At the end of May, I found myself in an extraordinarily long security line at the Ottawa airport. I don’t have a lot of patience for that. As an emergency responder and HazMat tech I know that airport security is towards the bottom of the list of risks we all face every day, most of which we take for granted – like driving. As many people die on North American highways every month, as died in 9-ll. Every propane truck rolling through our towns and cities is a bomb on wheels and all you need is shoulder mounted rocket launcher. And no one gives that a second thought, but I digress…
There I was in this huge creeping line, for what is essentially a multi-billion dollar placebo, trying to go to my happy place, or at least achieve some sort of Zen-like detachment. I reminded myself that the security weenies tend to take a dim view of foaming at the mouth, ranting lunatics.
I noticed the woman in front of me was reading a book, a real book too, with paper and ink and heft. Yes, I know ebooks are real books too (yawn), but if you’ve read my antediluvian comments here before, you know my prejudice for print. She was obviously lost in the story, shuffling along like zombie, flipping pages. I tried to subtly position myself so that I could see the cover of the book that had so enthralled her, but I was too close.
So on a whim I broke the unwritten rule that you don’t talk to people in elevators or lines. “It’s so nice to see someone reading an actual book, and so obviously enjoying it,” I said as she looked up to negotiate another bend in the serpentine line.
“I just like the rustle of the pages,” she replied with a smile. She held the book up so I could see the cover – a Lee Child novel.
“Ah, you like thrillers. I just published my first novel, a thriller set in the fire service.” We chatted our way through the rest of the line, and before I knew it I was actually smiling as I emptied my pockets and trotted through the scanner.
It turns out that Laura used to work for Big Ink and now runs a website for families in the Annapolis Valley in Nova Scotia. It features a little bit of everything, including book reviews – www.valleyfamilyfun.ca
I gave her my card and told her there was an excerpt, reviews and background on my website. Laura said she would check it out. A week or so later I got an email asking how she could get hold of my publisher for a review copy.
I wrote back, confessing that Incendiary Publications was me and me alone, with (so far) one title to its credit. She admitted it was probably a good thing I hadn’t told her The Spark was self-published. As it was, my website and the excerpt had caught her interest. I popped a copy of the book in the mail and waited.
Two days ago (at the time of this writing) Laura wrote a long and very complimentary review on her blog. A few people posted comments that they were intrigued and were going to pick up copies, but I haven’t noticed any major increase in sales so far. Those of you who are better than me at marketing and all that social media stuff (just about anyone with a pulse) could probably leverage this sort of thing better.
The first lesson from all of this is that, as Indie authors, it may be in our best interest to be discrete about our publication status. I wouldn’t lie about it, but unless I’m asked I don’t say I’m self-published. There is prejudice, some deserved, some not. Perhaps the only way to overcome it is for all of us to fly our freak flags high. I don’t know. In this case, it probably wouldn’t have worked in my favour.
I’m much surer about the second and most obvious lesson: good judgement and taste are needed of course, but don’t be shy to talk to people about your writing, when there’s an obvious opening. I remember reading somewhere, perhaps here at IU, that wherever you go, you should take your book with you – literally and figuratively.
Sometimes talking to strangers is a great idea. And sometimes the candy is really good.
John Kenny is an author and fire department captain. When not scribbling or running into burning buildings, John likes to gripe about all that new-fangled stuff, like the wheel, and how much better life was before the continents drifted apart. His first novel, The Spark, recently won “Best Mystery/ Thriller” in the 2014 Indie Reader Discovery Awards. Learn more about John at his Amazon author page and his website.