The battle is over, the bombs dropped, the shots fired, the smoke cleared, the dead lay scattered across the battlefield, the wounded picked up and carted out to the mobile hospitals. Me, I sit with my back up against the trench, face hot and dirty from the soil that sticks to my sweat, my breath beginning to even out, lit cigarette danging from trembling fingers.
Yesterday was the day I wanted to see if I could sell more books online than I could at a traditional signing. As you know, for eons, traditional signings have been an integral part of the writer's job in promoting his or her work. Remember the old stories about writers getting into their cars and traveling cross country to stop at every bookstore possible in order to "move units?"
Well, that kind of thing has not only become out-dated, it's become an anachronism in this the age of global media, internet, and social networking. Why get in the car and travel to a bookstore to move a few copies when you can move three, four, even ten times the amount by doing some social networking and pushing right from home?
Anyone who knows me, knows I've never been fond of book signings.
I've never had much luck with them. I remember once showing up in LA at a signing scheduled at a pretty popular mystery bookstore, and my books hadn't arrived yet. I recall others where it snowed and no one could make it. More recently, a bookstore owner purposely double-billed with an author she was promoting due to his local celebrity news broadcasting status. I was told to "go to the back of the store!" I signed books for the people who had shown up to see me, and then I walked out.
Perhaps it's me, but too often the attitude I've received from some bookstore owners and workers (not all, but some) was one of, "You need me, but I don't need you!" Hmmmm, shouldn't it be the other way around????
Last evening I was scheduled to sign books at the local B&N. It's like one of three bookstores left in the area, so in a way, I felt an obligation to sign there, even though I much prefer to speak at high schools, colleges, book clubs, even rotary meetings. As much as I loathed the event, I decided to put the situation to good use and advertise a push for THE INNOCENT just to prove that my time might be better spent selling books from my own computer than standing in a big chain store outlet for the Big 6, where I would almost certainly not sell very many copies of a small press production.
Now, as early as 10 AM in the morning, my built-in-shit-detector started whispering to me. It said, "Vince, there's gonna be a screw up with B&N and there won't be a signing." I even posted my sentiments on FB. Not 45 minutes later, I received this email from the Director of Public Relations for the Albany area B&N:
Hi Mr. Zandri,
I have a note here that we had discussed, before the holidays, the possibility of an author signing for this evening. However, I have not been able to get any copies of your book as it is still listed as unavailable to order, and there are none in our distribution center. I did not have a phone number to contact you, but was able to find your e-mail on your website. Can you contact me so that I know you received the message and we can try and set up a signing date when the books will be available?
Community Relations Manager
Mind you, this email was received on the morning of the signing. Invites had been sent out, confirmations of who would be coming received, not taking into account general public attendees. Naturally I immediately got on the horn with my publisher and was not only informed that the books had been distributed a month ago, he had the receipt in hand for their arrival.
So I went back to Ms. Community Relations Manager with the intel and received this email back:
So, by all appearances, because of an inner departmental screw up, I was SOL. What this ironically meant of course, was that my little competition between Kindle/E-Book sales vs. paper sales at a brick and mortar bookstore was already won by the E-Books....By default.
But a strong lesson had been learned by this experience. It told me that no longer would I seek out book signings in brick and mortar stores as a general rule. Only under special circumstances will I now do a signing. To further bolster my stance, online sales were brisk yesterday to say the least, not only with Kindle, but with Nook, and other E-Book readers. Not only did THE INNOCENT sell in bestselling numbers in three different Amazon categories, but many of my other "in print" titles told as well.
When I went to bed last night, and the B&N doors were locked up for the night, my books kept right on selling, while that box of books that was sent back by B&N sat gathering dust and mold in some warehouse, whereabouts unknown.
My books are selling. There's power in those words.
My books are selling right now. As they will forever and ever, thanks to paperless publication. Regardless of how many book signings I do or don't do, no matter how many bookstore owners turn their nose up at me, no matter how many I-don't-give-a rat's-ass B&N workers who decide to return my books to sender simply because it's a hell of a lot easier than taking the time to look into the ISBN problem.
I received two more emails from the B&N community relations person. The first thanked me for my understanding. But I wrote back telling her that it wasn't so much my understanding, so much as I wasn't surprised at the treatment I received. First, in not being informed of the screw up until the day of the signing and, second, in not making the effort to look into the problem in the first place. After that, she merely responded with the following:
Simple and community relations-respectful. But also generic and totally blow-off.
In other words, instead of "Hey, let's work this out and get you back on this floor for a dynamite book signing," it was just, Good luck with the career and don't let the door slap you in the ass on the way out.
And you wonder why indie publishers and self-published authors are creating a virtual revolution? Listen folks, this isn't all about getting 50% off the dollar for each sale; it isn't about the ease of DIY; it isn't necessarily about mining the Kindle market for all its potential gold. In other words, if you think the revolution is about the money, you've got it dead wrong. The revolution is about authors no longer being slaves to the likes of B&N, to the likes of irresponsible and corrupt agents, to the likes of big corporate publishers who just assume toss you under a bus rather than honor a contract that won't guarantee hundreds of thousands in sales. The biggies aren't bankrupt in their bank accounts, they are bankrupt in their souls and have been for a long, long time.
The publishing revolution is about freeing the author from the chains that bind them to corporate slavery, greed, and irresponsibility. I'm a bestseller now. Shove that in your pipe and smoke it, Ms. Community Relations Manager!
And thank God I'm free! Free at last, Free at last... Thank God almighty, I'm free at last!