I open an email from Bent Pages Bookstore, a sponsor of the Jambalaya Writers Conference and read, “Can you bring books. The distributor canceled our order.” At first the message did not register. I read it again. Unbelievable! At last, a bookstore is willing to purchase books for me to sign and the distributor cancels the order.
“Yes, I can bring books,” I replied, then called the marketing representative assigned to my book by the publisher. He was also mystified. “The distributor has four of your books on their shelf.” Terry has come to my aide more than one time. He resolved the problem by calling the bookstore and selling them the books they needed.
I arrived at the Jambalaya Writers Conference to find ten copies of Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot on a chair behind my table. If I had brought books, I would have made more money. Bookstore sales yield a small royalty, in my case, a little over a $1 per book. So, why didn’t I bring books to sell? I didn’t write a book to get rich. Having your book in a retail store makes it easier for the consumer to find. I set the books on the table, laid out some post cards and debated on what to do until the booksigning began.
I have attended a number of writing conferences. The workshops yield the same basic information. No longer in need of an agent or publisher, I had grown weary of attending them. But I had four hours to kill. I choose several workshops on marketing hoping to learn something new I could do to market Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot. I exited the second session on marketing and saw Jane Trufant Harvey author of the Ask Him series of books and host of the video series Jump Start with Jane on thedailymass.com. “What have you learned?” She asked. “Everything I already know and am doing,” I replied.
The exception was the session with the keynote speaker, Tim O’Brien. The colorful Vietnam veteran strode to the podium. A hybrid of comfort and business, he wore a baseball cap, black tennis shoes resting on an orange sole with bright yellow laces and a business suit. I will never forget the theme of his presentation: What your character does will be remembered. His appearance may have repelled some, but the greatest wisdom tends to be hidden in unusual packages. I would not have read a story about the Vietnam War. After hearing O’Brien speak, The Things They Carried is on my reading list.
I left O’Brien’s session and took my place at the author’s book signing. The room quickly filled with people seeking to make purchases. The hour flew by as I chatted with people about Finding Faith in the City Care Forgot. Most of the crowd had departed to attend the next workshop when two Asian young men approached my table. One of the men, Paul, clutched the Program of Presenters handed out by the conference. He wasn’t interested in purchasing a book. Paul smiled broadly and spoke in broken English, “I want autographs of famous authors.” O’Brien who was signing books directly across from me had already left, so I pointed to Rebecca Gernon sitting to my right. Rebecca’s Amy Signs had been picked up nationally by Barnes and Nobles as well as many university libraries and she was a presenter at the conference.
Paul obtained Rebecca’s signature and then returned to my table. “I want autographs of famous authors.” Paul smiled. I returned his smile and wondered why he was standing in front of my table. Then I had an epiphany. Paul thought all of the authors at the conference were famous. I do not fall into the famous category, but didn’t know how to communicate that to Paul without being rude. After a second request for my famous autograph, I signed one of my postcards and handed it to Paul. His face lit up, and he exclaimed, “I will treasure this forever.” I left the Jambalaya’s Writers Conference contemplating if I should pray for fame to make that postcard worthy of being treasured.