Sunday, June 1, 2014

Mission: Faithful

Back in the day, as they say, I wrote my first book, Mission: Faithful. I self-published it, since it is not the kind of book many publishers, even religious ones, were interested in. Though the book is an action-adventure fiction, the underlying themes are about unity of Christian denominations and discernment among Christian individuals. Unity has not seemed to be a priority of denominational publishing houses. Perhaps that will change now that Pope Francis is actively encouraging it.

At the time, Barnes and Noble was open to promoting local authors, and I am thankful to have had a book signing at our nearby store. It was attended by friends and relatives, most of whom had already received the book free from me. To say I am not a dynamic marketer is a vast understatement, and I sold very few. So, I gave several to local libraries and a few to others and more or less called it quits.

At the time I published the book, printing businesses had not yet gone to digital publishing. They were using the old way of making a typeset proof or whatever they called it, and printing from there. The initial setup costs were high but the printing lower, so the more books you got, the less they cost each. However, I knew I would probably not sell many, and did it more for the promotion of the ideas than to make money. I did not want to order a large number. Unfortunately, my husband was of the “less cost per book” mindset, so we ordered one thousand of them.

I don’t know exactly how many I had left after my efforts at distribution, but it was a lot. I made room in the basement for all the boxes and they have been there for a long time. Somehow, this experience did not dampen my desire to write, and I self-published a fictional mystery, Unto Others, in 2008. Fortunately, by that time our printing businesses had acquired digital, print-on-demand capabilities and I ordered 100 paperback copies of Unto Others. I loosely followed the same pattern as the first book in my marketing, but this time did not have so many left over. This book also can be found at local libraries. I was not making money on it, but when I occasionally checked the status in the various library catalogs, I was pleased to find it was often checked out. At least people were reading it.

In the time since then, the digital age has truly come upon us, and people are reading books right from the electronic files. I’ve decided to self-publish my most recent book, Biotech Swirl, in the ePUB format, and plan for now to keep it at that. Boy, does that reduce costs! However, since it isn’t in a library, my quandary was whether anyone would ever hear about this book. It’s on my blog, but this is not a high-volume traffic kind of place.

So, I decided to take the extras of my first paperback, Mission: Faithful, and wrap one at a time in a plastic bag with a half-sheet filler that gives my blog address and pictures of the other book covers. I decided to place them in the community one at a time so that people can discover the free book inside the bag, read it and also be aware of my blog.
However, just after I started to place a few per week in various locations, I learned about the rich person who is anonymously placing envelopes of money in San Francisco and tweeting clues of their locations. It seems to have created a fad across the country where various groups and individuals are copying the idea (article about it here). This threw me off because I wondered if the people who found my book would have heard about the money envelopes and be disappointed at the lack of cash.

So I added a text box to the filler in which I quote a part of Proverbs (from BibleGateway). It talks about wisdom being more valuable than silver, gold and rubies. I remember reading that when I was young and it somehow stuck. As I get older, I increasingly appreciate and believe the words. In case you can't read it in the entire filler above, I have a separate image of it here.

Though we might have varying opinions on specific aspects of wisdom, I hope my books are wise, especially in the sense that I try to bring out, through the characters, ways our relationship with God affects our lives. The books are meant, like many fictional stories, to provoke thought about deeper things.

I wrote Mission: Faithful on a computer program so old that I would have to re-type it to make it available digitally. I am not planning to spend the time on that, but I have put Unto Others into accessible digital form. I also have a few non-fiction booklets available on the blog. The names are lined up as links under the top picture of the blog. You can read and download any or all of them, which I heartily encourage.

To clarify, I am not sending electronic clues like the millionaire to find my book. I don't tweet at all--I figure one Internet interface is enough for me. I just put each book in its individual bag at a variety of places where people eventually go by and hope it catches their attention. And when you talk about marketing, that is about as high-pressure as I get.

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