My Journey to Becoming an Author: Part 1 Learning to Read

I was a bit of a late bloomer when it comes to reading. It was not until third grade that I really became an avid reader. Growing up in rural Alaska limited my access to books, as did my dyslexia.

I do not want to disparage my upbringing or my school. My experiences in life have been unique and amazing. Our small school of 10-30 students (all grades) had a decent sized library, most of which was donated.

I will never forget “learning” to read. I recall letters and sound and basic phonics coming fairly easy, but I struggled to read. I remember one day my teacher/principal getting frustrated that I was having difficulties selecting and reading a book. I did well in my schoolwork and he assumed I was being difficult. That was understandable since I was a nine year old boy.

I went to the shelf and selected a Clifford the Big Red Dog book because I had it read to me so many times I had it memorized. I felt confident in it and it made me feel good.

You can imagine my frustration when my teacher came over and took the book from me and told me I had to select a chapter book. I went to the shelf where only the spines stuck out and realized I couldn’t read half of the words on them.

I finally selected a book based on the following words that I could read: Lion, Witch and War. How wrong could you go with a story with those three words?

I sat down on a beanbag and opened the book and thumbed through to find the pictures. Spoiler alert, the version I had only had three pictures, and they were in black and white. So I did what any wise third grader does, I started on chapter one and waited for the bell to ring.

Growing up in rural Alaska, my bus ride home was 45 minutes long, most of which I sat alone. I wanted to read, so I decided that the bus ride would be a perfect time. After we dropped off most of the kids, I pulled the book out of my backpack, it was called The Lion, The Witch and The Wardrobe (I had an older girl read the title to me and still did not know what a wardrobe was) and read it for the last 20 minutes of the bus ride.

I did not even finish the first chapter. And it was short. And I was frustrated.

I shoved it back into my pack and got off of the bus and vowed that I would finish the book.

So the next day, on the bus ride, I pulled out my book again and spent 5 minutes trying to find my spot. I finally gave up and decided to start over, and as the bus pulled up to my house, I finally reached the spot from the day before.

I had the entire weekend to forget what I had read, so on Monday, I started at the beginning again and read nearly to the end of the chapter. So close in fact, that after my chores, I sat down and finished it.

The next day I was determined to read the next chapter and read only three pages. I wanted to throw that evil book into the fire.

So the next day, I realized my problem wasn’t the reading, the problem was that I did not understand. I concocted a ridiculous idea that I would reread the first chapter since I had already completed it and that if I read that enough, I might understand the story better and that would mean I would do better in chapter 2.

And it worked! Not for the reasons I thought, but that day, I reread chapter 1 and made into chapter 2. I was so excited.

And that is how it went day after day. I would start with chapter 1 and then jump to wherever I was at (I made a bookmark). By the time I was in the middle of the book, I could read chapter 1 and usually all of whatever chapter I jumped to in my 20 minutes.

My excitement for reading and knowledge became insatiable. I read everything. It got to the point my mother had to take books away from me until I did my chores and whatever else was expected of me.

As a teacher, I look back on that process and realize that what I had really done was built my confidence and expanded my visual vocabulary. Reading had not become easier, but I had learned that I could do it and the common mistakes that I made.

It wouldn’t be until later in life that I found out the problems I was having was because of dyslexia. I am thankful for that because it never gave me a crutch; a label. I learned to persevere and overcome. I have the power to do that.

I would never have become a writer if I had never learned to read. I am forever thankful to Mr. Rusyniak for pushing me to read and taking a stand.

While I have always told stories, my story as an author began with truly learning to read The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe.

PS- I was disappointed to find out that a wardrobe had nothing to do with a war.

 

Halloweensie Entry 2018

My Mother’s Treats

 

It was the hour of witchin’

As I approached the kitchen

Where my mother prepared her treats.

 

Her cauldron was all a bubble

And I knew I was in trouble

She does not do candy or sweets.

 

Up my spine ran a sharp shiver

In went eyes and chopped liver

And other mysterious meats.

 

The stench that rose up was so foul

In pain I let out a howl

And I made a hasty retreat.

 

When I come treating at your door

And nicely as for just one more

Please remember my mother’s treats.

5 Tips and Tricks to Sell Your Books: Tip #5

5 Tips to help you sell your books at a market. Tip #5: Displays

I would like to start off by thanking all of you who have read my posts in this series. I know you have valuable things to do and you did not have to read it, so again, thank you.

Without further preamble or whatnot:

TIP #5: Displays

While the following is intended for markets and book fairs, it can also be useful at book signings. Think about when you walk into a book store what they do. They have far more books than you, but they try to display as many as possible in such a way that you see them, even if you don’t look at them.

