I recently attended a Trade Show at the Oakland Marriott Convention Centre sponsored by the NCIBA—Northern California Independent Booksellers Association, where traditional publishing conglomerates, independent and boutique publishers, distributors and authors exhibited. As a longtime features writer and debut novelist, my heart raced anticipating face time with decision-making publishers who may have the potential to send my own recently launched self-published novel, Crosswinds at Campo Carcasso, to bestseller heaven. So imbued with enthusiasm and a good dose of naïveté, I entered the great hall to promote my book.
Research confirms that independent and boutique publishers are giving the traditional big houses a run for their money with evolving seismic changes, proving that market share bites are rustling more than just pages. Additionally, the siphoning off from Amazon.com and e-Book sales, for over 40 million IPads and Kindle devices (5 million sold since Kindle Fire launched in November), impacts the bottom line.
I came away from the Trade Show ignited with twin emotions of enthusiasm and trepidation about the marketing, promoting and selling of my own novel that we indie authors must zealously pursue to propel our works into the marketplace, lacking the luxuries of mainstream PR support.
Internet and digitized technology has morphed much of the publishing and printing industry to short-runs and print-on-demand PODs. In 2011, Amazon.com sold more e-books than hardcover and paperbacks combined leading to Jeff Bezos’ statement; “the physical book and bookstores are dead…” Digitization affects many industries; over 250 Indie Booksellers now sell retail product online at Google e-Books. Traditional publishing is altered forever; technology has spawned spin-off full-service independents offering varieties of genre publications. Not only books, but magazines and newspapers are begrudgingly yielding a substantial market share to computers, Nooks, Ipads and Kindles. Millions of front and back-listed titles are accessed by the mere flick of a finger within seconds. Unless books have entered the public domain, DRM (digital rights management), is often recommended, however, there are pros and cons, and with millions of books selling daily, the logistics of authors’ royalties could be a nightmare.
Many die-hard ‘real book’ readers have been heard lamenting nostalgically about the smell of the ink, the turn of the page, the rustle of the paper. Are we that close to the digital divide—already losing the physical book? Even I, the epitome of a techno idiot, and still holding on tooth and nail to the 20th century, succumbed to digitization, ordering a Kindle Fire before launch day. With new toy in hand, I jumped on the digital bandwagon and purchased the e-book version of Crosswinds at Campo Carcasso.
Indie Authors Unite
In my naïveté, and neophyte of the subject at hand, I merged into the world of indie authordom inflamed with enthusiasm about achieving best seller heaven. At launch, my book was already sold globally; Ingram Books distributing on Amazon, B&N and other sites. A perceived surgical marketing endeavor and a PR blitz brought bookstore signings; sales and testimonials were great. So, anticipating a Da Vinci Code-style bestseller — the sweet smell of literary success danced in my head. When sales hit a plateau, I realized I had to become, not only an indie writer, but also a one-woman marketing department—all this after thrashing out Crosswinds at Campo Carcasso in 750 lonely days, and suddenly finding myself beset with the business end of being an author, when all I really want to do is to write.
Evidence mounts that the synergy between indie authors, traditional publishers and independent booksellers, is minimal. Their bottom line is profit, not discovering debut novelists. Authors must find creative ways of penetrating the insulated walls encircling publishing protocol, and competing with half a million annual titles all vying for a place in the literary sun.
So, armed with a quest to make a killer first impression, I ventured onto the convention floor with a steely attitude and my novel. I approached a New York publishing rep, book in hand, eyeing the iconic orange cover of Kerouac’s On the Road. I chatted with a man who told me how to get a manuscript to an editor. I had already sent query letters to editors to no avail. “Buy Writer’s Market, send editors queries, it may go to the right person or the slushpile…and then again maybe not…”
I already knew the routine and moved to another publisher; “Good morning, my name is Anita Venezia… can you help me?” He smiled wanly and offered me a sugary doughnut—I whiffed the sweet smell of near-success and then greeted a woman with whom I had shared the hotel elevator, memorizing the badge names of who’s who on Publishers’ Row. She took my book, promising a look-see and placed it in her briefcase. I had succeeded in getting Crosswinds at Campo Carcasso into the hands of a New York publisher — mission accomplished.
Armed with the slim likelihood of piercing mainstream publishing shields, I introduced myself to my distributor, Ingram Book Company. En route to my booth at Island 15, I approached Tom Faherty who shared valued insight and steered me to Cameron Publishing for an interesting story angle. Cameron Publishing was founded in 1964 by the late Robert Cameron, commissioned during World War II to capture aerial images of strategic sites. His photography led to pictorial calendars and aerial view books. Chris Gruener manages the Petaluma boutique publisher/distributor and showed me their catalogue that included the photograph-rich book Oyster Culture by fellow Capetonian, Gwendolyn Meyer with Doreen Schmid.
