On the Shelf

Someone wants to publish your manuscript. Hooray! Break out the champagne and confetti! It’s every writer’s dream. The book is tangible proof of all your hard work. It’s a BIG moment!

As the publication date approaches, the worry begins. Will people buy the book? Will they like it?

The author does her best setting up book events and readings, asking for book reviews, using social media. She taps into her networks and informs her various communities about her book being published.

My communities include North Seattle College where I tutor, various writing groups (Hedgebrook, my personal writing group called The Cake Quartet, It’s About Time Reading Series, Jack Straw Writers Program, other writers I’ve met at various conferences), the ta’i chi group at Lake Forest Park, residents in my apartment building, my mahjongg group. I was surprised when I listed these various groups and began reaching out to inform them about my book. They were excited for me and eager to support my book.

I printed out promotional postcards and informational flyers and distributed them. I also gave them to friends to give to their friends.

So far, I’ve promoted my book in Portland, Seattle, and New York. I recently did a reading at Elliott Bay Book Co. here in Seattle. This historic bookstore is a literary icon, so I was very pleased to schedule this event!

Authors can do a lot.

However, there’s also a lot that’s out of their control. For example, placement of books on book shelves is up to the book store.

EB author shelf

The more visible the book is, the better the odds for book sales. Because I did an event at Elliot Bay, they placed my book on the shelf for their book events.  The top shelf is pretty nice placement! (I’m aware that this will change as more current events occur, but I can say I was on the top shelf at Elliott Bay, even if only for a short time!)

At Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park, I’ve been on their bestsellers shelf since early June, at least that’s when one of my friends spotted it and informed me. I am

TPB best sellers

the store’s #5 bestselling book! Very cool for a debut book and non-professional in marketing. I guess networking works!

Here’s something else I do. I prepare for each book event with the intention to give my best reading. I hope to bring a piece of Hawai’i into the room, to interest the audience enough so they buy a book or two. Maybe for gifts.

I want bookstores to sell books, especially my book!

I arrive early so I can personalize the podium. Since I like colors, I bring a few things from home. A colorful cloth that evokes the tropics or a brightly feathered hula implement. When the audience walks in the room, they will immediately get a personal glimpse of who I am when they look at the front of the room.

Testing the mic and getting a sense of the room are also important tasks to ensure my comfort.

Bookstores and booksellers are an author’s friends. It’s important to have good relationships with them. I send thank you cards after each reading and let them know I appreciate what they do, that they’ve made the time to promote my book. After all, we are partners in this book business.

My book is now available as e-books in all formats. It’s wonderful to offer these options to readers.However, I’m sorry I cannot sign e-books.

It’s at book events, whether at stores, schools, libraries, or private homes, where I get to meet my readers. It’s very moving, both humbling and exhilarating, to see the faces of readers who have spent time with and money for my book, especially when they have connected with some part of my story.

 

 

 

 

 

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Being an Author

Being an author requires marketing and promoting your book. It’s another side of myself I am getting to know. I am still not completely comfortable with this New Self, who’s always focused on her book, but so far she is behaving herself and not being totally obnoxious!

It feels like the cells of my body are rearranging themselves to accommodate this New Self. My old self did not feel comfortable in the spotlight, but would gladly support others to take the center of attention.

At AWP in March, I was handing out my publicity postcards to people I’d just met at the Portland Convention Center, leaving them on information tables, and so on. I had to make self-promotion part of my daily life.

PL portrait

Portland Reading

I first went public as an author of The Lava Never Sleeps: A Honolulu Memoir at Passages Bookshop in Portland to a SRO crowd in late March. The reading featured several Willow Books authors at an off-site event during the conference.

Having printed lots of postcards to help promote my memoir, I unabashedly distributed them. The book cover is visually attractive and I hoped it would get people’s attention and generate interest in the book.

I was nervous about Seattle book launch scheduled for Third Place Books, Lake Forest Park on May 2. Since May is Asian Pacific Islander Heritage Month, I wanted to connect my book to this national cultural observation. It seemed to make sense even though API Heritage Month is not hugely recognized. LFP poster.jpg

I wasn’t sure who would actually show up although I was talking to people in all my various communities. And, yes, handing out postcards.

I planned and rehearsed my reading.