So here are four things that I learned:

  • Flat books mean flat sales. If people can’t see the books, then they are not drawn to them. Buy book stands or small shelves. Get your books up and facing people. I recently went to a yard sale and bought a small wire book display rack. Now the books were standing, people were more willing to pick them up and look at them. I put the same book on the rack and flat on the table; we sold the books on the rack, and none on the table!
  • Put down cloth to brighten up often beat up and dirty tables. Bring objects that will attract people to look at them. One member brings stuffed animals (not for sale) that go with the animals in her books.
  • Volume sells. If there is only one book left, for some reason, people will rarely look at it, especially if they are laying flat. No joke! Put 3 books in a pile and you can sell 2. Put 13 in a pile and you can sell 12. Book racks are the anomaly. For some reason, people will buy books on a rack, even singles.
  • Keep them above the knees. People don’t like to bend down to look at things. Keep them up at least above the knees, but waist height is better. Racks and shelves on tables bring books up to adult eye height, but away from kids. Understand who is buying and looking at your books.

 

A good display helps draw people in, it lets them see the merchandise, handle the merchandise and make it more likely that they will buy something.

Again, don’t be afraid to change things up. Sometimes the lighting changes and moving stuff helps. A book that sold last time up front does better in the back. A book that drew people in at the last event doesn’t do the same thing at your current one. Make small changes by what you see people looking at and what they aren’t. Moving that book that no one is looking at up front might be the book that ends up drawing people in.

So, the next time (or the first time) that you are off to sell your books, I hope that you can use some of these Tips and Tricks to help you be successful.

I would like to think all my PALS friends at SCBWI for giving me the time to learn how to sell my future book(s…hopefully). Your advice, expertise and friendship is greatly appreciated.

5 Tips and Tricks to Sell Your Books: Tip #4

5 Tips to sell your book at a market. Tip #4: Be Busy

Man! You are on fire! You are in the perfect spot and you have been flying through sales of your book!

Then…..Nothing!

You immediately wonder if you are done. Did you hit your mojo max? Will anyone return? Is the market over?

Then you check your watch and realize you still have 4 hours to go! But where did everyone go?

You have hit the dreaded slow time of the day. Foot traffic slows. Sales stop. Time oozes along like your favorite uncle at Thanksgiving dinner after finishing off half the turkey by himself.

TIP #4: Be Busy!

Okay, I can hear you already. How can I be busy if no one is there?

If you look bored or tired, people don’t want to talk to you. I also see people making the mistake of making themselves busy by reading a book or wandering away to see other vendors. If you do not make yourself available, those few people milling about will walk on by.

Use this time to make yourself busy. Find things to do that get you up and help your sales.

  • During slow times, tidy up your space. Restock books. Organize books. Rearrange books and displays.
  • When you are up out of your seat, you seem less bored and pay more attention. You can potentially make eye contact with someone walking up and make them curious as to what you are doing or what have you been selling that you need to rearrange.
  • This also helps pass the time. Things will pick up again.

Use these down times to your advantage and get up and stretch. Look at your books and decide what has been working and what isn’t. Don’t be afraid to rearrange. Put a different book in your highlighted space, especially if the one that is there isn’t selling. Display is a huge part of sales.

Come back next week for my final installment, Tip #5: Displaying your books.

Again, I can hear some of you asking why I waited for the last tip to be on displays. Shouldn’t that have been earlier? Well, it is my blog, so my rules.

5 Tips and Tricks to Sell Your Books: Tip #3

5 Tips to sell your books at your local market. Tip #4: Be Busy

You are at the market. You have the perfect space. Great signage. People are stopping and looking.

Now what?

Now it is time to sell. And you freeze. Or you oversell!

Tip #3: The Sell

Some people are born salesmen; I am not. So what do you do?

Let’s start with what you do not do:

  • Do not just sit there. You are a person, not a statue!
  • Do not barrage them with information. If you talk fast and are too helpful, it drives people away. (Yes, you can be too helpful)

 

Now, what should you do:

  • Take a breath. Calm yourself and smile. This is important to do as well between pitching book sales to give the potential buyer a moment to peruse.
  • Pitch one book at a time. You might ask questions to help narrow down what the potential buyer might be looking for, but never take away the chance for the person to discover that “treasure.”
  • Know your material. If you are selling books by other authors, make sure you know a bit about them and their books.
  • Watch what the people do. If they pick up a book, be sure to give them a moment and then tell them what makes that book unique. One PALS member is an expert in that. When someone touches one of her books, she instantly tells the potential buyer the cute little story behind the story and then ends with “…I would be happy to autograph that for you!” (Note: do not overdo it. Don’t repeat that with every book the same potential customer picks up)
  • Sell yourself. Make a connection to the buyer or their kids. One member will show the kids pages from her book and ask them questions. It is not about the sale, it is about you and the book. But amazingly, it can turn into a sale because people like to see their kids happy.

 

Selling is an art form. Some people are naturally better than others. Find someone who is good at it and watch them. Listen to not only what they say, but how they say it. Practice your pitch. Remember to take a breath and be genuine. If you got someone to stop, they are interested.

And if you have ever worked a market or a fair, you know there is down or slow times. This may be traffic or just your booth.

Next week I will present Tip #4: Be Busy

5 Tips and Tricks to Sell Your Books: Tip #2

5 Tips to selling your book at a local market or fair. Tip #2: How to get people to stop

So you have a book to sell. You have picked out a market or a book fair to sell your books. There are thousands of people milling around and passing you by. You are getting discouraged and wondering why no one will stop and look at your book!

