The book release party for Scar of the Downers was Saturday. Going into it, my wife and I googled around quite a bit to see what other authors did for their parties, but, having never been to one, we had to put our imaginations to work in planning it.
(Normally, I wouldn't really include details like this, but since we learned a lot about launch parties from Author blogs, I thought it might be helpful to have this out there for other people who might be researching the same thing.)
Reserving the Community Room at a local library seemed practical for three reasons: A library seemed like a fitting place, it’s in a central, well-known location, and it was free. The room could hold 40-45 people, and so, not knowing how many people would attend, we opted to do a drop-in, reception-style arrangement.
We decided to have two scheduled times for book readings and Q & A sessions, and we put those times on the flyers and invitations so that people would have a choice as to when they would attend. And we also decided to have some door prizes. We gave away two books, two mugs (we had them designed with the cover and a quote from the book), and four $5 Starbucks gift cards.
Overall, we had between 75-80 people show up, I sold 25 books (and signed even more, since a lot of people brought theirs), and I even made a few contacts with a couple of other local authors. Some good friends made us a cool cake, and my sister and brother-in-law sent flowers and balloons since they live far away and couldn't make it.
Liz introduced me before each Book Reading, and I read a selection that was about 6-7 minutes long. Then, the guests asked me questions. Honestly, there were a lot more questions than I thought there would be, which was a good thing! People who were reading the book asked me specific questions about the plot, the characters, etc. Then, I also had questions about the writing process. It was kind of a blur, so hopefully I made sense when I was talking.
Afterwards, we were all exhausted, which I'm sure you can imagine. We feel the party was a success, though, and we were thankful for all of our friends and family who showed up and supported us!
Everyone has a story. It doesn't matter if the person is real or fictional. The person's story is his or her's defining experience. In writing, we call it backstory, and writers think a lot about it because it is an integral part to a story.
Who is this character? What are his relationships like? How did he end up where he is at this exact point in the narrative? Questions like this plague authors. The answers to these, and others like them, determine everything about the character, and, if that character is the main one, determine the arc of the story itself.
You must know where I'm going with this. If all of our fictional characters that we read about (or write about) have a back story, so do all of us. Part of the interesting thing about life is learning the backstory of those close to us. Which, when we learn this backstory, makes us feel even closer to these people.
So, then the question every writer has is, how to reveal the back story. Do you do it all at once (or at least the main points), do you wait until the end (the big revelation as part of the climax), or do you space it out in spatterings like a Jackson Pollack painting (kind of like a mystery novel)?
If we're mirroring life here, sometimes you get a little bit of all three. You meet a person, and you might ask questions about where the person is from, how many siblings he has, where he went to school, etc., etc. You are basically asking for his (abbreviated, superficial) backstory. Or, as Lajos Egri would categorize it - the sociological part of his story.
The deeper you go into someone's backstory, the more you understand him and perhaps see why he made the choices he did and ended up in the place where he is. The fascinating thing about this is that it feels infinite. I'm still learning new backstory details about my wife, and I've been married to her for almost twelve years.
Then, from the writerly stand point, there's the moment when you find out something from someone's backstory that seems to change everything - sometimes for good, or possibly for ill. This is the Moment of Discovery. Very, very important in storytelling. Because in that moment your story changes, and you are forced to take everything to the next level. Your character must make Big Decisions that will impact her life and shift the path of her future.
So, thanks for enduring my ramblings on backstory. Now, I urge you, if you are a writer, don't neglect this element of your narrative. And, for anyone out there, I urge you - find out the backstories of the people around you. In this way, your relationships will grow and you will have greater understanding of those people who inhabit your sphere.
Sometimes things just don’t work out the way you imagined them.
Yesterday is the day of my book’s release. It should be an awesome moment, right? It should have been celebratory! I’ve worked many years to reach this moment.
So… why wasn’t it? I’ll briefly tell you.
Over the past few weeks, my book has been on pre-order status on Amazon. People were buying it. Things were going well. Then, last Thursday, the book’s status changed to “Temporarily Out-of-stock.” Though you could still order the book, it was listed as out-of-stock.
Okay. That’s seems good, maybe? I don’t know. But then, Monday night, the status changed again.
