Wednesday, April 30, 2014

Music and Words


I absolutely had a great time at my first ever book signing last weekend. Promoting HOW I GREW UP has been a gigantic learning experience. I know I’m repeating myself but people my age are allowed to do that; it’s expected. I wrote the book because I wanted to write a book, and it was a good story. No, it was a great story, actually. I think I did a good job telling it. And since I wrote it, I wanted to see it in print, and then wanted to find ways for more people to know about it and read it.

That plunged me into the wonderful world of book marketing. Yikes. I had no clue about any of this. So every step has been a new one. I did want to have a book signing, and people kept asking me when that was going to happen. I had basically “self-published,” though I did use a Print On Demand company that screens manuscripts. So any marketing I did was left up to me. I’ve since learned that “mid level authors” who sign with a major publishing house virtually have to do the same thing. Big difference, the publisher signs them to a contract, sometimes for a nice amount of money. Another big difference, that publisher owns their book. I definitely like that I own my book, and Virtual Bookworm’s fees were quite reasonable. I’ve made some return for my investment from royalties, and it’s very nice to receive those checks!

Oh, yes, back to the book signing. Since I’ve discovered my “brand” as an author is “the powerful effect of music in people’s lives,” my books have music in them. HOW I GREW UP has music from the musical drama CAROUSEL in it. A local theater, the Pocono Community Theater, was willing to accept books on consignment so people had a place to buy them. One problem with publishing as I did, “brick and mortar” bookstores don’t like to put copies of your book on their shelves because of the return policy of the P.O.D. companies (at least, some of them). In exchange for a donation to the theater if/when books were sold, they also designed and ran an onscreen promotion for the book, and had handouts about HOW I GREW UP in the lobby. It’s a great theater and very supportive of local artists.

Sorry, I keep digressing! The theater agreed to my use of the space for a book signing, and my first thought was to have a showing of the film version of CAROUSEL in conjunction with the signing. The film wasn’t available, and that turned out to be a good thing. Why not live music from the show, along with some brief readings by the author, as a special event? Much better!

So some new friends, performers from Theatrical Gems -- a new local theater group -- were kind enough to sing the songs I wanted to hear (which is some cases meant they learned the songs for me). The great young men and women from East Stroudsburg High School South who didn’t graduate last year were willing to resurrect a couple of the ensemble numbers from the show. A good friend and fine pianist, Todd Deen, was available to play for the evening.

The theater thrilled me no end when they put the name of the book on their marquee two weeks prior to the book signing, and the local newspaper contacted me for an interview. Also very cool.

The audience seemed to enjoy the night as much as I did. Started at seven, over before eight-thirty. It was great fun to sign books for people! It was fun to read some selections from the book to introduce some of the musical numbers. It was most fun for me to hear that wonderful music again, music I had been introduced to over a half-century earlier, and feel I was sharing the music with yet more people. Thanks to one of my sons and his best friend, all my expenses were covered and I was able to make it a “no charge” event.

It was interesting to go back to HOW I GREW UP and select my readings, because my head and heart have been so much in ELI’S HEART for the past eight months that I had not re-read my first book since it was released last October. I liked what I read. I also found mistakes that I had missed, even though I read and re-read that book more times than I can count. I actually spotted one as I was reading on Sunday night, but fortunately, was careful not to broadcast it to the people who were there. Well, I guess in 84,000 words, two or three mistakes isn’t too bad. There may be more I’m not aware of. Good lesson learned, go over ELI’S HEART with even more care before releasing it.

The book signing and “music and words” event was great! I’d like to do it again. I have a friend who is working on a book signing for me for fall. I should have two books by then! If anyone had told me last year on April 30 that I would write two novels in less than a year, I’m sure I would have laughed. Melanie, my heroine in HOW I GREW UP said it best: Life can certainly be strange.