Monday, July 16, 2012
Being extremely new to the publishing world- and when I say new, I'm like a hot shiny penny right off the press. I can admit it: I have no idea what I'm doing.
I have the stories in my head (along with other important information like baseball stats and historical short people).
So I put the 'stories' on paper. I parent them. I caress and nurture them until they are grown and mature enough to send away. I polish them up to look their very best and bid them adieu- hoping for a kind world to take them in with open arms.
Sometimes it happens. Sometimes it doesn't. The majority of the time I receive the sweetest little 'We love you, but you suck' rejection letter.
I'll take the letter to my desk in my personal library. I will sip a single malt scotch on the rocks and chew on a Cuban cigar, all the while developing my plan to take out all of the talented writers in this world.
No, no, I'm only joking now. I do not have a personal library.
I have decided that there is nothing worse than trying to sell yourself. I'm not a salesman. I cannot barter to save my life. In fact, I have often offered more money if I felt that someone is selling me something for less than its value.
The marketing part of writing a book is just not for me. I'd rather give my stories away if I could afford to do so. I'm not looking to make money- just to come out even and tell a story that is burning inside of me to whomever will listen. My family. My cats. Random school children I see at playgrounds.
But alas, publishing companies are not keen on the idea of not getting a return on their money invested in publishing cost.
Now, since I had not sold myself- er- marketed myself in a few weeks, I decided that yesterday I'd give it a shot at the quaint little Aviation Museum near my place of work. The museum's gift shop is full of everything aviation and Navy related, and run by a little old man in his 70's along with his little old wife. According to him, she was the boss. He just kept the shelves stocked.
I had already sold him a dozen copies of My Mom Hunts Submarines to carry in the store. I wanted to see if he would be interested in my second book that just came out, All Hands on Deck! Dad's Coming Home! (Overkill on exclamation marks?) And naturally, I thought that the Aviation Museum would be the best place to sell books about the military.
When I arrived, one of the volunteers ran off to get the little old man. I browsed the store, killing time as I waited. And there it was- in the children's section, only 3 of my books remained! I was ecstatic! I had sold 9 books! A small but very important victory.
I thought perhaps he would even want to buy more of My Mom Hunts Submarines too!
I met him with a smile as he walked into the room.
Sweet Old Man: [sincerely smiling] Oh, hello there.
Me: Hi! I'm Julia. [holding out my hand for him to shake.]
Sweet Old Man: Oh, yes, yes. I remember you wrote the book.
Me: Yes! [whoa, simmer down now. Don't look crazy excited. I simmer down and clear my throat.]
I did write the book. I was just in the neighborhood and thought I'd stop in and see how the book was doing. Oh, and if you're interested, I actually wrote another one. This one's for the dads in the Navy. [see how I slid that in there all smooth like honey]
Sweet Old Man: [Looking down and shaking his head] Well, you know. I'm having a hard time pushing the books of yours that I have.
Me: [Confused...] Oh really? Well... I saw that you only had 3 copies left. Do you have the rest of them in storage?
Sweet Old Man: Oh, oh no. I don't keep them in storage. You gave me 6 copies, right?
Me: Well, actually Sir, I gave you 12. I still have the invoice-
Sweet Old Man: Oh, that's okay. Yes, well my wife, see, she's the boss. I just keep the shelves stocked.
Me: Uh-huh. [ I nod. This is not new information.]
Sweet Old Man: [holding hand to ear and getting so close I can smell his aftershave] You'll have to speak up honey. I'm 75 years old and I have a hard time hearing young ladies like yourself.
Me: Oh yes sir. I understand.
Old Man: Those are nice earrings you have.
Me: [That was... random.] Well thank you very much.
Old Man: Well dear, how about this. How about I throw one of these new books of yours on the table here next to the old one and we'll see how it does. If I can sell it, well then, I'll buy some more from you.
Me: Okay... [I guess it's better than nothing. I'm thinking he's not going to pay me for that book he just threw on table.]
Old Man: I know you're just trying to grow your business. It's not easy to write a good book.
Me: Um, yes. [Unsure how to take that]
Mean Old Man: Well, common now. It was sure nice of you to stop by. [gives me hug]
Me: [Perhaps he's not completely mean- just honest. Ugh, why do people have to be so honest?] Well thank you very much, Sir. [realizing he can't hear me, I increase my volume] It was good to see you again. I will stop in again sometime.
Not-So-Bad Old Man: Yes, dear. Stop in again sometime when you want to buy something.
[Again not too sure how to take that one...]
And so I left, feeling slightly perplexed. Did I get rejected again? At least when the big companies do it, they spell out YOU SUCK. Well more or less.
This entire endeavor of writing and marketing has been a slow, and slightly painful learning process. Okay, really painful. I'm definitely developing nerves of steel. Like most everyone, I have no idea if I'm going to be living on the street someday, trying to sell tattered books made out of yellowed notepads from my bicycle basket.
If we are not careful, we all can let the "you're just not good enough's" get us down. It can make us want to quit and be realistic. Go get a practical job. But for some reason, I just can't be practical. Not about this, anyway.
I still have my day job- which is good or else I'd be starving. That's practical, right? But I believe that one just never knows what may lie around the next corner. In a single day, our lives can change, and all of the rejections will finally make sense as they have led us to that point. And maybe then I can quit my day job. Maybe.
“A boo is a lot louder than a cheer.”
― Lance Armstrong
“When you're following your inner voice, doors tend to eventually open for you, even if they mostly slam at first.”
― Kelly Cutrone, If You Have to Cry, Go Outside: And Other Things Your Mother Never Told You