Managing expectations

The traveling that’s required to market “Kiss and Tell” has provided me with plenty of excuses for not keeping up with my blog. Granted, none of the excuses are good ones, but they are new. So they have effectively soothed the guilt over my month-long lapse.

I’d have been better off blogging every other day, because then I could perhaps capture the shifting moods and perceptions I’ve undergone concerning this whole marketing process. Why is it that no matter how people warn you of what’s ahead, we always manage to think our experience will be different, manageable and entirely in sync with the scenario we’ve resolutely constructed in our mind?

Or is it just me who does that?

After the solitude of the writing experience, I was more than ready for the public aspects of book selling. And I have enjoyed every chance I’ve had this summer to put “Kiss and Tell” in front of readers and share what I learned from the amazing women who became the characters for the book.

But the cost of traveling (which I’ve done very cheaply) adds up, especially when you combine gas, airline and hotel expenses with the fees associated with book store appearances (many have a community room fee of $100 to $250) and the occasional buy-back costs that kick in if you overestimate how many books might be sold in one night.  It’s hard. You want to think positive before an event, but if you are too optimistic, you’ll get hit with a hefty price tag buying back your own books—at retail, not wholesale.

Actually, that only occurred at the Barnes & Noble signing I arranged in Phoenix. All the independent stores I’ve dealt with have just relied on me to mail them our self-published books from my CreateSpace account. And after those events, excess books are just mailed back to me in South Florida.

But because “Kiss and Tell” is considered non-returnable, Barnes & Noble stores basically don’t want anything to do with us. The manager at the Phoenix store was just a really great guy who decided to take a chance on me because I walked into his store cold turkey and won him over.

I’ve since taken steps to address this non-returnable handicap, especially after I spoke with a representative of Barnes & Noble’s small press department in New York. A while back I sent B&N corporate a letter asking if they’d stock “Kiss and Tell” but got a rejection form letter in return. Basically the message was: “Of course you want us to carry your book; we’re great. But it’s unrealistic because there are too many self-published titles out there and 90 percent of them sell 100 copies or fewer, mostly to friends and family.”

Wow. Thanks.

I’m guessing whoever opened the mail didn’t read the synopsis I sent or the press clippings or the sales info, which indicated we’d already sold about 8 times as many books as the typical self-published book.

So, I got on my high horse and wrote a second letter asking them to reconsider, and to tell me what kind of sales figures we’d have to achieve for them to add us to their shelves.

And that’s when the B&N rep called from New York. She said our book already had enough sales and that B&N would definitely stock “Kiss and Tell” but for the fact that it’s classified as non-returnable, and warehouse-wise and storage-wise and inventory-wise it’s apparently impossible for Barnes & Nobles to order non-returnable books.

So I called my wonderful book designer Brion Sausser to find out if we could change this and he did some digging and said YES! Per his instruction, I’ve contacted my representative at Lightning Source (which we joined back when the book debuted) and supposedly it’s a doable change. CreateSpace can’t make it happen, but Lightning Source can. Why this is, I cannot tell you. When I figure it out, I’ll share.

Meanwhile, I’m now preparing for Texas book events in Austin (July 19) and Houston (July 22). The two Phoenix events were great, although the one at Changing Hands drew lots more people than the one at Barnes & Noble. Yes, it was 112 degrees the day of the B&N event, and there were lots of high school graduations in the area that day, but still . . .  those are just excuses. I can’t tell you definitely why one event gets more turnout than another. I can just tell you that for each event I try to spread the word as best I can.

But as I alluded to at this blog’s start, keeping one’s spirits up 24/7 while one “spreads the word” is far harder than I expected it to be. I’ll circle back around on that complicated process in a future blog.

To give you a taste of the back-to-back travel I’ve been indulging in this summer, allow me to note that I flew straight from Phoenix to Grand Rapids, Mich., to spend a week with my sisters and Mom to celebrate her 85th birthday. The morning after I returned to West Palm from Michigan, I drove to Boynton Beach for a weekend dog sitting job, which meant that when it ended, I had just two days back in my condo to pack for a road trip with my cycling buddy to St. Louis and Cape Girardeau. (We were looking for fun and adventure and also some book selling opportunities along the way.)

We pulled out in his van on June 24th, and I flew home from St. Louis on July 2. Three days later I started a week-long dog sitting job that ended the same day I started a pet sitting job in the house I’m in right now. It ends Monday and on Wednesday I fly to Texas for 10 days. Two days after I return to Florida, I start the first of four August pet-sitting gigs (including one in Key Largo! Woot!)

I adore traveling; during the time I was writing “Kiss and Tell” I deeply missed the excitement and joy it brings me. But not surprisingly, I feel a bit unmoored these days, ping ponging from place to place, taking in new faces and experiences, but lacking the time to process and absorb lessons along the way.

With so little time spent in ordinary pursuits at my familiar home base, I sometimes catch myself wondering “Now, who are you again?”

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5 Responses to “Managing expectations”

  1. Peggy Green Says:

    I am so pleased that I was able to attend your book-signing, Anne. I very much admire the determination and drive it must take to write, publish and sell a book. I think that everyone feels that they have a story to tell but, to see and know somebody that actually does, is an inspiration. I hope that through your journey through this process that the highs add up to more than the lows.
    By the way, I loved the book!

    • annerodgers Says:

      Peggy,
      What a kind, kind message. The highs of writing and selling a book far outshine the lows, and the main reason why is encouragement from sweet friends like yourself. While it’s been eye-opening lately to see how daunting marketing can be, I have happy memories from our event at the Garage Mahal to lift my spirits. And I’m so thrilled you liked the book. Squee! Delicious, no? 😉

  2. Ken Steinhoff Says:

    The trip with you from West Palm Beach to Cape Girardeau, St. Louis and the many points between them was a blast. You were great company and made the miles go by quickly.

    We had great food and met many interesting people along the way.

    I mean, you DID almost get to sit on Abe Lincoln’s lap.

    I figured if we survived the first day together, then we’d make it all the way. You didn’t even cringe (much) when I tried a negotiating ploy at the hotel:

    “Look, we’re newlyweds and we’ve had a spat. If we want this marriage to survive, we need separate rooms tonight. Will that qualify for a better rate?” We got another $10 knocked off, probably because that was one they’d never heard before.

    “Do you want adjoining rooms?” the clerk asked?

    “No,” I replied.” I think we’ve had all the adjoining we can handle for the day.

    http://www.capecentralhigh.com/travel/anne-day-1-clermont/

    The next day, you got to pose with Elvis and had the night clerk at the Cullman, AL, invite you to breakfast (he didn’t make ME that offer).

    You saw a beautiful sunset over the Mississippi River and a railroad bridge built in the early 1900s (just before almost dying when the van skidded on mud left over by the spring flood).

    http://www.capecentralhigh.com/travel/view-from-thebes-courthouse/

    I had to drop you off at Lambert airport way too soon. When people who wanted to meet you asked me later where you were, I had to be honest: “Anne started out as a great traveling companion, but, truth be known, she was going to the dogs. I had to let her go.”

    http://www.capecentralhigh.com/travel/waving-goodbye-at-lambert/

  3. J.D. BRASWELL Says:

    Enjoyable reading, will keep checking your blog. Ken and mom has been in my Dexter, Mo. home enjoying (I hope) blackberry cobbler. My fiance writes for a weekly newspaper and has been a Steinhoff fan for years.

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