Novel Breads and Hard Selling Authors

On Saturday, I had the pleasure of taking part in the Beaver County BookFest. An exhibition of 50+ authors gathered in a fancy tent positioned in Beaver, PA's Irvine Park. It was my first time in the town of Beaver. It's adorable! Even with remnants of Hurricane Gordon soaking the streets, Beaver looked warm and welcoming.

The sun shining on the main street in Beaver, PA. I hope to see this in person
one day. On Saturday it was quite gray and puddly and I didn't photograph it.
This was my first experience with attempting to sell my book to real humans in person. It's safe to say that my pitch needs work. The sales totals for the day were Magic Ear Kids (3), Hondo (0). Also, people didn't even want my spiffy free bookmarks. And all three copies sold went to blood relatives. So... a learning experience!

My table was split 50/50 between No Room for Hondo & Magic Ear Kids.
The fairy lights and doll-sized crib were crowd favorites. The books, not so much!

It was a long day (9am-4pm) with lots of interesting adventures (box lunch! porta-potty that flushes!), but I've pared the list down to the top three...

Notable Happenings at the Book Fair

  1. A few weeks before the BookFest, I received a note from the event organizer about a unique opportunity. One of the vendors, Novel Breads, wanted authors to submit quotes to be baked into artisan bread loaves that would be sold at the event. Of course, I had a lot of questions. How is this possible? Could I eat my words?

    I submitted quotes from the Magic Ear book and Hondo. Days later, the Novel Breads baker contacted me to say that she'd selected the quote from Hondo!!!

    This was the most exciting thing that has happened in my writing career to date. I beat a path to the Novel Bread tent and purchased a loaf of delicious bread with my very own words inside. Then I purchased a loaf called "Don't Cry Over Spelt Coconut" with a quote from David B. Seaburn's Parrot Talk inside. And then I ate a lot of bread!

    Here I am with my No Room for Hondo bread
    on Sunday morning after a nice long night of post-BookFest sleep.
  2. Most of the day was spent greeting people as they passed my table. Occasional interest in one or both stories warranted longer conversation than the typical pleasantries. I talked to lots of people. Only one conversation stood out.

    Mid-morning, an elderly couple approached. A woman, easily nearing eighty-years-old, told me that she wasn't at the book fair to buy books. She'd written a story, what she could only describe as a personal tale "about a boy," and she was doing research about getting it published. She wrote it all by hand, she told me, and she figured she'd need to type it. She has an old typewriter, but it's not very good and people have told her that she should put it into a computer. The woman asked me all about self-publishing with CreateSpace and wanted to know how I got my stories put into printed books. When she'd satisfied her curiosity, the woman took her equally aged husband's hand and slowly walked away.

    Somehow learning that this elderly woman has a handwritten story tucked away that she still dreams of publishing was really inspiring to me. I hope she finds a way to share her words with us.
  3. While we were all setting up, I overheard one author telling another that you "have to talk to people." She offered anecdotal evidence that "Last year, I sat next to a young girl that didn't talk to people and she sold two books all day!"

    Later in the day, my husband manned my table (in case of theft or a sudden influx of customers) and I took a lap around the tent with my daughter. We encountered the author whose advice I overheard and boy, did she ever talk to us! She was one of about four writers engaged in hard selling tactics.

    Do you like fantasy? What would you say to a story in a world where chickens rule over people that have been turned into eagles? Did you know this is a trilogy? Are you in the mood for love?

    This was rather a successful tactic on a rainy Saturday in Beaver. People were buying books from the authors that pitched the hardest. I observed the phenomenon and promptly went to my table where I talked a woman out of buying my book. She wanted to buy Magic Ear Kids for her thirteen-year-old daughter. It just wasn't a good fit!

    It occurs to me that I might have to let go of this fantasy of my book finding the perfect reader. It's not always going to land in a home where it will be read and loved and cherished. Someone might buy it and hate it. They might never read it. They might even give it a bad review. Perhaps I should let it go.

