On a whim, I made a decision today to approach a local book store in an attempt to get my book out into the big, wide world. I recently saw the shop’s flyer, and noted that they are advertising themselves as supportive of local authors, so I felt as though it might have been a welcoming place to start.
When I approached the shop owner, the welcome was frosty. When I introduced myself, and told her that I’m a local author, I was met with a barrage of interrogative and defensive questions. I never actually managed to even say the words I had wanted to say for the first time, “I’m wondering if you’d be interested in taking a copy or two of my book to sell in your shop?” When I told the woman that this was the first time I had EVER approached a shop, EVER, to sell my work (the hint being, back off a little), I was patronised and spoken to like I had prudent sections of my brain missing. I was informed that my chosen publishing company, and others like them, are all “sharks”, and that I could have done better. I was told that self-published books (mine amongst them) “just LOOK self-published”, and I had wasted my money. I was warned that my book probably won’t sell because self-published authors rarely sell copies straight off the shelf, and there’s too much competition. When I asked if I could leave a flyer about my book launch in the shop, the response was hostile and reluctant (I believe the exact words were, “I suppose you could leave one…”). Finally, a story was relayed in which a woman had spent thousands of dollars self-publishing her books, and every single copy of her ten or so works were piled up in dusty boxes in her shed, never to see the light of day…
Then, I was told about the shop owners own self-published work – the one printed on trade paper (therefore, better than mine), the one done by Amazon so the author gets all the profits (therefore, better than mine), the one thicker than mine (yes, that’s right, she actually compared the thickness of her book against my own, as if that is somehow a measure of its worth). She gave me her retail price (a full dollar less than my own, and therefore, you guessed it, better). She pulled her book out of a decorative cotton purse and informed me that she was lucky enough to have been shortlisted for a prize for her book, and had made her money back within six months. Three years later, she is still selling copies (“people just keep buying it, and I’m like, why do you want THAT?! It’s three years old!” That wasn’t me talking. Just to clarify).
I had a choice to make in that moment.
Option one: take the ONE copy of my book that she accepted for the shop, the one that “won’t sell”, and “probably won’t even get picked up off the shelf because it doesn’t stand up against the big names”, and walk out with my head held high, no closer to getting my work recognised.
Or, option two: leave my book there. Leave the time, the energy, and love I put into it. Leave the pride I feel for its very existence. Leave all of the positivity I have worked hard to pour into its creation, trying to protect it from any inkling that I couldn’t make it a reality. Leave all of the belief and faith other people have placed in me as an author. Leave it all sitting in the book seller’s shop, and hope to high heaven that that little self-published number flies off her shelf quicker than she can say ‘bubble burster’, one person closer to being acknowledged as a writer.
I left my book there. Because that woman is just a lesson in growing a thick skin, and I’m not about to let one Negative Nancy trick me into ruining this creation or believing it wasn’t all worth it. Because I’m proving a point. Because I think she’s wrong, and I want the evidence.
I write because I am compelled to write. I write because it makes me joyous. And I write because it feels like home. If I was in this for the dollars, I would buy myself an independent book shop marketed as a hub in support of local authors, and then I would try to slowly weed out the competition through bitterness and negativity whilst simultaneously tooting my own horn and spruiking my own wares.
I’m in it for the feels. I don’t believe in competition, and I definitely don’t believe in creating a life of dullness and failure by letting other people have me believe my work will not compete with others. I’ve got my own self-doubt and insecurity to grapple with. I refuse to carry someone else’s. Thoughts become reality. Don’t let the bad ones in.
So, I guess I really am an author, now. I’ve got the rejection from the threatened, insecure, competition-focused cynic to prove it.
I’m grateful for today’s lesson.
(Side note: Really, I’m only human, and I’m just PRAYING for someone to buy that book and wipe the smug, self-important smile off today’s lesson’s face. But I mean that with love in my heart and faery dust in my veins).
(Additional side note: people who don’t reside in Adelaide can buy This Little Light of Mine from http://www.balboapress.com; http://www.amazon.com; or, http://www.barnesandnoble.com. Visit http://www.facebook.com/clairehornewrites for further details).