Friday, September 24, 2010

Ginger the Bookseller

Two weeks after picking up the first few copies of Brute Heart, my husband and I retrieved the balance of my order--ten more cartons--and stacked them in our garage. Before we left Maverick that morning, Gary Asher asked me how long I thought it would take me to sell 500 books, and I ventured a guess--by Christmas?

At home I stared for several minutes at the eleven cartons of books I now owned, humbled by the daunting task ahead of me. Dick picked up a black felt marker and numbered the cartons from ten down to one with several exclamation points next to number one. We will certainly celebrate when we open that carton!

If you decide to self-publish, be prepared to put as much or more time into selling and distributing your book as you spent writing it. That depends, of course, on how quickly you write, how compelling your topic is, how many friends and other contacts you have, and how hard you are willing to work. I took the friends and family approach first, e-mailing most of the people in my contact list with the blurb on the back cover of my book along with how to order it by mail.

In preparation for this mail order campaign, I bought manila envelopes, address labels and shipping tape. Next I signed up for a post office box since my mail box at home is the old-fashioned kind without a lock that sits on a post in front of my house. To add incentive, especially since I am not a household name, I offered to mail my book anywhere in the continental United States for free. That's better than amazon.com where the shipping charges can add up to almost as much as you pay for some books. Another advantage was shipping from Oregon where there is no sales tax.

I was unsure about e-mailing my contact list because I am not normally one to toot my own horn, however that ponderous stack of books in the garage pushed me out of my comfort zone. I received several quick responses such as "wow," "congratulations," "how exciting," etc. with two or three saying, "The check is in the mail." The results were hardly encouraging, though, as I received six orders out of a list of thirty-some names. Since all of those people knew me, my Christmas goal seemed suddenly naive. Even the Fourth of July might be a long shot.

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