    But I really think that thirteen-year-old would have been befuddled and disappointed. I hope her mom went and bought her a love story about chickens and eagles. I hear it's a trilogy.

#IWSG -- The Publishing Path

Purpose: To share and encourage. Writers can express doubts and concerns without fear of appearing foolish or weak. Those who have been through the fire can offer assistance and guidance. It’s a safe haven for insecure writers of all kinds!

Posting: The first Wednesday of every month is officially Insecure Writer’s Support Group day. Post your thoughts on your own blog. Talk about your doubts and the fears you have conquered. Discuss your struggles and triumphs. Offer a word of encouragement for others who are struggling. Visit others in the group and connect with your fellow writer - aim for a dozen new people each time - and return comments. This group is all about connecting! Be sure to link to this page and display the badge in your post. And please be sure your avatar links back to your blog! If it links to Google+, be sure your blog is listed there. Otherwise, when you leave a comment, people can't find you to comment back.

Let’s rock the neurotic writing world!

Our Twitter handle is @TheIWSG and hashtag is #IWSG.

Every month, we announce a question that members can answer in their IWSG post. These questions may prompt you to share advice, insight, a personal experience or story. Include your answer to the question in your IWSG post or let it inspire your post if you are struggling with something to say.

Remember, the question is optional!

September 5 question - What publishing path are you considering/did you take, and why?

The awesome co-hosts for the September 5 posting of the IWSG are Toi Thomas, T. Powell Coltrin, M.J. Fifield, and Tara Tyler!

My Publishing Path

Self-publishing through CreateSpace was a natural choice for my first two books, No Room for Hondo and Magic Ear Kids. Both books appeal to very small niches (Hondo: women with young children or women with a vague memory of having young children/Magic Ear: parents of kids with hearing loss) and I did not get widespread interest from publishers from the handful of queries/none queries sent out.

With a very low achieving goal of having a non-zero amount of people read either work, self-publishing offered a quick(er) way of getting my words out into the world. And now they're out there. Job done.

There remains the little matter of book number three. Tentatively titled, More Than a Bad Teacher, the work in progress is a lighthearted bit of women's fiction that chronicles a rough year in the life of a deplorable seventh-grade language arts teacher. With stories ripped from the daily debriefings of my middle schooler, I imagine it will turn out to be a quick fun read that will make you glad that you don't have anything to do with middle school.

Queries will be sent out for the bad teacher book. Perhaps Twitter pitches too. But if those efforts fail, I'll self-publish again. Maybe this time I've even found a slightly larger niche: people that love remembering the horrors of seventh grade.

IWSG -- Publishing Pitfalls

It's Insecure Writer's Support Group time again with co-hosts Erika Beebe, Sandra Hoover,Susan Gourley, and Lee Lowery!

Check them out and take a look at a few new authors over at the IWSG sign up page

This month's question is: What pitfalls would you warn other writers to avoid on their publication journey?

Having no expectations for publication (I subscribe to the theory that even one reader makes it a success!), there haven't been any pitfalls on my journey. It's all just smooth sailing with zero to four copies sold per month.

Maybe that's my pit!

It worked out well that I don't have much to say this month because I've had an inquiry from a fellow author. Though I tried mightily to convince Louie that the Big Teeth isn't the place to reach a big audience, he still wanted to be here. He's written a children's book, Haley's Friendship Challenge. It sounds like a meaningful story that would be helpful to kids adjusting to a new school or neighborhood.

Good luck, Louie! If you've written a book and you'd like it to be seen by as many as twelve unique visitors, send me your info.

Topaz Publishing has just released Louie Lawent's new children's book. "Haley's Friendship Challenge" is a beautifully illustrated story about a girl who moves to a new town. Unfortunately, she isn’t fitting in and she misses her old friends. For her birthday, Haley receives a much-coveted surprise that she shares with no one. However, her feelings change when she feels empathy for a neighborhood dog that has also lost her pals. After weeks of loneliness, Haley realizes that things are not getting better for either of them; it’s time to make new friends. 

