One month ago, I wrote about buying 988 copies of Anything But Simple to resell. “Ask me a year from now how that’s going for me,” I said.
Four weeks later, I have a report. So far, I have sold or given away 428 of those books, which leaves me a remainder of 560. I have attended five book signings in Wisconsin, Pennsylvania, and Virginia, and sold books at four separate shows/farmers markets in Indiana, Pennsylvania, Wisconsin, and Minnesota. I have given an author talk in Pittsburgh. I have stopped at various bookstores to offer the book to them.
I haven’t actually made any money.
I still need to make back my initial cost, and when I balance my expenses with profits on the books I have sold so far—what with gas, lodging, booth fees—I am mostly breaking even. But. I still have 560 books left to sell, and I believe I have gotten smarter in using my limited resources. Also, I am learning a lot.
For one, I have learned that it’s HARD WORK to sell a book. I understand the concept of publishing and marketing a whole lot better now. I know WHY all the how-to-be-an-author books I’ve ever read tell you to “know your audience.” I understand WHY advertisement and publicity are so important. And I understand WHY it’s important to be able to say succinctly, preferably in a single sentence, just what exactly your book is about.
All that makes sense to me now because I know how it feels to stand behind a booth with streams of people walking past who have no idea of who I am and little interest in a book about which they know nothing.
I also know how it feels to present my book to a warm and receptive audience who are delighted to hear what I have to say. Whether they are familiar with me through a friend, through our mutual interests, through reading my blog or watching my book trailer, that spark of familiarity makes all the difference in the world.
I am learning other things about being an author. I know how it feels to hold conversations with people who suddenly know a lot more about me than I do about them, maybe people that I’ve waved and smiled at all my life without a second thought. And I’ve assumed that they assume that I am just like everyone else in my circle of friends and family, which is a comfortable and pleasant state of affairs. There is no judgement in that likelihood, no thinking about me beyond a peremptory, Oh, that’s Ted Miller’s daughter, isn’t it? She’s teaching school, isn’t she? Or was it mission work? Like a thousand other Mennonite girls in a thousand other rural communities.
Now all of a sudden I feel very…noticeable. I remember how OPEN I was in my story, how blatantly honest, and I wonder what they are thinking. Were they offended by my words? Touched? Turned off? Bemused? Of course, if it’s anything but a positive emotion, they won’t mention it. People don’t.
But I am learning there are certain words in the author experience that make everything else worthwhile. Those words are: “It’s like you were telling my story,” and, “That’s exactly what I’ve experienced, but I didn’t know anyone else was like me.” I have heard those words from people I never expected to hear them from, people I had NO IDEA could relate to my innermost self in any way.
It’s like going into a dark cave where you think no one has been before. The way is long and winding and you get lost and you’re scared. To give yourself courage, you write big on the wall in the light of your flashlight, “Luci was here.” And then you go on and stumble into daylight and someone comes up to you and says, “I saw your name. I was there too.”
And suddenly that cave feels cozy and manageable instead of dark and scary. There is loved experience in it. Shared experience. You aren’t alone anymore.