An innovative booth buzzing with energy, and a quintet of cardboard cutout characters attracted me; Indie writer/designer Joy Evans and songwriter Kayla Gold, creators of the Earth-Guard Adventure Team, offered a 16-book series of young-set stories and song CDs, so kids can act out their own adventures as computer whizzes, trailblazers and engineering dynamos.
I returned to my booth, Island 15, shared with other indie colleagues also pursuing alternative venues in the literary jungle. Booth mate Lloyd R. Prentice introduced his books, Freein’ Pancho about an Oakland Hills boy coming of age in the 1950s, and new thriller The Gospel of Ashes. As president of Writers Glen Publications, Prentice shared his vast expertise about publishing, and our brainstorming started the ball rolling with Hut Landon, the NCIBA Executive Director to establish a booksellers’ Seal of Approval for indie writer/publishers. We have also formed an Indies online forum with several writers already on board. Bonnie and Gregory Randall of Windsor Hill Publishers, Walnut Creek, presented their novels; Elk River and a series of Sharon O’Mara edgy spy thrillers that very well may put 007 to shame. Our most serendipitous Island 15 booth bait was legendary Scorpions Rock Band drummer-songwriter, Herman Ze German Rarebell, the rocker promoting his own biography And Speaking of Scorpions…
The booth opposite us was an epicenter of activity for Pinnacle Award Winner, How to Survive in a World Out of Control by J.B. McIntyre. New Age metaphysical aficionados were awed by the author’s philosophical aspects of inner perceptions of reality. My fascination of the esoteric subject ignited a request for author interview; I asked J.B. McIntyre if he foresees staying power of his philosophies: “the book is NOW, timeless, becoming more relevant as changes force each individual inward.” Becoming more brazen, I asked him to define a ‘mystic’; “a mystic wants to experience directly the truth of all teachings, to go beyond dead words of religions, and experience God directly. Mystics teach of a divine union with the infinite.” I asked with whom he would choose to spend a day, living or dead; “The one person I would wish to spend a day with, and ask limitless questions would be the greatest mystic, the Christ. He spent his entire life absorbed, and his mystical journey was to change the world forever…” My last question was about belief in God; “Belief is a small part of the mind’s ability to manifest; faith takes you farther than what is coming to you. In a state of knowing, one’s inner guide confirms beliefs. My heart tells my whole being there is a loving Creator, it is felt in the temple of my soul…”
In search of marketing strategies for Crosswinds at Campo Carcasso, I ventured to the NABE Island and I introduced myself to 25-year marketer extraordinaire, Al Galasso. I handed him my novel and asked advice about cooperative promotions; I had finally found an answer to my dilemma. NABE, National Association of Book Entrepreneurs was exactly what I needed; an organizational conduit for indie authors—membership camaraderie, promotions, publishing and marketing tips. After navigating their website; BookDealersWorld@bookmarketingprofits.com, I realized a synergistic advantage.
“If you never join another organization, you’ve got to join IBPA…” Cynthia Frank advised. “They are the best resource for publishers…they’ve got your back…” I thanked the Cypress House Publisher from Fort Bragg and glowed with enthusiasm when I heard she was a San Ramon Valley High graduate. So taking Cynthia Frank’s advice, I emailed IBPA, Independent Book Publishers Association, and received a prompt reply about cooperative marketing programs, education, industry information, book awards, advocacy and participation in trade shows from the Executive Director Terry Nathan. I have since learned a wealth of heretofore unknown information through membership, and my initial confession of naïveté holds true as I am apprised of new trends from the inner sanctum of publishing.
So in a nutshell, the upshot of attending the NCIBA Show; I encountered colleague Lloyd Prentice, who spearheaded a movement to encourage independent booksellers to establish a Seal of Approval for Indie Writer/Publishers, and with whom I assisted in establishing an online indie writers’ forum. I joined the NABE marketing team and esteemed IBPA (www.ibpa-online.org), and learned of Bay Area Independent Publishers Association, www.BAIPA.org, a generous-spirited volunteer network.
I met some inspiring indie author/publishers—entrepreneurial mavericks all—venturing into new realms of creativity, not only writing, publishing and promoting their own literary works, but also have proven that the pen is mightier than any sword, and that powerful words may very well move mountains. A word to the wise to indie writers frustrated about finding editors and publishers; write, write, and keep on writing—there are many innovative venues available and a host of publishers to bring your literary works to the marketplace.
The NCIBA sponsored several educational series; How to market e-books, using Facebook to promote, children’s rep picks, author buzz sessions, afternoon tea with Philippa Gregory, The Lady of the Rivers. The Friday keynote speaker was docu-filmmaker Michael Moore, fresh to the podium, breathless from attending the Occupy Oakland event; claiming his last documentary message called for revolt.
The sunrays of the show, across from Island 15, was the Sunburst Publishing team of Lowell James and David Smith of Zenith Cove, Tahoe—publisher/marketers of the inspirational book How to Survive in a World Out of Control by J.B. McIntyre—a 2011 Pinnacle Book Achievement Award winner.