I made arrangements to serve island-style snacks like taro chips, mocha crunch, coconut candy, and butter mochi cake. Hawai’i people love their snacks! My friends helped me with the shopping and displaying/arranging the snacks for the reading with table cloths, ti leaves, plumeria blossoms.LFP book display snacks

As more and more people arrived, additional chairs had to be added to the original 40 already set up.

It felt overwhelming: So many people wanted to support me and my book. Longtime friends, my mahjongg sisters, colleagues at North Seattle College, people in my tai chi group, my neighbors in the apartment building where I live, and of course my writing friends.

Writing friends in Santa Barbara and Atlanta sent a bouquet of flowers. My Seattle friends surprised me with several lei, which touched me very much. 

LFP audience of friends neighborVery humbled and grateful for the SRO crowd standing in the aisles between bookshelves, I began the reading with an ancient canoe chant. I felt the aloha in the room during my reading and later as I signed books.

A friend came over from Pt. Townsend. Other

LFP ti leaf

Showing the book cover and a ti leaf. My mother used many of these to make the ti-leaf skirt shown on the cover.

friends came from the Eastside whom I had not seen in decades. It was a wonderful evening of surprises! I could not have wished for a better book launch and celebration for my book.

A definite celebration because people understand how dang hard it is to get published by any traditional press. It can take years, which it did for me.

Here’s the thing. There are no guarantees when you’re a writer. You can only keep writing, keep learning your craft, keep submitting, ride the emotional roller-coaster, and just keep going. Persevere is the mantra if a writer wants to become an author. Or as they say in Hawaiian: Kulia!

 

 

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

These words came to me out of the ethers one summer day as I pondered how to create some income to have the lifestyle I want. I’ve proven I can live frugally, but I’d like more freedom, that is, extra cash, to spend on both my needs and my wants. Nothing extravagant, just more joie de vivre, you know?

I’m a writer, but so far no one is clamoring to give me money to write and revise my personal essays and stories. And, ironically, now that I have a finished manuscript, the hard facts of a writing life are staring me coldly in the face.

Fact #1: I have no idea when my memoir will be published.

Fact #1: I don’t know if I will make any money when it does.

Publishing is a very inexact process with absolutely no guarantees.

So, now that I’ve indulged my creative side for a number of years, it’s time to be practical and figure out how to create some income.

Fortunately I have a lot of good skills after years in office work and management. So temp admin work seemed an obvious solution. Or a part-time job. But inside I cringed. The office politics, the loss of control over my time and schedule, commuting, choosing a salary over my self-respect, horrible and manipulative bosses–all these memories assaulted me.

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

These words remind me that I have choice. Fortunately, I’m not desperate or destitute. I’d just like to work at something that I enjoy, that makes me happy.

This past June, I actually worked a part-time job that was supposed to be fun. I lasted all of five weeks. I was a check-in agent on my feet for five to six hours, smiling and talking to passengers. The company really did not want us to take breaks. Most employees didn’t even though labor laws require employers to ensure that employees get breaks. After working the first day with no break, I knew I had to take a break on my shift. I had to sit down for a few minutes and eat something so I could continue to function. It’s amazing how the brain can turn to sludge in a few hours without food and water.

That’s right, no water bottles at our stations because of all the computer equipment and cables. Equipment for which we had no training. The first day was sink or swim.

Even though most of us were mature adults, we obviously could not be trusted to keep our bottle tops secured to prevent spilling.

It was very stressful and all for minimum wage. My co-workers were lovely, the company policies were not. There’s more I could tell you, but you get the picture. I was not happy. This was not fun.

I generally hate to quit. I’ve never worked in a factory or sweatshop, but this employer’s willingness to work us until we dropped and their lack of respect for their employees made me think: Sweatshop. Dehumanizing.

And so, I quit.

Working for other people can be a crapshoot. Yes, yes, I know life in general is a crapshoot. Still, in some things I still have choice. Yes, indeed, I HAVE CHOICE!

Just because you can doesn’t mean you should.

I’ve found my new mantra. Or maybe it’s found me.

Welcome!

Now that I have completed my memoir manuscript, I feel like a bonafide writer. It’s a  major milestone, but certainly only one of many steps toward publication.

Regardless, I am declaring myself as a WRITER and putting up this here Web site to announce it to the world.

HELLO, WORLD! Consider yourself notified!