The Canadian Writers' Collective

Writing, and writerly tangents

Thursday, March 06, 2008

The Upsydowns of a Newbie Author

by Tricia Dower

Down: When I tell people I have a book coming out, they usually smile and say, “Good for you,” or words to that effect. Not so the owner of a café I approached about holding the book launch there. “We don’t have much success with book launches,” he said. “Nobody shows up.” I told him I expected to attract a lot of people and he said, “Send me an e-mail.” Their site says: you can use this form to contact us via email, but we don't check it often.

Up: Not to worry. I found a better spot. One where I won’t have to compete with the latte machine.

Down: The publisher suggested I find a bookstore to handle sales at the event, so I visited my favourite independent bookstore in Victoria – a landmark, almost a shrine – and met with the store manager. He greeted me with the wary look some reserve for Jehovah’s Witnesses. I offered him my glorious opportunity and he turned it down. He said he’d order a few copies of my book because I’m local, but “the books have to earn their shelf space.” I spoke with the event manager of my next favourite independent bookstore who said it was unlikely they’d do it because they recently lost an outside sales person. I resisted the urge to say, “How careless of you.”

Up: “Let’s sell them ourselves,” said Madeline Sonik, the author I’m launching with, and that’s exactly what we’ll do. Her book of poems, Stone Sightings, comes out the same time as my short story collection, Silent Girl. The glowingly-reviewed and accomplished Madeline is a “vet,” having published three books and co-edited three anthologies already. The indignities are just beginning, she told me. “Wait ‘til you see your book on a Christmas sale table for 99 cents.”

How does one get ready for that? When I was a kid, I used to mentally prepare for as many negative events as I could. I’d imagine the deaths of people I loved. (My death was always the most tragic.) I’d manufacture hateful words others might say or picture the obstacles they could throw in my path. The idea was to be mentally tough and not show emotion when any of these things happened. To show emotion (thereby giving away how much you cared and giving someone even more ways to hurt you) was the absolute worst thing I could imagine.

As I got older, I became less interested in appearing invulnerable than in stopping bad things from happening to me. I tried the New Age creative visualization technique. You know, by visualizing something, you attract it to you. Heck, even Oprah Winfrey says she does it. I can’t prove it works, but I do believe that it’s hard to succeed unless you expect to. So, if you see me with my eyes closed and I’m not asleep, I'm visualizing nothing but Ups: brilliant reviews, big turnouts at readings, books flying off the shelves, Silent Girl recommended for Oprah’s book club. Why not?

Images: exterior and interior views of the University of Victoria’s Legacy Art Gallery and Café, on the corner of Yates and Broad, downtown Victoria. Madeline Sonik and I will launch our new books there on May 9th.


Blogger Antonios Maltezos said...

Me too I'm visualizing great things for you, except my eyes are wide open. How stupid for an independent bookstore to say a local author has to earn their shelf time.

Thu Mar 06, 11:23:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Andrew Tibbetts said...

Keep riding those ups and downs- it's pretty exciting! Can't wait to have the book in my hands.

Thu Mar 06, 12:55:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger jsnider said...

If you're interested in visualizing you should read Eckhart Tolle's books. Oprah is doing Monday night live events with him online for the next 9 weeks. It's very inspiring!

I hope your launch goes very well. Congratulations on your book!

Thu Mar 06, 02:49:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, you three.

Tony, I heard another writer say his local bookstore had the same attitude: didn't matter where you were from. It's hard to throw your support to the independents (and away from big chains) if there's no reciprocity.

J. You have a new picture! Nice. I'll check out Tolle's books. Thanks for the suggestion.

Thu Mar 06, 04:51:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tania Hershman/The Short Review said...

Tricia - congratulations on your book! What you wrote really spoke to me. My collection is coming out in June and I am trying to deal with some of this stuff. I too have dreams of Oprah! (Yeah, right). Actually, I am kind of letting go of any expectation that anyone who doesn't know me will buy it. I am not good at all at selling... I just want to stick to what I think I am quite good at, the writing. I just did a reading tonight - and the anxiety beforehand was just not worth it!
Looking forward to reading your book and reviewing it for The Short Review.


Thu Mar 06, 06:15:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Tania, thank you so much for commenting. Glad you can relate. Yeah, marketing and writing are different skills. And, readings can be intimidating. Not only are people judging your words; they're judging the way you read them! Margaret Atwood has been satirized plenty for her reading voice.

It would be great if you reviewed my book!

Thu Mar 06, 08:01:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger H.E.Eigler said...

I know that 'shrine' you speak of and they should be ashamed. I'd hoped they would be more supportive of local talent. Sometimes I miss the Island and now I have another reason - I wish I could attend your event. Have a blast!

Thu Mar 06, 10:59:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

I didn't know you once lived on the Island, Heather. I, too, wish you could be at the launch. You're in Calgary? Maybe I'll see you at a reading there.

Fri Mar 07, 02:01:00 am GMT-5  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

Hi Sis. I'm working on the Santa Cruz Public Library to buy some copies for us here in California. It won't be like a bookstore but it will still get the book in the hands of readers and future purchasers. You do sell outside of Canada, don't you? So excited with you. Lili

Fri Mar 07, 12:09:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Hey, Lili, thanks! It would be great to have it in the libraries. Yes, Inanna has a U.S. distributor.

Fri Mar 07, 01:04:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Anne C. said...

Your venue looks great! I hope that your time on the night of the launch makes up for all of the hassle beforehand. Isn't that how it usually is when organizing celebratory events?

Fri Mar 07, 01:47:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger T. Lee said...

Hey, that is a new UVic venue, isn't it? If I recall, some guy who owned a bunch of Victoria property willed it all to UVic (and if memory serves, his family was not too happy about it). 'Legacy', indeed!

What a rollercoaster ride for you, but it must be a thrill. In defense of bookstores (as a former bookstore clerk) re: readings, it is a lot of work for little payback, I'm afraid, and most little stores are barely, if at all, making ends meet. Group signings/readings in bookstores is the way to go, I think, so there's sure to be a mass turnout, and not just the bookstore paying the extra clerks to man the till that doesn't ring. People tend to go to readings and not buy, whilst the folks who would buy stay away during a reading of someone they don't know. It sucks, and indie booksellers (perhaps by nature) aren't the best marketeers.

But you two, you seem more organized and I'm sure you've chosen the best route.

Fri Mar 07, 02:14:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Thanks, Anne, thanks, Tamara. Yes, it's beautiful space. Tamara, you may remember it as a glass gallery, with glass blowing demonstrations. You're right about UVic getting a bequest of property, art and funds to maintain them, I believe. Yeah, I understand about the difficulty independent bookstores have, although the ones I asked aren't exactly small. Good for you for presenting the other side of the picture.

Fri Mar 07, 05:29:00 pm GMT-5  
Blogger J.A. McDougall said...

Great idea to pair up with the another author - it may help reduce some of the pressure and anxiety also. Will you both read at the launch?

Sun Mar 09, 01:28:00 am GMT-5  
Blogger Tricia Dower said...

Yes, we will, Jen. The blend of poetry and prose should make for an interesting program.

Sun Mar 09, 12:42:00 pm GMT-4  

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