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A quick (ha!) summary of me and the book

So, I wrote a fantasy novel, though not for young kids, and I started writing it three and a half years ago for a few reasons:

  1. If I didn’t write it then, when would I? It’s always been a dream of mine to write books and at the age of 32, I felt I was letting it slip away. I admit wanting commercial success, obviously, but I mistly wanted to prove to myself that I could write a complete novel, with a genuine, coherent and hopefully interesting, beginning, middle and end.
  2. I’ve always loved fantasy, from Tolkien and C S Lewis to Stephen R Donaldson, Terry Pratchett, and Scott Lynch.
  3. Most of all, though, the books I see on the shelves of bookstores are, to my mind, junk, filled with the same old stereotypes, storylines, and characters. The writing is usually mediocre and very little jazzes me to read any of it. There are notable exceptions, of course, and I wanted to be one of those.

So that’s the Why.

The What: Witness, the first in an upcoming series called All Prophets Are Liars. The Pitch: Witness calls into question the concepts of destiny and heroism, as one fleeting interaction derails the fate of an entire world, and the unwitting catalysts are seen as the keys to regaining control.

The When: right now.

The Where is: You can order it anywhere you can buy books. Seriously. Online through Amazon, Powells, Barnes & Noble, Borders, Target.com, etc., and in-store at the big box book chains as well as your local independent. There’s one catch, however. While you can order it today from all of the above, none of the brick and mortar stores will actually have any copies on hand, which leads me to…

The How: I mentioned at the beginning that I self-published this. This means I paid someone (iUniverse.com, in this case) to print my book. I didn’t go through the traditional querying and submission process to major (or minor) publication houses to see if they would take this on. Why? A number of reasons, but mostly because I didn’t want to let my fear of rejection stop me from writing a book. As I said before, I wanted to write the book, first and foremost.

Now, because I chose this venue, means I have a bit of a black mark against me in the book world, since a quick scan of the vast majority of self-published or vanity press books available are not of much quality, as there are no enforced editing processes, etc. All it takes is some money and enough words on the page, really.

All that being said, I think I’ve written a pretty darn good story. It’s taken three and a half years from first pencil-written chapter through to (12th) revision. Though I have kept it a secret from all but 6 people for that time, those people have helped me with constant feedback throughout. Now, as I always told my grumbling English students, effort does not inherently equal quality, it is, at the very least, far more likely to do so than waiting for the spark of inspiration. In fact, one of the key learnings out of this entire thing is walking the walk of the talk I always gave to my students: revision is the most important part of effective writing; cutting things out is far harder, and usually more effective, than adding things in; et cetera.

Now, self-publishing also means no marketing help, which is the eventual tie-back to the Where, earlier. Because iUniverse is a POD, or Print On Demand, publisher, there are no warehouses to fill or order from. Every single order is printed at the time of the request. This means a slower response time for delivery, but it also means that bookstores don’t have a cache on hand at the local distributor to request from. One of iUniverse’s features, though, is the inclusion of their books in the Ingram book catalogue, which is where the vast majority of booksellers (brick and mortar or online) order their books from. This means Witness is no different in any basic sense than The DaVinci Code or Stephen King novel. All are ordered the same way. The only real difference is that no-one really knows my book is out there.

To make a long story short (too late!), this simply means to get it in bookstores, people need to ask for it. That includes me. I’m visiting local bookstores, chain and independent, to request that they carry my book. Of course, when many folks learn I’m a local author with a self-published book, they have that same knee jerk reaction I described earlier (self-publish = it’s such junk you couldn’t get any real publishers to print it, so you did it yourself). This is not always the case, however, and I’ve had a couple positive reactions so far, specifically at Longfellow Books in downtown Portland, and, interestingly, at Borders by the mall, meaning Longfellow agreed to order a few without question and Borders will let me know in a week or so whether they’ll carry it.

I, however, am the author. Of course I want them to carry it. If no customers ever ask for it, though, why should they, when they have all the ‘guaranteed’ sellers already filling the shelves?

So we come to the begging portion of our show. I’m not asking everyone to run out and buy a copy, because, honestly, it’s not going to be everyone’s cup of tea. I am, however asking that anyone who does want a copy do so through a local bookstore. If you’ve already ordered online, that’s great, too, because, honestly, that’s where most people start their search for what to read next, and I’ll get to that in a moment. Ordering through the bookstores, though, means the stores might start to take notice of a demand for this, and carry a copy or two anyway. This would, hopefully, then translate into casual browsers picking up the book, store associates reading it and perhaps championing it, etc., and word of mouth is the best advertising ever.

Which leads, inevitably, online. I have my own website now (www.billblais.com), with a blog and an excerpt and stuff, with links to the book, where to buy it, etc., but there’s no ignoring the elephant in the room, and I’m jumping headfirst into Amazon.com. Amazon’s customer reviews are consistently used as measures of viability, even with the wide variance in comment quality. What I would ask then, is that anyone who reads the book, please consider posting your thoughts, positive, negative, or otherwise, on Amazon.com (as well as any of the other online sites, of course, like abebooks.com or powells.com). Again, word of mouth.

So that’s the long and short of it. For now. If you’ve made it this far…you probably have too much time on your hands, but I really appreciate it.

2 Comments
  1. Thanks for giving me the opportunity to stretch more brain cells!!!

    I found myself rapidly drawn into the interwoven lives and dimensions. When I figured out that the first few pages were opening clues to a mystery, I started a list of characters and clues that helped me keep track. (If I had read the jacket, it would have been clearer earlier!)

    Although I read the entire Trilogy of the Rings years ago, I am not current in this style of writing, so expected to be frustrated trying to ‘get into’ Witness. Now I look for times to squeeze a few more pages into my day.

  2. my first comment! thanks, Mom! I’m sorry, it took me a few days to realize i had a comment waiting to be approved, but from now on, you shouldn’t need to wait to see it post.

    as for the mixing, well, yes, that’s going to be a sticking point for some, i think, but i’m thrilled you’re enjoying it enough not to be put off. that’s my hope, particularly for folks who haven’t been in the genre for a while, if ever.

    thanks again for posting, Mom :)

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