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Work That Mojo, Baby

If there’s one thing I’ve learned during my career as a journalist, it’s that you can’t be afraid to put yourself out there when it comes to people you don’t know.

In journalism school at the University of South Carolina, one of the first assignments we received during our senior “practicum” semester, was to go somewhere we would otherwise be completely uncomfortable. For instance, the prim and proper middle aged woman from England was sent to a truck stop.

I was sent to a gay bar. I don’t think it was because of an obvious homophobia on my part, but instead because I came off to others as so vigorously heterosexual. Suffice it to say that it was no big whoop (after you see your first guy in assless chaps, the rest don’t really make much of an impact), but it proved to me once again that people were people, even if what they’re up to at a given moment might seem a little out of the ordinary based on your own personal experience.

We weren’t assigned to actually interview anyone, but that would come later. The purpose of the exercise was to get us a little more comfortable with otherwise uncomfortable situations.

As a reporter, those would more often than not be hostile police departments, the offices of less-than-friendly politicians or situations where someone had died in an unpleasant fashion, and rather than just making it through a couple of drinks (and politely refused propositions), I was required to actually speak with those people and extract from them important information they were often reluctant to share.

Now, as I ply the waters of indie publishing, I’m finding those “putting myself out there” skills are coming in handy again. As ID has made its way into Barnes & Noble stores nationwide, we at Codorus Press have mounted a concerted effort to make sure that the other stores where it really should be have them on the shelves. Those include, most importantly, the New York City stores (where big-shot reviewers and tastemakers could stumble across it) and the Southern stores, where readers will recognize the places and characters in the novel most clearly.

That’s involved what most people dread – cold calling. Every day, Codorus shaman Wayne Lockwood and I are on the phone and paying visits to the folks who can make the decisions to get us in front of even more readers. We don’t know these people and they don’t know us. In addition, they’re wary that we are trying to sell them on a product that might somehow be inferior or unprofessional. Not only must we be bold about introducing ourselves, but confident enough in the product we’re pushing to make them take notice.

To paraphrase the Kinko’s guy from Jerry McGuire, sometimes you just have to hang ’em out there. And that’s essentially what aggressive marketing is – hanging them out there and hoping they don’t get cut off.

And speaking of mojo, I just couldn’t help including this. Enjoy.

The Love That is Linkage

I was just tipped off by Wayne Lockwood, the wise and mighty shaman of Codorus Press, that our great neighbors at the Philadelphia Book Festival gave us some link love via their blog Me Want Food.

Leigh Ellwood and Kat Lively had the booth next to us on that particular very rainy day. Leigh writes erotic lesbian fiction and Kat writes rock-themed mysteries. Both of them were very cool ladies and seemed to really appreciate some of our clever little bits of marketing (like the faux Church of the New Revelation religious tracts – specially designed to look cheap and cheesy, just like the real thing!). For our part, we really like their style and the whole vibe of their booth (which featured a sign declaring “Ass Kicking Fairies!”).

A funny story – I realized toward the end of our damp day that I had actually shared some time with their boothmates previously when I appeared at The York Emporium in York, Pa. (birthplace of Codorus Press) at this time last year for their Sci-Fi Saturday event. There’s video of my interview with Jim Lewin, owner of The York Emporium, from that appearance, as well as a reading. Check out the interview below and follow the link for more of the event (thanks to Codorus team member Tom Joyce for shooting).

Speaking of events, I’m looking forward to some other events later in the summer and into the fall, both focusing on ID and Codorus Press. As the marketing word gets out, we’re hoping to get more interest in presenting our indie publishing road-show, The Wandering Heretics Independent Publishing Tent Revival and Old Time Medicine Show, at book stores and other locations. We’re also planning for a couple of book-related events, including the Collingswood Book Festival in Collingswood, N.J., and PhilCon, the annual convention of the Philadelphia Science Fiction Society.

We love interacting with fans of ID and anyone interested in indie publishing, so we hope to see you out at these and even more events throughout 2011 and into 2012.

The Never-Ending Explanation

I’ve been fortunate over the last few months to have received some great positive response about ID  from Barnes & Noble, probably the largest remaining major retail book store chain now that Borders has gone completely belly up.

As part of that, I and other folks from Codorus Press have been on the phone with customer relations associates at individual stores that don’t already carry the novel to spread the gospel of why they should. One of the nicest bits of feedback we’ve received is, “Wow, you guys really did your homework.”

In other words, the folks in charge of acquiring books at the stores have dealt with a lot of amateurs – self- or vanity-published authors rolling in the doors with a crate full of their books expecting B&N to be obligated to carry their work, and storming out shocked and offended when the store offers to take two or three – on consignment.

As a small press, we at Codorus vowed from the beginning that at every turn, we would make our operation as professional as possible, especially in dealing with the book stores and the distribution networks through which they order their stock.

It was reassuring to hear such nice words from pros in the book biz, and it wasn’t the first time. Repeatedly, we’ve been told that our method is not just revolutionary, but exceptionally forward-thinking in this rapidly changing market.

But we still come up against the stereotypes of the self-publisher again  and again, so it requires constant explanation on why that’s precisely what we are not. I went so far as to put together this YouTube animation explaining the differences.

Still, some folks just don’t get it. Back in the fall, I appeared at a meeting of the National Writers Union. At the meeting was another writer who later blogged about how the Codorus Press model of cooperative publishing sounded like “self-publishing, but as a group.”

Well, yes and no. If it was self-publishing, it would just be me. There is a capable and highly qualified team that makes up Codorus Press, which by the very defnition of self-publishing takes it out of that category.

The proof in the pudding will be this fall, when my talented colleagues at Codorus Press start rolling out their very own novels, guidebooks and children’s literature.

So, so much for that whole “self” thing, and kudos to us for doing our homework.