Thursday, July 3, 2014

New record "Crayons!" book purchase: 270 to . . .

Two weeks after landing my biggest purchase, I’ve topped it yet again. The new benchmark is 270 copies of “Use All The Crayons!”

But unlike the one for 250 that went to West Virginia University 4H students, I have no idea who’ll be buying these books.

I’m not even sure of the states in which they’ll be sold. It’s because the purchaser is not a group or an individual.

It’s Barnes & Noble.

I’ve had some friends say I need to think about writing a book about how I got this book to become a success, assuming, of course, that it’ll ever become a success.

I’m fairly confident that’s just what’s going to happen. And if that does happen, I can pretty much be sure it’s going to be as thick as a car battery. “War and Peace” will seem like a trifle compared to “Blockbuster or Bust” or whatever title I eventually settle on.

This is taking forever, isn’t it?

I tell people the book is really taking off and it’s just that it’s a really, really long runway.

Remember, it was August 2012 when I got the letter from Barnes & Noble’s Small Press Department in New York informing me they were going to order my book to stock on their shelves, a very rare occurrence for any self-published book.

And they were going to start with 10 copies!

I remember reading that and thinking that had to be a typo. Didn’t they mean 10,000 copies?

I showed the letter to the community relations manager at my local Greensburg store — she’s wonderful — and she was ecstatic.

“Oh, this is tremendous news,” she said. “I’ve worked here for six years and get requests from writers like you about three times a week. This is the first one they’ve ever approved.”

With books like mine, the book really has to prove itself. Those 10 copies were sent to the Greensburg store and monitored to see how quickly they sold.

They sold out right way so they ordered 10 more. Then 20. Then 40.

The average self-published book sells just 100 copies. I sold that many at that one store in December alone.

Those robust sales got the attention of the local district manager who ordered the book sold in all 12 area stores, where they continued to do well. I’d visit each of the stores to say hello and thank them for selling my book.

Soon, thanks to friends and enthusiasts, the book was for sale in stores in Ohio, West Virginia and Connecticut.

Meanwhile, I continued to bust my ass selling it out of the trunk of my car at churches, libraries and civic clubs. 

And I kept hearing from far-flung strangers all around the country. They had to have my book — and they thought their friends needed it, too. Some would order two or three. Some 20.

The best was the woman in Illinois who just had to have 30 signed copies.

Wow, I said. You have that many friends?

“No,” she said, “I have 10 friends, but I want to give 20 to patients down at my local cancer treatment center. I’m sure they’re going to love your book.”

Blew me away.

And you by now must know about the insane reaction to my motivational speeches like the one I gave to those WVU students, one that was so over-the-top I justifiably slugged the YouTube video “greatest author ovation ever!

So early this year, I thought it was time to re-approach Barnes & Noble about wider distribution. I put together a very snazzy package — similar to one that’s earning interest for my speaking gigs — and requested they consider ordering the book for all 661 of its stores.

Took them about two months to respond in a letter that was practically word-for-word what the 2012 letter said with one exception: The order was 27 times higher than two years previous.

So if they ship three copies to each store that’s 90 new stores across the land. How they arrived at that number I have no idea. I wish they’d be more forthcoming with details, but that’s their business.

Mine is to approach every sale like it’s solely up to me and no one else. I understand the book must continue to prove itself. I intend to help it along.

I’m spending this down holiday week writing personal letters to store managers all over America. The letters contain copies of the home office notification and requests that they stock my book and consider giving it some flattering prominence.

In short, I’m going to do everything I did in the Pittsburgh area except on a national scale. I think it’ll work.

If you’re so inclined, the next time you’re in your local Barnes & Noble, I’d appreciate it if you’d mosey on over to the self-improvement section and see if the book’s there. If it’s not, tell someone it should be. If it is, thank the bookseller on my behalf for selling it and ask them to feature the book in a place of prominence.

If they decline, offer to mow their lawn, wash their car, or spend the weekend babysitting their children, etc. Whatever it takes.

And if I can persuade even one of you to do even one of those things, then my dubious contention that I’m America’s foremost motivational humorist will enjoy a significant boost.

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