Thursday, September 10, 2009

Searching for a Publisher: Misadventure #1

So after this book decided it wouldn’t stay dead and it resurrected itself, I knew my first, best choice was to try to attract a traditional publisher. I felt this would give the book the best chance of success and the greatest exposure.

So I prepared to go to conferences and present my book idea to editors and agents. At the beginning, I had no idea what an adventure this would be!

I thought I had a great idea cooking in my brain and I thought several publishers would be really interested in it. But as I presented my idea at conferences, I had a couple of interesting misadventures. Two stand out.

Why would I tell you about these? Certainly not to criticize or embarrass anyone.

I share these experiences because, if you’re a writer/author or a wannabe writer or author, you no doubt have discovered (or soon will) that your biggest enemy is the big “D”: Discouragement.

Discouragement can be a real witch. I wonder how many books she’s managed to kill. I don’t want that to happen to you or your book. So hang in there.

I certainly felt discouragement after these two incidents. But if you’re going to stay in the writing game, then you’ve got to be able to overcome Discouragement and any obstacles she tries to throw in your path. I hope my experiences will let you know these things happen, they happen to all of us (not just you), and in the grand scheme of things, they’re not that big of a deal. You’re searching for a publisher, and if you run into a misadventure yourself, brush it off, (make sure your have a good, quality project), and move on.

So, for laughs, for enlightenment, for information, for whatever…here are a couple of my misadventures as I remember them:

At one conference I attended after I’d resurrected my “pro-life pregnancy center book,” on a break between workshops, I found myself standing near one of the faculty members, an author whom I knew had multiple books out.

I can’t remember what started the conversation, but I believe he was asking the writers around him about their books or articles. When he asked me, I told him briefly about Dear America: A Letter of Comfort and Hope to a Grieving Nation. I can’t remember why we were talking sales numbers, but for some reason I ended up telling him I’d sold about 300 copies at that time.

He told me that was really good.

Personally, I thought that was pretty dismal.

He told me that most books don’t sell more than 100 copies. He added some of his books had sold less than 100 copies.

I was stunned.

All of his books (as far as I know) are published by traditional publishers. I thought surely his books would have sold at least several thousand copies. Minimum.

(Silently I wondered, if some of his traditionally published books sold less than 100 copies, how did he manage to continue getting publishing contracts from traditional publishers? But he has. And continues to, as far as I know.)

When it was time for the workshops to start, I made my way into his classroom and found an empty seat. When he began to teach, he made a comment about a lady he had talked to earlier. Then he paused, scanned the room while saying, “I hope she’s not in here.”

I didn’t know if he was going to talk about me or somebody else. When scanning the room, I thought he looked right at me. I didn’t know if I should raise my hand and say, “Here I am.”

When he then told the room about our conversation, I knew he was talking about me. And I was sitting right there!

He told them “that lady” was very disappointed that she had only sold 300 copies of her book and that she really had done quite well.

I wasn’t sure what to do. I glanced at my friend who also knew he was talking about me. She shrugged, indicating she didn’t know what I should do either. So I slinked down in my chair and kept my head low. Sure was glad I hadn’t raised my hand.

That whole incident just felt weird. Why would he tell a whole classroom of wannabe authors most books don’t sell more than 100 copies? I could understand if he’d followed with ways to sell more books, but… I don’t know. It was just weird.

So, any lessons learned? Perhaps just this: If you’re going to talk about something in your workshop, assume the person you’re talking about is listening and make sure you’re polite.

(I’m wondering if that author is reading this right now and recognizing himself. Uh oh.)

That’s not the only time that has happened to me. I’ll tell you the other time in “Misadventure #2.”

But first, would you like to know more about those dismal book sales numbers? Whether you’re publishing independently or traditionally, you need to know book sales numbers. Knowing is the first step to making your sales numbers better. I’ll tell you what I know about sales numbers next time.

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