The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival starts shipping in eight (8) days and the nation is just bursting with excitement about it. OK, so maybe a handful of people are bursting with excitement and everyone else is just bursting from too much holiday food and the mental strain of the New Orleans Saints making the playoffs.
Still, a lot of you have expressed interest in the book and wondered how you can help me sell more than 500 books. Why is this important? A quick lesson for those who don’t work in publishing. The majority of writers don’t get rich off of books — especially fiction. Indeed, the majority of writers can’t even support themselves by writing books. Here’s how it works. A publishing company gives a writer an “advance.” In some cases, this advance can be katrillions of dollars. In others, it can be a nice six-figure sum. And in a lot of other cases — including mine — the writer is given an advance big enough to pay off a couple of credit card bills that were hanging over his head for entirely too long.
Then, when the book goes on sale, the publishing house keeps ALL of the money UNTIL that advance is earned back. In essence, the book must sell x number of copies at y price to cover that advance. Only after that advance is covered does the author get a percentage of the sales. (I can bore you all with how this ends up making smaller advances better than big ones, but let’s save that discussion for a time at which I will actually be faced with the decision of saying no to a huge book advance.)
Simply put, selling more books means I pay off the advance and I might actually see some more money. Then I can buy new socks and a can of tuna fish. Also, the more books sold the better it looks next time I have a book I want published. It also increases the very slim chance that Hollywood comes a calling. And we all know that’s where the real money, fame and power comes in, because really, who needs boring old books anyway, when you can see a movie version (especially with the added bonus of them butchering Cajun accents)?
The book starts shipping Dec. 29. It should be in your home or local bookstores by the New Year.
1. Buy the book. Duh, seems obvious. But you’d be surprised how many people forget this step. Unless you are one of those people. Of course, there is also the misperception out there that as a big fancy book author, I get free access to a warehouse full of books that I can just give away. Not so! I got 25 books, many of which I’m using the lift my bed higher off the floor so that I can store more junk under there. I can get books direct from the publisher at a discount but a) the discount isn’t that much less than the ridiculously low prices at Amazon and b) books bought that way don’t count toward the royalties.
2. Tell your friends to buy the book. If each and every one of you convince just one friend to buy the book — well, that’s a lot more books right there. If you convince two friends, even better. Three friends, then you’re dealing with exponential increases. I’m no math major but I hear exponential increases are the best kind!
3. Go to your local book store and harass them. No, I am not joking. There are approximately 1.2 gajillion books published each year, and it’s hard for bookstore operators to keep track of all those books. So how would they know that my book is, like, the second-best ever and they should have tables full of them? They might not! So go to your local bookstore — indie or Barnes & Noble or Borders or Books a Million — and just say, “Hey. Do yall plan on carrying my good friend Ken Wheaton’s debut novel, The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival, which was published by real live publishing house Kensington and is not a self-published mimeographed thing but a real actual novel.” Of course, the bookstore person may offer to order one (1) single copy for you, but you could possibly answer that suggestion with the following: “If I wanted to order a book from a machine, I could do that at home. I came to your fine store so that I could get the warm sensation of seeing a stack of books set out on a display table — preferably at the front of the store. Yup. That’s how I do MY book shopping.” (Feel free to print out this post if you need a bit of a script.)
4. Lurk around bookstores recommending the book. I know one writer who will remain nameless whose mother hangs out at her local bookstore and when she sees someone considering the book pipes up with a “That’s an excellent book by that author who I am in no way related to. You should totally buy a few copies.” Every copy counts.
5. Blog it! Some of you bloggers out there may already have a copy of the book. You may have even already read it. You weren’t just sent those books by the publisher (or me) because I like and respect your work and you’re fun to drink with. Oh, no. You’re dealing with the devil. Or at any rate if would be nice of you, say on January 4 of 2010 or so, to harangue your readers into buying a copy. It doesn’t matter if you have three readers or 3,000. It’s their passion (and willingness to do whatever you tell them) that counts. (And be sure to let me know if you write one of them there blog posts, so I can push traffic your way.)
6. Twitter it, Facebook it or whatever mildly annoying new social-media thingy you’re using now, use that, too! I know I will! Hell, is there a way to sell the book in Farmville? That seems where half of you spend your time anyway.
7. Force your book club to read it. You know the difference between my book and all those serious books you and your book club try to read? You’ll actually finish my book. It’s short. It doesn’t use big words. It at least tries to be funny. There are even recipes, so at the very least, it’s practical. Also, the cover is beautiful. And, as a bonus, if you live in my area, I could actually show up and make everyone all uncomfortable as you discuss my book while I’m in the same room. (Besides, you all know your book club is an excuse to drink — which is another reason, I’d live to show up at your book club.)
8. Teach it. OK. I take back every single thing I’ve ever said about the education system in this country. And while I don’t want to tell you how to teach your classes or suggest that you abuse your power over impressionable young minds, but, you know, what good is that power if you can’t use it every now and again. If you’re teaching kids over 18 years old, a little extra-credit work based on The First Annual Grand Prairie Rabbit Festival might be just the thing to get them to fall in love with literature! Besides, the book has a lot of cussing and drinking and we all know how kids love that.
9. Write angry letters to your local newspaper asking why they haven’t reviewed the book. I’m joking. Don’t write any angry letters to anyone. But if you know people in the media — print, radio, TV, web, no matter the size or frequency — mentioning the book in every single conversation and swearing it, like, totally changed your life . . . that couldn’t hurt.
10. Show up for the events. I will badger you about these later, but so far, we have three readings/signings set up.
Saturday, Jan. 23. 2:00 p.m. Barnes & Noble, Lafayette, La.
Monday, Jan. 25, 7:00 p.m. Barnes & Noble, CitiPlace Court, Baton Rouge, La.
Thursday, Feb. 11, 7:30 p.m. Barnes & Noble, Seventh Ave, Park Slope, Brooklyn, N.Y.
Even if you have the book already, showing up for these things accomplishes a few things. It makes me look cool in front of bookstore managers. Other people are likely to buy a book that seems more popular. You can point and laugh at my clothes and hair or mock the sound of my voice. (Also, if you tail me after the event, there may be some drinking involved.)
Well, that’s my list. Feel free to add other suggestions in the comments.