Patience is a virtue. Supposedly. Well, I guess. It always brings me back to the old printed poster we saw in the “head shops” of the early 1970’s.
The publishing industry is much like the old hardware stores, where walls of tiny little drawers house little parts of an endless variety. Someone in those old stores knew how to find even the most obscure part, screw, or nail. It was a gift.
Those old hardware stores are gone. But, in the publishing industry, those categories are still around. And they change. Sometimes they change year to year. Sometimes they change from one bookstore to another. Even online booksellers have different, often incompatible, categories.
Amazon allows an author to set up the categories for his/her book(s). As the author dives into this, though, restrictions rear their ugly head. Certain topic areas can’t be included in certain age categories, for example. You can’t start with science fiction, and roll down to teen or young adult and then Christian. You have go another way.
Then there are limits to how closely you can define your genre via the categories. Some allow only two or three levels.
When Sudden Mission was first published, the publisher set the primary category as “middle grade.” I thought that included teen or early teen. Silly me. I found out that this put my books in the classification of children’s books. I don’t think the Spirit Missions books qualify as children’s books.
So, when I re-launched the books after that first publisher closed their doors, I set the initial categories as teen or young adult. Then I had to struggle to get things to accept Christian and science fiction as a genre. What fun.
Sometimes the whole category things gets a bit maddening. I grew up reading science fiction, but that’s not all. I read biographies, mysteries, historical novels, history, drama, and classic literature. Even Shakespeare’s plays. My favorites were Julius Caesar, The Tempest, Romeo and Juliet, and Midsummer Night’s Dream. So, how does one categorize all that?
Or, how important is it to categorize all that?
Could the entire motivation to read something is for a good story. Interesting and compelling. A good story.
Maybe the only category we really need for books is “a good story.”
P.S. The summer and early fall have been very busy with travel and other things. I hope you stick with me.
Here’s the trouble with writing something different, unique. As I try to get reviews and marketing attention for Sudden Mission, Nasty Leftovers, and Carolina Dawn, I often come across the question “Are these like the Harry Potter books, or The Hunger Games?”
And, that’s a problem. I can’t piggy-back off the success of other authors by claiming if you like The Hunger Games, you’ll love Sudden Mission. I’m not throwing shade on The Hunger Games or Suzanne Collins. She is a very good author and I loved her books, as I did J. K. Rowling’s Harry Potter series.
But, the Spirit Missions series–I think–is unique. It’s a teen Christian fiction series that incorporates some science fiction, fantasy, role-playing gaming, and a lot of spiritual elements. You won’t find anything like it on the shelves at a Christian book store–unless that store gets some copies of Spirit Missions.
Of course, it all started when I set out to write something I wanted to read. For Christian fiction, I stumbled on Ted Dekker’s work. I found it fascinating and dealing with characters that weren’t cartoon simulations. That’s where I wanted to go. Write about real characters, facing challenges in the real world (okay, mostly real world), incorporating their relationship to God, Jesus, and the Holy Spirit during their journeys.
That’s where I went. I didn’t expect glowing reviews (but I got a few), and I expected a lot of knock-back due to the spiritual nature and some violence. I even expected harsh challenges to the Christian doctrine I chose to follow, and some shock with the way I handle aliens in Carolina Dawn.
What I got was positive feedback from friends who said their non-reader teens couldn’t put the books down. I just wish those teens would get on Amazon or Barnes & Noble and post reviews. I also got a couple of Spirit-filled Fiction awards and I hope Carolina Dawn earns one, too.
Since my former publisher closed their doors in 2016, I’ve struggled with the marketing and promotion. It’s not easy when your product is so different or unique. I got some great help from fellow authors on the net and from friends and family around the country. I also received good advice from Rachel Thompson and her 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge.
So, I keep plugging along. Maybe someday someone will publish something and make the claim that “if you liked the Spirit Missions books, you’ll love <new book title>.” It’s a nice dream.
But, I rarely see an author in a bookstore promoting his or her work, or sitting as a table signing copies. Some local independent stores go out of their way to promote authors, but that usually involves top tier authors with agents and/or one of the top five publishers.
Independent authors are a gamble and, honestly, most bookstores don’t play that.
I had some success with a local independent bookstore, and some Barnes & Noble stores who have aggressive managers. But, that isn’t the norm. Sometime in late 2016 a bookstore somewhere bought eleven copies each of Sudden Mission and Nasty Leftovers. I had no idea what store bought those. IngramSpark (the company that does the print-on-demand paperback editions of my books) cannot/will not divulge that information and the bookstore didn’t make any contact with me about it. This web site URL (universal resource locator) is on the back cover and I’m not hard to find on the Internet.
As it worked out, I ended up buying back all those books. As an independent author, I have to guarantee buy back of books for bookstores to have access to my books. This could be a short route to bankruptcy if a lot of stores bought a lot of books and didn’t sell them.
It’s worth the risk, though.
I don’t know how else to reach bookstores across the country. I can only plead with fans, readers, and other authors. Here’s the deal:
If a bookstore buys some of my books (or any other independent author’s books) let me or that author know via email, website, Twitter, whatever.
I, for one, will guarantee that I will put forth my best effort to let everyone know that you have my books in stock at your location(s). I will use my social media, newsletter, and street team to get the word out. If you have media in your area and want to arrange an interview, I’d be happy to participate. If at all possible and practical, I will make every effort to arrange a visit to your store for a reading, signing, or other event. No additional cost to you, the bookstore.
I can’t speak for the other independent authors, but I bet if you (the bookstores) contacted indy authors when you make an order of their books to let them know, they may make a similar effort.
So, I’m asking all of you to pass on this information.
For Spirit Missions, an independent Christian bookstore might find this approach appealing (I already know that LifeWay bookstores aren’t interested in my books). But, some Barnes & Nobles may be interested. They like teen books and many don’t have a problem with Christian-themed material.
Sometimes a local connection, like where I lived in the past, can help. Like Twin Falls or Boise, ID; Great Falls, MT; Moses Lake, Spokane, Bellingham, or Bothell, WA; Bend or Madras, OR.
If you are a bookstore that stumbled across this page, contact me here.
Wednesday, Carolina Dawn releases and this represents the series end for Spirit Missions. Those who pre-ordered will see them in their e-readers, and the print editions ship from the printer then.
For me, Spirit Missions started in 2012 with some wild ideas and the result was Sudden Mission. The series name didn’t come about until after Nasty Leftovers and I knew there would be a third novel. It has been fun, exciting, and hard work and I wouldn’t trade it for anything.
I want to take a moment and thank all my readers and supporters. Without your support and reviews, it wouldn’t be possible. Keep that in mind. Without reviews, authors and their work languish in obscurity. Even just a star rating–if nothing else–is very welcome.
Now, I move on to other projects. I plan to try more short fiction and a more adult Christian-themed novel. I might release a combined edition of Spirit Missions, with all three novels, and the two related short stories under one cover. We’ll see how it works out.
It’s hard to believe that almost six years ago, I sat down to my computer and started this journey. I learned so much about writing, editing, publishing, covers, and marketing. I’m still learning. Honestly, I don’t think the learning will stop. It seems something new crops up all the time.
Early on, I learned about book trailers. I took mine down shortly after Booktrope closed their doors. I recently put the trailers for the first two books back up on YouTube. Links are in the book pages. I’ll have a trailer for Carolina Dawn out soon.
Keep an eye on my Events page, too. Things are starting to come together. I’ll add events as they get scheduled.
Again, thanks. Enjoy!