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kismet, serendipity, persevence, luck, what have you…

[the above might allude as much to your ability to get through this post as to the post itself]

in case anyone’s been reading along, you might recall last saturday’s post regarding all the amazing things i was going to accomplish that day. for those who happened to have somehow missed that blisteringly interesting entry, here’s the summary:

  1. kirkus discoveries review submission
  2. door to door begging at local bookstores
  3. queries for online review sites submissions
  4. my first query letter to an agent

of these, i completed…zero.

since then, however, i’ve managed to hammer out that first query letter (i was woefully underprepared for the time involved in creating that, and i don’t think i really nailed it, either, but more on that elsewhere). this was ultimately a good thing, as it forced me through that learning, which i will put to use in future attempts. most of all, it solidified my resolve to keep at this whole thing, no matter what.

however, that still leaves three sizeable activities entirely unaccounted for. worse, still, i was so sapped by the query letter process that i succumbed to the sin of allowance, and let myself forego three story-by-day posts and one (only my third, for crying out loud!) story-by-week post. very demoralizing.

but i caught back up. (well, with the dailies anyway. the weeklies are aiming for tomorrow.) tiny thing, really, just a handful or so of lines each day. how hard is that, right? you’re right, of course. like anything else, it’s only as hard as i make it. so i made it easy.

anyway, i’m rambling. (if this is a surprise to you, then you clearly haven’t been here long.)

today, however, saw significant progress on two of the remaining three fronts. waking up at 4:30 can help with that kind of thing.

so i spent the bulk of the morning on review research and building a bookmark in publisher. not on the original list, but i want to put them in the books that i will be giving to the bookstores today, and in the review copies, as the bookmarks will also have my contact info. and, who knows, it could be shared with friends, left on a desk to be picked up by another, and so on…

Witness Bookmarki danced with the devil a bit, here, as i tend to do around such technically creative things. i can very easily get lost in the endless bog of infinitesimal details that can come from that. this is the dark side of my web development background. is the image too dark? what if i tilted it a bit more to the right? is the font too big? should i use the standard Times New Roman, the cleaner but larger Lucida Sans, or Middle Ages, which is like three shades off from Times New Roman? Black background and white text? White background and black text? No background at all? black and white for the whole thing? i better make copies of all these versions, just in case i want to go back.

this blog isn’t called ‘one more draft’ for nothing, my friends. have i mentioned that i did 12 revisions on Witness?

but(!), i didn’t go so far from the path this time. the focusing effect of my beloved wife clearly helped keep me on track. i would be lost without her.

*sigh*

so i landed on the final version (i’ll try and add the image to this post; haven’t done that yet), and then, since it was barely 7:30 and not even kinko’s or staples were open yet for me to get the bookmarks made up, i moved on to researching online review sites. i had gathered a list of 20 or so, and then worked through that to get at the ones that actually allow for submission of POD and/or self-published books. the list shrunk to 4. but it’s 4 chances! so i got all the contact information.

in this process, though, i landed on this article by Lillian Cauldwell discussing query letters. clear, simple, and providing a method for creating a synopsis that made perfect sense. after i’d sent in my query letter with my bare bones synopsis, under the perception that less is more, though, i now believe, there’s such thing as too little.

so after beating myself up for a bit over this, i had to get away from the computer and out of the house. grocery shopping was next (one of my genuinely favorite times of the week – i mean, come on, if you love food, how can you not love shopping? and yes, i love food). as an added bonus, staples is one strip mall down from the supermarket, and we got 25 bookmarks printed up, all glossy and sharp looking.

back at home, i feel compelled to look at the bookmarks again, just to prove their reality. that’s when mary notices the fact that i’ve left out a word in the short description i included. i forgot the word ‘the’.

ha. ha. ha.

but, okay, i can deal. since today’s attack plan began with a bookstore near another staples, i’ll just drop another fiver on another 5 pages. easy. okay.

we got home at 11, though, and my stomach’s screaming because i ate breakfast 5 hours earlier, so it’s an early lunch, during which i fix the files (thought i was going to forget, didn’t you?), write my daily story post and then we pack most of the books into a box and head out, me buzzing with nervous excitement. this is real. i’m going to walk in the door and ask an established bookstore with established books to put my little indie book on their shelves.

but, you know what? i still think my book’s as worth reading as at least half the books currently filling those shelves.

pumped up and cheered on by mary, we head into staples and make the order. first the woman at the counter says what took 8 minutes in the other staples will take an hour here. ?? but then we talk her down to a half hour, and wander the strip mall for the intervening time, intentionally ignoring the bookstore right next door. when we come back for the bookmarks, though, they’re all blurry. after conversation and several attempts, it seems that this staples’ machines don’t have enough memory for the 300dpi resolution of my bookmarks, and there’s nothing they can do about it. period.

okay. hold it in. there’s a kinko’s downtown we can try. okay.

walking out of staples, it’s started to rain.

don’t react. just keep moving.

and that’s what we did. we kept moving, kinko’s served us right, and quick, and we hit the three remaining independents. the first was a place we like to visit when in town, but that’s rare enough that they don’t know me from adam. nonetheless, he immediately says he’ll stock a couple copies, hardly batting an eye. he even said he’d give the copy i gave him a read and i could check back in a couple weeks. stepping outside, i’m a little stunned. mary’s beaming. it worked!

the manager of the second indie store wasn’t around, but i got her name and a time to call in next week. okay. that makes 50%, pessimistically. can’t complain.

the third store’s manager is also not present, but i can leave my copy to be read and am given her card and info to get back in touch with. that works! can i call that 66%?
finally, borders. it’s the only big box in the area, and last on our list, but it’s already 3:30 in the afternoon. this has taken far longer than we expected (not unlike this post, as i’m sure you’re aware, if you’re still reading). i’m jazzed by the fact that i’m still doing this, despite the minor wrinkles and possible portents of letting it go for another day. so, into the big box i go and give the same lines again, looking for the inventory manager to consider stocking my book. then someone a few steps away says my name.

‘Bill?’

my manager from my stint as a bookseller back in 1995-96. i haven’t seen her since then, and here she is, working at borders, standing in the same area i am, at the same time i am trying to ask them to stock my book.

dude.

i’m totally flabbergasted and trying to not look an idiot, but she gets one of the inventory managers and he takes my book and asks me to check back in a couple weeks.

dude?

now, i’m not saying there’s anything, here, as she doesn’t do the ordering or inventory management, and i know my book’s not her cup of tea, by any means, which is perfectly fine and reasonable, but it’s hard not to see the day as leading to this end, from the beginning. what are the chances we would run into each other? borders is not a small shop. if i hadn’t mucked that bookmark text, or the second staples hadn’t been unable to print them, we’d’ve been on track with the day’s plan, hit borders at noon, and the manager easily could have been at lunch, or anywhere else in that store.

i permit myself one final exclamation.

dude!

okay, enough of that. as i say, the response i received at borders is no more than i received at the first indie store. in fact, the indie said he’d definitely stock it and even said he’d give it a try himself. how bloody cool is that?

a good day. a very good day.

and on that note, let me wrap this overly windy post up with this final word:

to all i met today, i thank you.

-bill

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