Lull

Photo credit: Lena Lindell on Pixabay

When you’re self-employed, a lull in the flow of work can be terrifying: OMG! This is it—the end! I’ll never get another project or make another sale! I’ll have to get a job where I say things like “Paper or plastic?” or “Would you like fries with that?” No more independence or freedom to make my own schedule! I’ll have to wear a suit or a uniform and commute to work in somebody else’s office or store! And I’ll have to ask permission to take time off to take the cats to the vet or leave early if I have dinner plans with a friend!

Then, you go through all your bank accounts, and you check your accounts receivable to see if anybody still owes you money, and if they do, you send them a very nice email to follow up and nudge them into paying their bill. You evaluate your expenses to see what you can reduce or eliminate. (True story: on my third day of self-employment, when I’d finished all the projects on my desk, I reviewed my bills to see where I could cut back. Only one option presented itself, and so I cancelled my subscription to TV Guide to save $10.) If you’re like me, you pull out the Sermon on the Mount and reread the part where Jesus talks about not worrying about tomorrow and how the bird are fed and the flowers are clothed and how people are of more value and God will provide. (Matthew 6:25-34) After that, you check the basket in the kitchen drawer for loose change that you meant to roll and take to the bank, and you check the garage for bottles you can return for 5 cents each.

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A Few Thoughts about Selling Books at Live Holiday Events

Winterfair in Hartford, Connecticut

The 2022 holiday season was the first year that I made a serious effort to market my books directly to readers at live events. When State v. Claus was published in the fall of 2020, we were still in the throes of the pandemic, and so live events weren’t an option. The following year, when My Brother, Romeo came out, I wasn’t certain how to market it since it’s a novella and only available as an ebook, but I figured there was no point in a live event when people couldn’t buy a signed copy of the book.

I did two live events in 2021. One was a multi-author event held by my local bookstore at the town’s annual arts fair. All I had to do was show up, read, answer a few questions, and sign books after presentation. The bookstore did the rest, including the actual selling of the books and the marketing of the event.

The other event was at a local Christmas tree farm that wanted to create more of a draw for customers. I set up a small table in their greenhouse next to Mrs. Claus and hung out for a few hours, chatting with whoever paused for a candy cane.

Neither event resulted in many sales, but they proved a good way to get my feet wet. More importantly, they impressed on me the importance of handselling a book, i.e., talking to a potential customer about it. This impression was confirmed when I volunteered at the bookstore’s Independent Bookstore Day in April. When a young woman asked me for a recommendation, I inquired about what she liked. She wanted fiction, and she liked romance and fantasy. I really did try to come up with another title, but finally I said, “Maybe you’d be interested in my book.” I told her about it; with great excitement, she not only bought it, but recommended it to a friend who was there—who also bought a copy. Both women were delighted to have met the author and gotten signed books, and I was thrilled to have met such enthusiastic readers.

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Things You Need for Book Events

Santa Dave of #thesantaconnection at Winterfair, Hartford, Connecticut

Before I did my first book event last year, I Googled “what do I need for a book event?” and found a very helpful list. This year, as I participated in quite a few holiday markets and book events, I discovered that the very helpful list was incomplete.

For purposes of this post, I’m assuming that you don’t want to spend a fortune and that you’re going to be singularly responsible for transporting everything to and from the event. (If you have buckets of money to devote to your event and/or a spouse or significant other who’s willing to haul your stuff around, good for you.)

Based on my experience, here’s what you need for a simple event or holiday market, in no particular order:

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Letting Go

Photo credit: Ankus Minda on Unsplash

We all know the feeling, especially at the holidays: everything needs to be done, and it needs to be done NOW.

I know I should be grateful. Lots of billable work, including four items on deadline in the next two weeks, in addition to the three I already wrapped up and shipped out this week. Nothing horrifically difficult, but all requiring time and attention before satisfied clients respond with payments that keep the lights on and the cat food in stock.