Civility in Real America

I'm consuming way too much news. For a while (read: during the 2016 election), I was ignoring most everything. I deleted that Apple News app and put myself on a media blackout.

I do think I was happier then. Obliviousness has its benefits.

Then the world became too dangerous to ignore. The headlines are burdensome, but it's become obvious that ordinary people need to pay attention. Bad things are happening.
Living a quiet life in a sleepy suburb north of Pittsburgh, it's easy to delude oneself into believing that these things are all happening elsewhere. The border with Mexico. Big cities. DC area restaurants. Even the frequent protests calling for police accountability in the shooting death of Antwon Rose can seem distant though they're really just a 30-minute drive away.

Here in southwestern PA 'burbs, we're all just minding our own business. Those trendy "elite" fads take years if not decades to make it here. We're insulated. So even in these tumultuous times, we're living our lives the same way we always have. Aren't we?

Maybe not.

A few weeks ago, circumstances led me to put in an order for a Wal-mart pickup for 6pm on a Monday. I've used the Wal-mart grocery pickup regularly for about six months (this is not an ad, my blog is too cool for paid promotions). My usual plan is to grocery shop via app in the evening and schedule the pickup for the first available in the morning. On this particular Monday, I missed it. Needing groceries and totally unwilling to actually go INTO the Walmart, I took the evening appointment.

It hadn't rained in weeks, so it was Alanis Morisette ironic that on the evening of my sojourn to Wally World, the area was pummelled by torrential downpours. Some areas were hit with 2" of rain in an hour. There was significant flooding.

My husband drove the whole family over to the Pittsburgh Mills where we were to pick up the Walmart order and pop into Sam's Club for items that were absolutely required for the next day. We arrived at the grocery pickup parking lot. No one came out. Three more cars parked to wait for their groceries. No one came out.

Finally, I called the phone number on the sign in front of our parking space. The friendly grocery pickup person said that they don't come out in an active lightning storm (makes sense) and I should go to the store to get the order.

So that's a good bit of info for future Walmart pickup orders. We managed to fling the food into the trunk without getting completely soaked. Just mostly soaked and there was still Sam's Club.

We decided that I would go into the store with my daughter and my husband would come get us when we were done. He could put the car under the loading dock awning at the appropriate time.

We set out to effect this plan. It was like Armageddon in the Sam's Club. All of the emergency exit doors had several inch deep puddles extending in a six-foot diameter semi-circle into the store. Employees were running around with trash cans, moving pallets, and catching torrents of water coming in through the roof.

Meanwhile, in the parking lot, my husband assessed the situation and determined it would be least disruptive for him to maneuver the car and put just the back end under the roof. He was in constant communication with me (that was fun in the floody store) and was sure not to inconvenience any other shoppers looking for relief from the rainstorm.

The owner of a big black pickup truck that had parked under the roof for his ENTIRE Sam's Club shopping trip returned just as my husband was getting out to open the trunk.

"You better not *&^@ing block me!" was his opener.
"Excuse me?"
"You better not be @#%%ing blocking my truck!"
"It will be okay," my husband said. "You have room to get out."
There may have been even more expletives from the truck guy, I'm not sure.
"You have a blessed day, sir," my husband says.
The truck driver drove off (he could do that because my husband hadn't blocked him) and gave my husband the finger.

At this moment, I came out of the store with my cart and my daughter. I was feeling pretty smart because it was still coming down in buckets and here was my ride where I could load stuff in near complete dryness. And Tim, my husband, is smiling and waving at this black truck.

"Did you see someone you know?" I asked.
"I made friends with that guy," he said.

We exchanged storm stories on the way home and marveled at this mature (nearly elderly) gentleman's word choice. How did he manage to get so instantly angry? Does a lack of national civility work its way into our insulated bubble that quickly?

There's no way to know for sure. It is frightening to think that our fellow humans are walking around with that much rage inside them at any given moment. It's as though we're missing positive role models and our calm suburban lifestyle isn't that insulated at all. Perhaps this loss of small-town civility is a bigger warning sign than the daily national news headlines. It will definitely be harder to ignore.