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June 25th, 2019

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After Action Report

During the Avilla Freedom Festival my family and I heard two good bands, met a lot of people including a new writer, toured a car show, and ate some really, really good food (for which I paid in another way later).

What I didn't do was sell a lot of books.

I still got 'em.

It would have been nice to at least break even ... but on the other hand I did sell some books. I've been to a few author appearances in which not a single copy was bought.

The important thing is to learn from experience, something some people are better at than others. Personally, I kind of suck at it. Still, here are a few conclusions:

Just because you tell people where you'll be doesn't mean they'll show up. Partially it's about the busy world we live in; partially it's a lesson in promotion. I hit the promotion hard, with social media, a press release, invites sent through Facebook and Goodreads event posts,  a newsletter entry, and enough related blog posts (five!) that I was worried about driving people away.

When I say driving away, I don't mean the car show.

I can confirm, as a result of all the work I put into publicity, exactly two sales. Not only that, but we had no new sales of my newest book, Coming Attractions.

Part of the problem might be the time of the year, when people are outside doing summer stuff instead of being online and/or looking for books. A few weeks ago I also heavily publicized a TV interview I did, which showed not only all of our books, but also blurbed our http://markrhunter.com/ website. The increased website visits? Barely a blip, and sales remain flat.

Okay, so, 'nuff complaining. What can we take away from this experience? That writing is a horrible way to make money? That the art of writing had better be its own reward, because nothing else is guaranteed? That you can't reach people through social media as much as you used to? That people walking around at a summer festival will give you odd looks when they realize you're selling books?

All true.

My sister-in-law Cathy, on the right, had a bit more luck with her jewelry. That's Emily on the left, and my camera-shy brother Jeff took the photo.

I'm going to explore other promotion options in the future, and I'll continue trying to get the word out where I can, because you don't just give up when you have a few bad turns. In my mind, two rules remain as true today as when I first started writing:

1. You must deliver a good product. Yes, sometimes bad books become best sellers, but usually quality tells. There's no shortcut: Put the work in, from the moment you fire up your laptop through revision, editing, and polishing. People might not buy my books because they don't care for the genre, but I never want someone to walk away because of the quality.

2. You must love writing. Again, occasionally we see "overnight sensations", people who get a hit with their first swing. Most authors--by a huge margin--never earn enough to make a living at it. If you're looking for a way to supplement your income, there are a vast number of easier and healthier occupations. Complain all you want about submitting or promoting, but if you don't love the writing, don't bother.

If I'm going to keep doing it--and I am--last week won't be my last setback. But I'll keep going, because nobody ever bought a book that wasn't published.

Besides, that fair food was really, really good.

Bacon, lettuce, and fried green tomato. Yum.

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