TIP #2: PLEASE! PLEASE! STOP AND LOOK AT MY BOOK!

OR

How To Get People To Stop

There are many ways to get people to stop and there are many more ways to drive people away.

Here is a tip don’t: Don’t stand outside of your booth and peddle your wears. That just annoys people and they walk faster. Their first thought is that you are another snake oil salesman and they tune you out.

So what should you do?

Greet people and look busy (later tip). People want someone who is genuinely happy to see them and be there.  If you look bored or tired, people will move on. Greeting them as they come up or pass by will cause people to make eye contact and take notice of their (and your) surroundings.

Signage is good. Put up banners telling why you are there, what you are selling, and what they can get. Some authors put up their banners touting their name and books. We have a banner that says Society of Children’s Book Writers and Illustrators. Both of those are good, but they are not going to get most people to stop.

Here are two things that will help you draw people in:

#1 Put up a sign that reveals an author is signing books. People want a chance to brush with fame. You may not be “famous” but if you published a book, that is noteworthy. People can buy books anywhere, but how often can you get a book signed and personalized. People will stop and buy just for that.

I have seen people put down books when they found out that they were not signed and the author wasn’t there. I have also seen people come in just to buy that book without ever opening it or having ever seen it before simply because the author was there.

When an author is there, their sales are significantly higher. One PALS member come one day last summer and sold more books on that day than the that entire summer or this one!

#2 Eye Candy. No, not a model or cute little animals, though the animals thing does work, but something that catches people’s eye and makes them come closer to look. One of our PALS is a quilter and made a small quilt with moose on it. We hung it on one side of the pop up tent and people would walk up just to admire it (and often try to buy it). Find something like that to attract people, to cause them to slow down, peak their curiosity, or to admire.

Sometimes that eye candy (or supporting candy) are the books themselves. If you have multiple books and one has a cute or intriguing title or might be geared towards the marketgoers, putting them up front and on display will help draw people in.

You need people willing to stop or slow down, even for a moment. Once you have them there, make sure you are genuine and polite. Say hi to them. Compliment them on something they are wearing (keep it general and not creepy please!). Ask them a question. (try to stay away from philosophy, politics and religion; stick with “How are you doing today?” or “Welcome! Where are you from?”)

Interacting with people could be a tip all in itself, but it varies depending on your comfort level, the venue and who you are trying to sell to.

So now you have them in your booth, what do you do?

Next week I will share my Tip #3: The Sell.

5 Tips and Tricks to Sell Your Books

5 Tips to help you sell your book at local markets and book fairs. Tip #1

I am a newly published author with a book release date for April of 2019. This is very exciting and I am trying to make sure I have everything ready so I do not look like a total newbie. And there is so much to learn, but unfortunately, they don’t really have books that really tell you what the experience is going to be like. This is probably due to the fact that each experience, like each story, is unique.

So, before you go on, I want you to understand that what I am putting together for you today is not how to sell your book to an agent or editor. I am not going to tell you how to market your book. This article is about how do YOU sell YOUR published book in markets and book fairs.

Nothing teaches you better than experience. Of course, I have none since my book isn’t even out yet! So I turned to my regional chapter of SCBWI (Society of Children’s Books Writers and Illustrators) who helps support regional traditionally published authors (PALS) at a local weekend market in downtown Anchorage, Alaska. The PALS (many of which have years of experience) get together six times over the summer to help support one another as they sell their books to the abundant tourists who pass through our state.

In our state, we have many books published to catch the tourist’s eye, but sadly, many of them are not written by local authors nor are they carried in many of our local gift shops. Our booth helps give exposure to our well written books while providing the visiting public with the opportunity to get a book signed and personalized from the author.

I decided that if I wanted to learn about selling my own book, I needed to learn from those who already had experience. Over the next few weeks, I will post 5 Tips that I have learned while helping sell books.

TIP #1: Location, Location, LocationIMG_0800

This seems pretty straight forward, right? But there are a lot of factors to think about. It is not just about where you go, but when and what your goal is.

Think about what kind of market you are going into. Will it be a place to sell books? What kind of people will be there and what are they doing? Understand not only your marketplace, but your market.

Learn the flow of your market. You want to be where people want to be, where people can stop and linger. At our market, there is a stage. This can be a blessing and a scourge. While it is nice to have music playing and making people happy, you can’t control it. If it gets loud or a poor performer, people will move away.

There are so many things to watch for: bathrooms stink, food vendors smell good, but you wind up with people carrying food into your booth and accidents happen. Just be aware of your surroundings and try to get someplace with good visibility and traffic.

Also, especially if you are at an outdoor market, rain and wind do not play well with books. Choose your day well. Poor weather will also drive away crowds or cause them to rush. We set up 6 times over the summer and always wait until close to the day to determine the weather.

Even if you choose the best market on a perfect day, that alone won’t sell your books. You can have thousands of people walk by and they won’t stop. If they don’t stop, then you won’t sell any books.

Next week, TIP #2: How to get people to stop.