When I start a new book project, I name the file with an appropriate title and mark it R0 – Revision Zero. I suppose the original file could be called Draft 1 and the revision would be Draft 2. Or it could be First Draft and then Revision 1 but that annoys me. So I call the first draft R0 and the 2nd draft R1. (I know, quirky.)
Travels with Myself
A Journal of Discovery and Transition
Doug Jordan, Author
Having an MBA and managing my own consulting business for 30 years, meant I had some sense of business management, including the imperative of effective marketing and distribution. So I applied this wisdom to my book business: I did some research, I developed plans, I made calls. I made progress. But not enough. I needed help. I joined the Canadian Authors Association.
Now that [Terry Fallis] is a successful published author, he has speaking gigs all over the country. I’m not sure if his fame has reached the US. He mentions enjoying Whitehorse very much, but no mention of Wabash. I imagine he no longer drives himself to give a Wednesday afternoon talk at the Campbellford Public Library, but I could be wrong.
The marketing strategy here is to attempt to lever the word-of-mouth angle (‘word on the street’?), by far the most effective method to draw attention to your book. It’s one thing to tickle somebody’s fancy on TikTok, it’s another thing to get that amused potential buyer to become an actual buyer; she needs one more bit of encouragement. People are much more likely to buy your book if her friend recommended it than if she only saw a video. You need to get people talking about your book, and then friends telling their friends about it.
Still, how many books will they sell? This is the classic queuing problem every B.Comm. student ponders in Operations Research 299. It’s the same problem every baker ponders when trying to decide the right quantity of buns to bake. Too many means wasted inventory and costs, too few and you sell out of product and have unrealized revenue. And therein lies the big problem with book fairs.
So in seeking retail channels for our book, ‘The Treasure of Stella Bay’, we abandoned the Indigo empire and sought out local independent bookstores instead, especially those located in Ottawa (local author angle) and the Lake Ontario/Kingston region (to exploit the Amherst Island/Stella Bay locale angle). You can see my strategy here: if my book could get traction with these parochial stores, I could then lever this reputation into indie stores in the ‘big smoke’ (i.e., Toronto).
To get noticed on social media, words are not enough; even pictures are not enough. You need more than pictures to get and hold people’s attention. You need moving pictures.
And we’re not talking about black and white Charlie Chaplin movies, we’re talking talkies.
In the face of this daunting market-place for books, most Canadian writers don’t realistically expect to become rich and famous, nor even become ‘best-selling authors’; they just want to be read. (I suppose that might be said of all writers. How many aspiring American authors also live in obscurity, their books languishing in their closets, unsold, unread and unloved.)
So, facing my fears, I decided to make the Marketing and Selling of The Treasure of Stella Bay my Project for the next five months. I would try to bring my talents to bear, even if they are not my best talents, and strive for some modicum of fulfillment, if not actual joy.
It seems to me that September 1, or at least Labour Day, is more like new year than New Year. In January we drag ourselves back to work or school after ten days of Winter Solstice celebration – knowing we had 90 more days of winter to go. But in September we rouse ourselves from our summer slumbers and get on with life – new plans, new prospects, new purpose.
Still it’s the 50% of regular ‘openers’ of my notification emails who don’t click through I wonder about – why don’t they stop and read my wonderful stuff?!? But then I recalibrate my ego and allow for the fact that many of these people have busy lives, and competing interests, and haven’t the incentive (the title doesn’t appeal to them, nor even the excerpt) to click through to my blog and actually read it. I have to accept that people, even covid cloistered people, are not sitting at home counting the days until my next blog comes out.
And then there is the problem of giving and receiving feedback. Giving feedback is hard to do, which is why it is seldom actually done. Receiving feedback is hard because of our tender egos – but we self-protect by not listening, or rationalizing, or dismissing. Accepting ‘constructive’ feedback from social sources is especially hard. Who really wants ‘constructive feedback’? What we want is complimentary feedback, lots of it. How nice to have affirmation of our terrific traits and talents. But then, in the backs of our minds, there lies doubt.
Not only should the cover have a clever and pithy summary of the book which entices browsers to pick it up the and browse through it, it should also have a couple of short and sweet blurbs from noteworthy reviewers recommending the book to hesitant readers. And let’s not make too fine a point of it, anybody who makes the cover of a book with a recommending blurb must be noteworthy to the otherwise ignorant browser.
Never judge a book by its cover’ so goes the saying, but if readers never crack the cover, they will never know what they’ve missed. Not everyone will be interested in your book – not their genre, not in their present mood, they’ve already read one of your books and one was enough – but for those who might be interested in the extent of your book, they need to be captured by the essence and the essence of the book has to be demonstrated somehow in your cover.
Or how ‘bout this one, don’t let perfection be the enemy of the good. Absolutely. How many of us get mired in design detail seeking perfection (or even excellence) and never make deadlines, or even produce anything at all? But you know, the devil is in the details. And there’s that damn word ‘good’ again. What is good? Is it good enough. Good enough is hardly excellence.
My purpose in life is not necessarily to be happy so much as to be worry-free. Regardless, you can put yourself into that state by becoming absorbed whole heartedly in something. Some people can do this through ‘mindful’ meditation. I can’t. I have to do something. So I write.
I’m not sure how other authors do it [research for their books]. Highly successful authors with large revenues, or publisher advances, can hire students and staff to do it for them. But if you’re an independent author (the modern vernacular is ‘Indie’, hmmmm) you do your own. Or if you are mildly schizophrenic, or merely eccentric, you could delegate, to yourself.
I set down in the previous chapters some of the Lessons Learned of the Philippines. But what have I learned about myself? And have I been able to convey some of what I have learned to my readers? Indeed, what hubris for me to think they would want to know what I had learned.
One goal is output – not the ambitious thousand words a day, more like five hundred. In any event, a thousand words a day is pointless if it’s mostly crap. I think of Hemingway at his typewriter, tearing pages out of his carriage and filling his wastepaper basket, so much more visceral than modern hard drives. I’ve learned to be content with merely a decent paragraph, and just walk away.
My author friends said I would never be able to please all the readers all the time, especially family and closer friends. I needed to put their ego issues aside and consider who my ultimate audience was. But that was still not clear to me. What was the real reason for writing this book?
As I anticipated my trip to Manila to meet the Filipina Cupid, I fretted about being drawn away from my [renewed interest in writing and completing my ‘novel’]. Such is the mind of the writer when the writing bug is upon him, he doesn’t want to do anything else.
One Sunday afternoon of hopeless staring I suddenly saw my story unfolding in my head. I rolled out of bed and sat down at my computer. The words started to flow from my fingers. And in the erratic days and nights of the next three weeks, I wrote. And wrote. And wrote.