It's all about marketing, baby!
The more I am writing, and the more I am putting myself out there, the more I am learning... it's not so much about the writing as it is the marketing of your writing. If you have a publisher who is investing in you and making sure you are out in front of different audiences, then you really have it made. This doesn't mean you will become a famous author overnight, but it certainly gives you a fighting chance.
It's hard. Especially when you are juggling other full-time commitments in your life. I find that I've been doing better with my book sales, simply selling them face to face and on the spot. This last week, I wandered down to Munro's Books in downtown Victoria because my boyfriend had told me that the last time he checked the shelf my two copies were no longer there. I hadn't received any phone call, but I was still hopeful that this meant my books had been sold. I waited at the checkout, and eventually one of the staff came back with my two lonely copies in a plastic Munro's bag saying, "we've been waiting for you to pick these up. I'm sorry." After nearly a year on the shelf, and my tireless efforts to direct people to the bookstores to buy or order my book, they were still handed back. And yet, I usually manage to sell at least two copies at each reading. The difference is that they can hear my work. Otherwise, I am a no-name poet with my slim spine sticking out on a shelf. People don't often like to take a chance, unless they are referred to a particular writer by someone they trust, or they've had a taste of the writer.
This weekend was a success, reading at The Black Stilt on Friday and Dark Horse Books on Sunday. On Friday night, I shared the stage with another up-and-coming writer, Sean Horlor. I knew Sean from my professional writing world, working for the provincial government, so it was fortuitous to cross paths again. I have to say that I felt a bit green when he mentioned his book tour. Your what?
I suppose that is only natural -- as writers, we all want that support. I try to set up readings locally and it is a little difficult for me to get off the island as often as I might like to, but it is still possible. This is why the AGM in Edmonton will be a significant stepping stone - stepping out and beyond to share my work and meet with writers from across Canada.
I felt good and solid knowing that I had initiated the reading at Dark Horse Books on Sunday. The trick is to make things happen, and not wait for someone else to set up events and alert you when you are needed at the mike, thrusting your book into your hands. The same applies to printing off those poems, shoving them in envelopes and licking the stamps like good-luck kisses for hopeful publication. It is all you, baby. Just like the writing doesn't appear on the screen without you typing, the audiences don't show up without you hollering.