Yesterday, we spent the day in Columbus, Ohio at the Columbus State Writers' Conference. It was a day for networking and meeting some other authors as well as manning the table of Drinian Press. As I was setting out books, another author of poetry was looking over the books when she said, "I have that book!"
"Really? Are you serious?" I asked because I was flabbergasted because it was my little volume of haiku, Ohayo Haiku, that she was pointing to. It hardly sells at all because, frankly, I am not very good at promoting my own book except to suggest that it works well as a thank you gift/card because of its price. In fact, I often use it that way myself, that is, sending it in an envelope with a quick "thank you" added. I suspect that it was a copy of my book that I had sent in the past to a bookcrossing member that got sent on to Andi, but I digress.
"You're the author? I just got it from a friend in a box of books. Now, I have to read it," she said.
Frankly, that made my day: that a complete stranger recognized my book and owns it. For isn't that the goal of every writer? To see a reader with his book in hand? Or to have someone unknown say, "I've read your book, and loved it?" Don't most writers want to know that they've made a connection with someone or a lot of someones?
Anyhow, throughout the day, we had the occasion to talk some more (Andi too was working for an independent press), and she and I became friends; she even gave me a copy of her first chapbook and shared her newest poem with me.
And, yes, we sold enough books to pay for our trip, if not our time. All in all, it was a good day!
Causes Nancy Smith Supports
Doctors without Borders
American Diabetes Association