18 July, 2012
I know, the title of this week’s column sounds like I’m Catholic, but I”m not. My confession is something else entirely. Last Thursday, after creating as much buzz as I could from a small farm town in the middle of a small North African country – I launched my most recent novel – Douchebags, Fags, and Hags.
This book launch carried a huge amount of disappointment. Back in May, I’d asked several notable friends if they would give the book a quick read and send me blurbs – two of them, well known travel writers who I’m friendly with, claimed that since they had told other writers they knew that they were busy, they needed to tell me the same thing. Understandable, but since both of them said it, I felt a bit like it was a writer blow off form letter.
Another six friends who work in various film and entertainment of various forms agreed to read it and at least get me blurbs for the cover in time for my launch. Despite their agreement, our friendship, and sending them the book – I didn’t hear back from any of them. If this was the end of our friendship because they feel guilty for not following through, I would have rather they just said no. Then there were ten or so people whose opinions I respect who agreed to read it and get back to me – but just didn’t.
My initial reaction was that my book must suck – but then when I started digging deeper, I found that, in fact, none of them had even read it. They hadn’t even picked it up. They were too busy and since I was far away, land locked in a North African kingdom in a different timezone and with a shitty internet connection – I wasn’t a loud enough buzzing fly to impel anyone to follow through. This is the world we live in.
Being where I am, having a new daughter, and dealing with a rapidly changing online business environment – I didn’t have the opportunity to hire a good PR agency just as I haven’t been able to find an agent from here in Morocco – although I was fortunate to find the wonderful Grace O’Malley who edited my novel and provided awesome feedback. So, I did what I could with what I had – which wasn’t much.
I hired a video guy to make a book trailer which I think turned out pretty awesome (you can see it in the sidebar). I got in contact with a few reviewers. I tried to build a little bit of buzz about the book. And here’s the confession – and I thought it would be fun to write about traveling in the books fictitious Sultanate of Baboob here on Vagobond as if it were a real place. I did that last week, one day before the launch. My thought – and I think this is pretty reasonable – was that the name was funny and controversial enough to get some social media action and that bonifide travelers would see my bogus story about traveling in a fake country and call me out -
That just didn’t happen. Instead, Lonely Planet actually syndicated my column about the Sultanate of Baboob, on social media I got plenty of reactions from readers – only instead of controversy I got “Sounds like an awesome adventure” and even “I’ve always wanted to go there” - thus far, 147, 105 impressions on Twitter alone and yet only Anil Polat and Rolf Potts actually called me out on it – and that’s not even including the more than 5000 visits to the story, Facebook, Stumble Upon, Linked In or other social media.
I also decided to give away all of my other books for the launch day and the day following on Kindle. During the two day period there were more than 3000 of my books downloaded for free by Kindle Users, not including Douchebags, Fags, and Hags which was at regular price for the launch.
In addition, I did a launch Interview with Anthony Mathenia which I think framed the book in a way that was very positive.
The result of all of this? Not a single sale. One person besides me clicked the like button on the books page. That’s it. No reviews, no blurbs, no excitement, no controversey, no nothing.
And for the last few days, I’ve been nursing an intense disappointment. The book is good. It’s funny, it’s a travel adventure, it’s memorable – there was a part of me that wanted to blame my friends for not following through on what they said they would do – but if I built a whole campaign based on the actions of other people (who I wasn’t paying) – that’s actually my fault for being stupid. People, not even friends, rarely do anything out of altruism and if you are landlocked thousands of miles away in a Muslim North African nation – chances are that you don’t seem very important since no one can call you to help them move, cry on your shoulder, or benefit from your presence. If you aren’t paying people – chances are, they aren’t going to follow through, and (and this one hurts) – I suspect that people just don’t take the time to read fiction anymore. Life is too busy, too hectic, and netflix, TV shows, Youtube, and porn are only a click away.
I can see now, that my pricing was far too optimistic as well. While writers like Neil Stephenson and Stephen King may be able to charge normal prices for ebooks on kindle or nook – the general public isn’t going to pay $8.99 for a book from a relatively unknown author like me. My thinking was that I worked hard on the book, it’s good, it’s funny, it has some important lessons about travel and life in it, it makes people laugh out loud, and my friends are going to support me by telling the world this – but all of that was wrong.
Out of all of this , the only success is the nearly 1000 downloads of my only science fiction novel – The Hu Factor. That, for some reason and even though they were free downloads – has made me very happy.
Now, on to the fasting. Last year, after fasting with a newborn baby in the house and really not enjoying the way people in Morocco go about fasting in general – they suffer and become grumpy because they still have to work and then people begin to fight and life generally just becomes unpleasant all day while the sun is shining – I swore that it was my last year fasting in Morocco.
And yet, with the beginning of Ramadan just a few days away – I find myself looking forward to the fast. My daughter was born on the first day of the fast last year – so her Muslim birthday is always going to be the first day of Ramadan – which is pretty cool. I’m going to give the fast another go – my daughters actual birthday is August 1. I’m going to stick around and see my little girl turn a year old – then, on August 2nd – I’m going to fly to Greece and go sailing and leave my wife and daughter to deal with the rest of the grumpy fasting while they are surrounded by family and friends who come to visit for the occasion. So there is my second confession – I’m going to fast for about ten days and then split to Greece – where I most certainly will not be fasting.
If you would like to fast for Ramadan, I’m making my fasting book free (Spiritual Fasting: Faith, Family, Love, and Jihad) for the next couple of days – feel free to download it, read it, and please like it and leave a review. The book will be available for free until July 21 which is the day Ramadan is set to begin.