And that’s just the day job. For the publishing job, I hauled books and table decorations to four holiday market events in nine days, beginning the day after Thanksgiving, and I have two more this weekend and one next weekend. Those have been a blast as I’ve met readers and gift-givers who bought signed (and sometimes wrapped) copies of State v. Claus. Even more fun is meeting up with friends I haven’t seen in ages, including a former student whom I hadn’t seen in nearly forty(!) years who made the trek to Hartford with her charming husband, just to say hello and buy a couple of signed books.

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Pulling Weeds

Some people love to weed their gardens. From what I’ve read, they derive a deep satisfaction from getting their hands in the dirt and ousting the weeds that threaten their flowers and vegetables.

And then there are people like me, who will pull a few weeds if it occurs to us, but are otherwise inclined to live and let live. After all, what is a weed but volunteer plant that is simply misplaced? Besides, some volunteer plants are good. Every year, I end up with at least a couple foxgloves that I didn’t plant, the seeds dropped by some passing bird. The one time I tried to plant foxgloves, they died almost immediately, but the volunteers are hardier, their flowers lasting for days at a time.

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Ta-Da!

Danny and Draft #1

If you’d asked earlier this week, I’d have told you it wasn’t going to happen. I was resigned to it. I figured I’d finish when I finished, and everyone would just have to be patient. In fact, I was ready to write a blog post about how it feels when you set a goal and you just don’t reach it.

Then came Saturday.

Mind you, I had plans. My house desperately needs to be vacuumed and dusted. I have stacks of papers, magazines, and documents on practically every flat surface. The clutter is embarrassing. The dust is probably unhealthy (especially for someone with asthma). So my plan for today was to vacuum, dust, and put things away. A noble plan, to be sure.

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Sh*tty First Drafts

Photo credit: Denny Müller on Unsplash

I’ve got a problem.

Okay, not a major problem. Not compared to what some people are dealing with this week. But it’s a problem for me.

My book is all over the place.

It’s my own fault. I’m the one who started writing random pieces here and there, figuring they’d eventually fall into place. It’s always worked before. But this time, the story is resisting.

Last weekend, I had the privilege of participating in the Connecticut Book Festival. Except for the brief period when I read from State v. Claus, I spent the day sitting at my book table, chatting with anyone who came over.

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Slogging Toward Success

Two years ago, I wrote a story entitled, “The Women in the Club.” It was about the family of a man who committed a heinous crime. The story felt a bit edgier than what I normally write, but I believed the topic was worth talking about. My writing group loved it.

I began to send it out both as a regular submission and a contest entry. Every time it was rejected, I edited again to see if I could make it just a bit tighter, sharper, clearer.

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The Season of Crazy-Busyness

Photo credit: H. Newberry on Pixabay

Personally, I blame the school year.

Like so many, I grew up with the school-year routine: after a summer of fun and relaxation, work begins in the fall, continues through the winter (albeit with a couple of breaks), and wraps up in late spring. Even though we non-educators don’t actually get the summer off (other than an isolated vacation day, or maybe a cherished week or two if we’re very lucky), there’s still the sense that life slows down in the summer, only to ramp up in late August in anticipation of a return to the over-full schedule of classes, sports, rehearsals, homework, commitments, subscription series—not to mention resumption of all the tasks and deadlines that we pushed to the side while our colleagues and clients were away and we basked in the peace of their absence.

Hence, the Season of Crazy-Busyness.

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The Joy of Deadlines

Photo by LouAnn Clark on Pixabay

The summer is slipping away. In a mere few weeks, students will return to school for the fall semester. Here in the U.S., the arrival of Labor Day (first Monday in September) signals the unofficial end of summer and the official return to the usual hectic pace of the rest of the year.

For me, this summer has felt unusually long. Beginning as it did with my father’s death on the day after Memorial Day—coincidentally, the unofficial start to the summer—June was consumed mainly with the logistics of the memorial service, estate management, and working out a new Mom-care routine. As June slipped into July, my mind turned slowly to other matters, such as my novel-in-progress and my billable workload which, as in the past, lightened in the summer. I discovered the town pools and embarked on a semi-regular routine of swimming a few times a week. I signed up on several occasions to distribute vegetables after church, a simple task that requires nothing more rinsing off what has been harvested from the church garden and spreading the harvest on a table out by Farmington Avenue so anyone who wishes can enjoy garden-fresh produce.

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