The note on Amazon said that you couldn’t even buy the book from them, only from 3rd party sellers. Essentially, it was as if Amazon and my publisher had no relationship. What? That’s crazy, since the kindle version was up and running!
After many, many conversations with my publisher and Amazon, I found out there are a lot of different opinions as to what the problem is and whose fault it is. The relationship between Amazon, the Distributor, and the Publisher appears to be a complicated mass of codes, buttons, misinformation, and miscommunication. I could go into it all, but it would probably be very boring to read, and possibly incorrect, since everyone seems to give a different response.
Bottom line: Amazon doesn’t have my book available to ship because they don’t actually have copies of them in the warehouse.
It’s disheartening that this would happen, but I guess that’s just indicative of how things don’t always turn out the way we would imagine that they would. While there is no doubt the book will eventually be in stock, the fact is that it isn’t currently, and everyone who preordered a copy (including myself) will most likely be waiting a few weeks for it.
This post isn’t to bash anyone or any company. It is to express the frustration and disappointment I have felt on a day that I should’ve been able to celebrate. (Just being transparent.)
With that in mind, I would encourage those who haven’t bought a print book yet to go to Barnes and Noble instead. I bought one on Sunday night and it shipped on Monday. I have an actual tracking number for it and it should be here tomorrow. I think that I will start buying my books from Barnes & Noble from now on. They seem to have their act together.
I will also say this: It’s too easy to feel powerless in a situation like this one. I have called and emailed many people trying to figure out what the problem is. And, I will continue to do so. Apparently this has been an issue for other authors as well, and I feel like it needs to be worked out. Some people may say that I need to just wait it out, but I keep thinking… this isn’t a hobby for me. Becoming an author is my chosen career path. It’s what will hopefully allow me to one day support my family.
Simply letting go of this is not really an option.
Here is the link to Barnes & Noble. Order from them. Leave a review. And hope that this will be resolved shortly.
As some of you may already know, my book was released on Kindle this past Friday (February 27th). As you can imagine, this whole thing has been a big deal to me and my family. The past nine years of my life has been dedicated to writing and getting this book published. And I hope, it is only the beginning.
I thank those who have been supportive and have bought the book. Some may begin reading it shortly, while others already are reading it. Again, I thank you. Like I said many months ago in an old blog post:
No matter how talented a writer is, he needs other people to help him: an agent, an editor, a publisher, and even more than that, readers.
Without other people, a writer is only a lonely person typing on a computer or writing in a notebook.
Without other people, a writer’s work is destined for deletion, dust, or a wastebasket.
Without other people, a writer is a bitter person with nothing more than memories of a dream he or she once held.
Without other people, a writer is a confused person who mutters to him or herself a lot.
Without other people, a writer has many stories, but only one reader.
The Reader is the connector. In the knowledge that someone has taken the time to read the words that I put to the page, I feel honored and humbled. We are connected now, in the same way that you feel a connection to people who listen to your personal story.
I’ve noticed something. When I share my innermost thoughts and feelings with loved ones and friends, they tend to open up about their own thoughts and feelings. And that’s sort of what a writer craves when someone reads his or her book – a response. A reaction.
That’s why reviews are important. You leave a review, and you offer support. My wife likes to read blogs a lot and pointed me toward one a while back, which I want to share here. It is from Modern Mrs. Darcy. In this particular post, a writer shares about the best gift that a reader can give a writer. I encourage you to read it, I really identified with it.
The guest writer of this blog post, Andi Cumbo-Floyd, writes, “In our marketing-saturated, money-oriented culture, readers can often be swayed to think that the best way to support a writer is to buy her books. Purchasing books is certainly one important method for giving a writer the boost she needs for her career. But simply reading a book makes a world of difference to the spirit of a writer who needs – fundamentally – to be reminded that her work is worth doing.”
As a writer, you spend so much time in isolation that when someone reads your book, it's as if they're joining you. Keeping you company. It makes the time spent alone worth it. Reading a book is a time commitment. So when they crack that cover, they're saying, "I will invest time into what you have to say." Isn't that why writers write? So others will read.
Scott Keen is the author of three young adult fantasy novels, Scar of the Downers, Rise of the Branded, and War of the Downer King.