Kendra Bonnett--Getting Read #16
"So, how are you going to tie a writing video to Getting Read?" Matilda wanted to know how I could possibly make a connection between our latest Writing in Five video (this one about author/educator Sheridan Baker and his thoughts about the paragraph).
"I don't know," I said, "but I'm sure something will come to me." Okay, so on one level it is a stretch. But I had a lot of time to think while trying to upload the video to YouTube. It took me four, painfully slow tries and even then I had to use a workaround. Apparently, the slightest glitch in the download and the thing fails. That's the one thing (the only thing) I hate about YouTube.
Early and Often
So what is the connection? Let me explain this way. Matilda and I are doing our series of Writing in Five videos as a way to build awareness and a following for our Writing Alchemy book, which will be out and in everyone's hands by September. To this end, we have:
- Created a new blog category for Writing Alchemy on Women's Memoirs. Rather than start a separate blog, we decided to keep it contained within Women's Memoirs where we already enjoy a lot of traffic.
- Created a YouTube channel for Women's Memoirs (and recently a second one for Writing Alchemy).
- We have been teaching Writing Alchemy classes through Story Circle Network and, of course, we did our big workshop at the February conference in Austin. This fall we're bringing the workshop to the East of Eden conference (in Salinas, CA) and to the Association of Personal Historians at their conference in Victoria, British Columbia.
Do the Best Possible Job
Personally, I think it goes without saying that the product--the book--must be good. And yet, I'm often surprised by writers with aspirations to publish who become discouraged when they realize they may have to edit, revise and reorganize their work several times before it's ready for prime time. But that's part of the process. To quote Tom Hanks in A League of Their Own: "If it wasn't hard, everyone would do it. It's the hard that makes it great." I think this is why authors--anyone who has actually had the fortitude and stamina to finish a book--still inspires awe in people. It is hard work; what makes it palatable is that those of us who are writers really can't see ourselves doing anything else.
And once you do the heavy lifting and get your book published, let the world know...not only through marketing but by putting your book up for publishing awards. There are many small, reputable organizations that judge. Win, and you have a reason to send out a press release and put a shiny metallic sticker on your cover.
Matilda and I have done this for Rosie's Daughters. In fact, even though we published in late 2008, we just won two more accolades: Indie Excellence Award (Finalist) and San Francisco Book Festival (Honorable Mention). This is after we won a 2008 IPPY. So it's never too late.
We also have a small publishing company (the imprint is Riparian Press), and the first book we have published is Dr. Greg's Dog Dish Diet: Sensible Nutrition for Your Dog's Health. We submitted it in several categories and it brought home the honors: It received the gold in the Animal/Pets category for the Living Now awards, Indie Excellence (Finalist), Next Generation Book Awards (Finalist) and San Francisco Book Festival (Honorable Mention). Three of those four awards provide winners with stickers for the book cover. Do you think a picture of the cover boldly displaying three prize stickers makes a difference? You bet. It may not be a Newberry or a Pulitzer, but it does make a difference. Dog Dish Diet stands out on the shelf.
As I was doing my background research on Sheridan Baker, author of The Practical Stylist, for the Writing in Five--Paragraphs, I discovered that this simple writing text had sold more than 300,000 copies. Wow. And I confess that that realization kept me up half the night...thinking. The Practical Stylist was first published in 1962. Long before the Internet. How did he sell so many copies?
I received my copy in 1966 courtesy of my high school English teacher Bayne Kelley. Obviously a lot of other people received their copies in similar fashion. But even if Baker had English teachers across the country eating out of his hand and making The Practical Stylist required reading, I was still blown away by 300,000 copies sold. It sounds less like a book and more like a hamburger stand. And again I repeat, without the benefit of the Internet.
Throughout the 60s, 70s and 80s publishers were certainly more aggressive, and that accounts for some of the success. But here's the big thing, the book was published and promoted for 35 years. It went through eight editions.
What if you've written a book that has evergreen qualities...meaning that it's not out of date in six to eight months. And what if you're a little slow to get into your selling grove. Today, if you're lucky enough to get a contract with a large publisher and if you don't produce pretty quickly, you'll be on the remainder shelf before you know it. This is one more reason to consider a small independent publisher (or some form of self publishing) so you can keep your book available long enough for you to figure out how to best sell it.
And that's how I tie the announcement of a new Writing in Five Video to my topic of Getting Read. I hope you'll watch Part I. I'll be posting Part II next Monday. I told Matilda that if I didn't cut it into two parts we were going to have to change the name of the program to Writing in Fifteen! Enjoy.