Monday, April 29, 2013

The Power of the Indie

by Mindy McGinnis

Previous to landing a book deal for NOT A DROP TO DRINK, I'd been writing and failing for ten craptastic years. I had the conviction of knowing exactly what I wanted to do with my life and the research skills to know that the odds were against me. But that's kind of where I tossed my fist in the air and dared the world to deny my talent.

And it totally did. For a long time.

Which is all my own fault. Sure, I read those numbers and thumbed my nose at them (fine - power to the bold) but that's where I let my Screw-You-Reality attitude get a little out of control. And the research stopped. Any kind of footwork stopped. I was going to be the writer of old - the one that banged out a manuscript in solitary, mailed off their tome to NYC and became ridiculously famous overnight, all while huddling under a bubble of anonymity and never doing the real work.
  • Like agent research
  • Like market research
  • Like building a brand
  • Like going to conferences
  • Like talking to librarians, who (btw) pretty much know everything
  • Like going to author signings to see how pros did it
  • Like visiting bookstores to mine the brains of another kind of pro
Even recently I had wondered to myself if hitting the sidewalks and prowling bookstores was a strategic move. Aren't they going to buy my book anyway if they think it looks good? How does killing time with an Indie owner who will have - at most - three copies of my book on their shelves at a time really benefit me in the long run?

But I'm a no-stone-unturned kind of girl. I know the power of libraries, so I decided to look into the power of the bookstore. And - hot damn.

I'm lucky enough to have two indies somewhat nearby (in country speak - within a half-hour drive), so I dropped in to introduce myself and say hi. I walk into bookstore number one and introduce myself to the owner, immediately spotting the cover of a fellow Lucky13 on her racks. I mention her title, and...

Oh, it seems that the author's roommate from college lives here in town. Yeah, she pops in all the time. Maybe we could do some kind of joint signing once my book comes out? And, are those bookmarks I see you have there? Oh yes, please give me a pile - I have tons of teens filter through here when school lets out, plus this Friday is the first weekend of good weather so the foot traffic will be through the roof... can I have more than that? I'll be able to unload them pretty quickly. What's your book title again? Hmm... yes I think I remember seeing that in the fall ARC boxes I just got from HarperCollins (emphasis mine)... I'll be sure to dig it out after you leave and put it on top of the TBR pile.

OK. That went well. Even though my head is spinning a little I think I'll walk a couple blocks to the next bookstore and see if I can leave the rest of these book-

WOW! That's gorgeous cover, these will go fast. Do you have more? You know, we have a teen writer's group that meets monthly, would you like to come speak to them sometime about your process?  We don't have a date set up for May yet, but next time you're in town why don't you stop by with some more bookmarks and we'll hammer something out. The kids would love to meet you, I'm sure. What's your pub date again? Would you like to do a signing? We can work around your schedule and we'll handle all the local publicity...

Hmm.... Now there's two people pushing my book for me to the prime market with high traffic and all I had to do was walk in the door. Mindy needs to buy more bookmarks.
Mindy McGinnis is a YA author and librarian. Her debut, NOT A DROP TO DRINK, is a post-apocalyptic survival tale set in a world where freshwater is almost non-existent, available from Katherine Tegen / Harper Collins September 24, 2013. She blogs at Writer, Writer Pants on Fire and contributes to the group blogs Book PregnantFriday the ThirteenersFrom the Write AngleThe Class of 2k13The Lucky 13s & The League of Extraordinary Writers. You can also find her on TwitterTumblr & Facebook.


Feaky Snucker said...

Yes, we librarians DO know everything. :P

But it is a FABULOUS idea for every writer to make connections in their own communities. Not just for the help and boost that will give our careers, but for the help it gives to new writers. Encouraging others in the community to write as well! You could be that inspiration that a person needs to go for their own dreams.

And THAT is a beautiful thing.

Gina Gao said...

This is a very nice post! Thanks for sharing this.

JeffO said...

Nice. Good for you!

Mindy McGinnis said...

Feaky - yes, we're a solid lot, us librarians :)

Thanks everyone for stopping by and commenting!

Tracy Bermeo (A2Z Mommy) said...

Inspirational post! I do love both my local library and indie bookstore.

Debra McKellan said...

Man, that's great! I need to visit my indie bookstore more often! It's right up the street.

Carmela Martino said...

Not surprised you had such a great experience at indie bookstores. We love indies so much that we're doing a series of posts celebrating them on our TeachingAuthors blog. And for our blogiversary, we're giving away 4 $25 gift certificates to one of the best indies in the country--Anderson's Bookshops.

TerryLynnJohnson said...

way to go, Mindy! Great advice. Not surprising your book is getting attention though!