A Ship Between Two Ports: Ramblings For Self-Published Authors. 4) Smiling Back At The Shack

The journey of a self-published author is full of sacrifices, surprises and unexpected rewards. The major reward is finishing your project and getting it out in the market place. Once done, you can always look back at your book and the labors it took to get there with a definite pride. What other people dream about (and can certainly do if they put their minds to it) we have actually accomplished. There is no taking that away from us.

Of course, one of the less pleasant surprises along the way is to discover that our efforts can rattle the cages of certain individuals. Those who resent the efforts of self-published authors – even though the self-published route does not threaten or hurt them in any way.

An example of this is a woman I will call Shackleford, who for the sake of brevity, I will nickname The Shack. The Shack is recognizable in every nook and cranny of every field of endeavor. Every one of us has run into her at one time or another.

The Shack was a member of a four week writer’s seminar I attended some time ago. She identified herself as an author, but she became vague or defensive anytime someone asked her for more information. This in itself was a red flag.

A judgmental and passive-aggressive type, one of her habits was to speak in a gentle whisper and then release a sarcastic zinger or insult and immediately follow it with a forced grin which showed as many of her teeth as possible. It was as if to say “I got you with that one, but my smile tells the world it’s all good-natured, and therefore any reply on your part is automatically mean-spirited. So there.” One of the unexpected pleasures of my journey was the day I smiled back at The Shack.

My first run in with her came when the seminar leader had asked me to share a little about the writing and publishing of The Northeast Quarter. This immediately produced a reaction from The Shack.

“Ooohh,” came a whisper behind me. “Just how long to intend to give yourself, being self-published and all?” I turned around and among the row of faces was the frozen grin of The Shack.

It is very easy to rise to the bait with such an individual. But once you’ve made your dream come true, it is also very easy to step back emotionally and let their resentment run off your back. “I’m glad I finished it and got it out there,” I answered. “It’s been an amazing journey.”

This exchange was more of a warm-up.

My book launch party was about a month later. Since I was a totally unknown first-time novelist of retirement age, I didn’t expect a packed room. I realized I would have to create an edge to get the word out – I had to find a way to pitch the event to an audience larger than the one at the party. (How I got this edge will be described later in this posting).

The book launch was to be an hour or so of catered food and chit-chat, followed by an interview/discussion and book signing.

On the day, as the guests showed up, I was surprised to see The Shack enter with another person from the seminar. She immediately walked over to me. “I can’t stay for the interview,” she whispered sweetly. “I can only stay for the food.” The smile followed as final punctuation.

The Shack examined the back of my book for a few seconds, put it back on the display table and then made a beeline for the food. She grabbed a plate and spent the next hour doing nothing but eat and eat some more. At least in her case, the food was not going to waste.

The attendance was about what I had anticipated. I was grateful for the people who showed and truly surprised that some of these were individuals I had not seen for many years. As I have said, you learn who your friends are. You make new friends and you renew old friendships as well.

By the time the interview portion began, The Shack and her companion had vanished.

The next time I saw her was a week later at the final meeting of the seminar. I was prepared for her. As seminar members arrived, she stood back, observing me with a smirk. She seemed to be waiting for enough people to provide an audience.

“I’m so sorry that the attendance was so low at your book launch,: she whispered sweetly, followed by the inevitable grin.

“I’m not,” I replied, smiling back at her. The frozen expression began to quiver around the edges. She had not expected a friendly retort to her zinger.

As mentioned, I wanted to create an edge to widen my audience. The seminar leader asked how I had handled this, so I explained. I had recruited some FB Friends and some other individuals who are now FB Friends. The first thing we did was to do a daily countdown to The Harris Book Launch Party on social media. The next was to take on an interviewer with a list of questions as well as a film crew to record the interview. And thirdly, another person, positioned in the audience, recorded 50 second segments of the interview and posted the excerpts on Twitter as The Harris Book Launch Party Happening Live.

When I began, my book was for sale on Amazon and Barnes & Noble in both hard copy and e-book form. A few days after the party I learned that it was now for sale (in addition to America) in England, France, Italy, Germany, Japan, Australia and New Zealand. Someone out there must have been listening and I am so glad that they did.

I finished explaining this, I reiterated my gratitude for the help I had received in setting it up.

“Well…You paid for it,” The Shack snapped. This time there was no smile.

The Shack was right in one respect. When you want your dream to come true, sometimes you have to take chances and make big sacrifices. Financially I am still paying for this one, but it was worth every cent. To get our works out there and in the public eye, you have to do whatever it takes.

And speaking of doing whatever it takes, here is our old friend Samuel. the fictitious opponent of self-published authorship. “How are you, Samuel?” I ask. “How dare you, Mr. Harris? How dare you hold this poor woman up to ridicule? She’s sensitive and hard-working and you paint her as if she were some sort of psychopath. What do you say to THAT, Mr. Harris?”

“The same thing I’ve always said. You do what you have to do…And by the way..when are you going to finish your book, Samuel?”

“Aha,” he replies. “Thought you could get me on that one. You and your self-publishing ilk are crafty and devious. You’re worse than-than-than Kim Jong Un or-or-or NIXON. You should be blocked from publication to make the world a better place for published writers, social activists and for the children.”

“How’s YOUR book coming?” I repeat.

You can’t really talk to people like Samuel or The Shack and there is no point in trying. People who seek to regulate the lives of others generally spread themselves so thin that they sap their own energy. In the end, we all have our journeys. As self-published writers we’ve been given a creative gift. We should run with it and take advantage of every opportunity.

And, at the end of the day we can look back on our journey and be proud of what we’ve accomplished. We’ve made our dreams come true.

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