Something happened this week that should have happened a year ago.
I began to appear professional.
In fact, it would have been a mite helpful if that would have happened in 1992. But for the sake of brevity let’s just stick with the 21st century.
Last year I looked like a guy who’d written a book. This week I began to look like a guy intent on selling one.
There’s a big difference.
I’ve had some people suggest my next book should be the story of “Use All The Crayons!” and the journey it’s taking me on. They say a lot of aspiring writers would enjoy it. And I might do that, but only if the book becomes a success.
There’s no point in writing a book about a book that didn’t sell. It’d be redundant. The only way I could draw any interest is if the failure turned me into a serial killer and I don’t have the stomach to make such a vile transformation.
Maybe I could become a serial hugger.
So what’s the big deal about this week?
The book’s website became fully functional; I got some snazzy “Use All The Crayons!” letterhead; and I got invited to promote the book Saturday night with John McIntire on KDKA. He’s the city’s best radio host and is back on Pittsburgh’s heirloom radio station.
A professional would have had all that lined up before he or she even got a peek at the finished book.
Not me. I did it all practically backwards.
Let’s start with the website. When you self-publish, you don’t think about promotion. At least I didn’t.
No, I thought about how this could be the biggest mistake of my life, one that could sink what has already been an often-leaky rubber raft of a career in the first place.
You wonder if you’ll recoup the $8,000 you charged on your credit card for self-publishing services and 2,000 copies. You wonder if you’re getting ripped off. You wonder what you see in yourself that’s been invisible to every other agent and publisher on the face of the earth.
It’s a preposterous undertaking.
I lost faith. I didn’t think anyone would want to buy my book.
So what did I do? I began giving it away.
I spent four or five months last summer getting copies into the hands of all my friends and loved ones. Each book was inscribed with a note saying I could never have written a book about colorful living without them in my life.
Then they all started buying copies for friends: 10 at a time, 20. One guy bought 30.
I knew then I was onto something.
It takes me a long time to get a website to my liking. I’m finicky. Plus, I listen to suggestions. Apollo Design here in Latrobe does all my work. They have many high-paying and demanding customers.
I’m not one of them.
I understand they’re busy with deep-pocket accounts so I’m sheepish about pestering. Then when they do everything to my wishes, someone suggests, hey, your site really needs a media kit page with FAQs.
So I go back to Mike and tell him what I want next and that, pinky swear, this will be it. And all that time I hold off on a big media push until the site is just so.
As of Wednesday the site became just so.
It was two days after my new letterhead came in. The letterhead is cheerful. It is colorful.
It is beautiful.
As I said before, I’ve been reluctant to change letterhead because I’m already awash in the stuff.
I’d send out promotional letters in “Palm Features” envelopes paper clipped with “Eight Days To Amish” business cards, promoting a book called “Use All The Crayons!” signed in crayon by a guy named Chris Rodell.
It was confusing.
Finally, I ran out of Palm Features envelopes.
That was the final instigation to get “Use All The Crayons!” envelopes, letterhead and business cards.
Now I have confidence that I have the total package.
Call me old school, but the U.S. Postal Service will be my point of contact.
I believe a one-page eye-catching letter with a couple of gushy clips about the book will at this stage do more for me than a 1,000 charmless e-mails. My envelopes will stand out like jewels in the mail of editors I’ll now target for feature stories. Who doesn’t enjoy getting a nice letter?
The letters, I hope, will entice them to the website where Monday I’ll post a link to the KDKA interview with the great John McIntire, my favorite big city radio talk host. He’s funny, sarcastic, avowedly liberal and eminently listenable to people of all political persuasions.
He used to have me on for his much-missed PCNC cable show “NightTalk.” Nothing I’ve ever done has equaled the interest of those appearance. People just loved that show.
I read last week that KDKA is bringing him back. I sent him a note of congratulations, told him about my book and -- boom -- he asked me to be on Saturday at 9 p.m. I hope you’ll tune in.
I can’t wait. I can guarantee it’ll be so loose and fun that parts of it will seem downright unprofessional.
I’ll feel right at home.
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