SLIGHTLY OFF THE MARK
People may think I brag too much about having written five books (some people think I don’t brag enough, but they’re other writers). If I do, there are two good reasons: First, hey—I wrote five books. It takes some effort, even to write a bad one.
Writing a good one is harder, of course. What I don’t often mention is that I didn’t write five books—I’ve finished lots more. The others are the bad ones. In the business they’re called “trunk books”, because that’s where they need to stay. Other occupations would call such a thing “training”.
The other reason I brag about them is because I want to sell them. I want to sell them so I can write more, which I guess makes writing a kind of addiction.
More and more, publishers ask authors for a business plan, along with their book submission. It’s pretty much what you think it is: a written plan for how you’ll help promote and sell your stories once they’re published.
The problem is, most authors are horrible business people. Have you ever heard the term “starving artist”? I rest my case.
I came up with a business plan for a submission, back in August of 2013. I told the editor of Whiskey Creek Press that I had a heavy presence in social media, which isn’t exactly unusual these days. I also pointed out that The Notorious Ian Grant had a built-in audience, since it was a sequel. Also, I explained, I was a really nice guy, and almost everyone liked me.
I had no idea if any of that was true, but this is advertising. I must have said it right, because they offered me a contract in October. It was the first time I ever liked October.
In January I got paperwork with a confirmation, and WCP announced a release date of October, 2014. Then I really liked October, as I began planning a book launch.
Unknown to me, my wife began planning a book launch party, for September. Meanwhile, I began searching for ideas to bring attention to the book.
Getting local people interested seemed easy. The book’s set mostly here in Noble County, just as Storm Chaser was, with some other scenes in the Fort Wayne area. We would revisit the fictional town of Hurricane, and add fun stuff like car chases, fires, explosions, bad guys, and puns. I brought in a new character (hint: His name is Ian Grant) who I thought carried the story with a great sense of fun.
By late July, with increasing anticipation, I began planning. There would be a cover reveal, a press release, maybe some flyers. Maybe I’d rent a billboard, or have the title tattooed to my back and go around shirtless. I began working on a series of short stories featuring Ian, which would follow him on his road trip from California to the book’s opening near Albion. As we got closer to October, I’d contact some people about book signings and displays, and make arrangements for the print version to come out near the same time. There would be problems if the release should be delayed for some reason, but overall it was a great plan.
You know what happens when I plan things.
As I mentioned in an earlier column, once in a while I check the internet to see how my sales are doing. On August 16th I went on my Amazon author’s page (I have an author’s page!) There were all my books, plus the one I had a humor piece printed in: Storm Chaser; My Funny Valentine; Storm Chaser Shorts; Smoky Days and Sleepless Nights; The No-Campfire Girls; The Notorious Ian Grant … wow. Five books of my own, plus …
I looked again. Yep, there it was for sale as an e-book. My book, the one being released in October. Next October. It had come out on August Fourteenth, a Thursday. It was now Saturday.
I went over to the Barnes and Noble website. There it was, released on Friday. There was my cover, unannounced by me.
I went over to my publisher’s website. There it was.
$3.99 as an e-book, a buck less than what Storm Chaser was selling for. This should have made me very happy, as it might mean more sales, but for the moment I was too stunned to think about it.
I’d never imagined that it might come out early. No cover reveal! No big buildup! No airplane with a banner flying behind it! No sneaking the title into a Presidential speech! And once my wife found out, she had to fess up to the book launch party plan.
I suppose the mix-up was related to my publisher being bought out by a larger company, Start Publishing. After some wailing and gnashing of teeth, which takes more skill than you might imagine, I realized it wasn’t really so bad. The book could have been delayed until February, the month from the depths of Hell. The contract could have been canceled altogether. I might never have been contracted at all.
Instead, I still have the comic capers of B-list celebrity (and need I say notorious) Ian Grant, running riot over northeast Indiana. It’s kind of hard to complain about that. (Come to think of it, showing up early is exactly the kind of thing he’d do.)
Plus, once arrangements are made for the print version to come out, I get a chance to publicize it all over again. Definitely a good news/bad news kind of thing.
I won’t even try to predict when that will be.