My first book to be published by a major publisher was released on January 24, 2008.  It went on to be translated into 13 languages and remains available on Amazon thanks to be reissued in 2012.  For the average non-bestselling author, getting published is not as exciting as you might imagine.

The first proof I had that my book, The Bible’s Most Fascinating People, had actually been released to the public—besides the online booksellers announcing that the book was now “in stock” and “ships within 24 hours”—came when I heard a bleeping noise on my cellphone.  A friend of mine in Colorado had just emailed a photo to me that she had taken with her cellphone inside of a Barnes and Noble: it was a nice, clear picture of my book sitting on a bookstore shelf on release day, January 24. I was relieved to discover from that photograph that my name was, in fact, spelled correctly. I would later hear from my mom in Ohio that she, too, had managed to buy the book, also at a Barnes and Noble, on January 24.

            Another friend emailed me not too long after to let me know that Amazon had emailed him that they had shipped the book.  Oddly enough, I, the author, was therefore not the first one to get a copy of my own book.  In fact, my editor in London airmailed a copy of the book to me on January 24 and I did not actually receive it until Saturday, February 2.  My editor included a nice handwritten note with it: “You have created a truly wonderful book.  Thank you for being a lovely author to work with."   There was also a form letter from the Executive Editor of Readers Digest: “It is my pleasure to send you a complimentary copy of our newest adult trade publication.  Please accept my personal thanks for the contribution you made to the success of this product.”

The copy of the book from my editor was not even the first copy of the book that I received, however.  I had gotten my first copy on February 1:  I ordered it myself from Amazon.

            Around 10:30 that sunny morning, the UPS truck stopped in front of my home. Soon, a thud on my door was followed by my doorbell ringing.  The UPS truck was already driving off by the time I got to the door to pick up the book.

            After all the time and effort, it was still a bit startling to finally see the finished volume and to hold it in my hands.  After examining it for a few minutes, I got in my car and drove over to the school where my wife teaches.  Unannounced, I walked into her classroom holding my book so she could see it.

            “That’s your book!” she gasped, and then added, “I didn’t quite expect…”  And then she explained that despite seeing it at every step from my initial emails from my editor, to the various drafts along the way both on the computer screen and printed out, to the later mockups and galleys—to finally see the actual, bound book, with a dust jacket and smooth, shiny colorful pages—startled her.  She let her class of twenty third-graders see it, and then, since they were raising their hands and shouting for my attention, opened it up to a formal question and answer session with the author.  I spent about a half hour answering questions ranging from “did you draw the pictures in the book” to “writing books is a real job?”

            After I left, my wife kept the book and showed it off to all the other teachers and her principal and encouraged them to go out and buy it. 

On the day the book was released, the pastor of my church had gone to Barnes and Noble to get it.  They told him they hadn’t unpacked it yet, but they would set it aside at the front desk with his name on it and pick it up there later.  He went back the next day but they couldn’t find it and we guessed that they had probably sold it to someone else.

            So, I thought I’d go there now and discover if they had, in fact, sold it and whether they would be getting more in soon.  A week had passed, after all.  Also I was thinking that maybe I could set up a book signing. 

I approached the customer service desk and no one was there. A few minutes passed, and then an employee, a young woman, asked me if she could help me.  I told her I was wondering if my book was in stock.  After clarifying I meant a book I had written, not one I had ordered, she glanced at the computer and informed me that they did not have it, had never ordered it, and had no intention of ordering it because it wasn’t the sort of book that they would be likely to sell in Palmdale, California.  And that was that.  She was rather rude and dismissive.

            I was dismayed by this information and thought that maybe this was why my pastor hadn’t been able to get it when he’d checked that previous week.  But when I got home I found an email from my pastor: he had been to Barnes and Noble that very morning and had successfully purchased a copy of my book from that very store in Palmdale. 

I immediately began wondering whether the employee at Barnes and Noble was incompetent or possibly just a pathological liar.  So I returned to Barnes and Noble and located a different person in the customer service area, who rather quickly found the store manager for me.  The manager introduced herself, shook my hand, looked at her computer, and promptly ordered six more copies for the store. She took my business card, stapled it to a printout of the order she had just made for six more books and told me she would email me later about a book signing after she’d reviewed my book.

Of course, she never did email me and I never did have a book signing.  That's another reality of not being a best selling author.

 

 


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