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First Book Singing a Success By Jeanne Prevett Sable

Attention all you editors: That is NOT a typo in the above headline. I did mean “singing,” not “signing.” But if it’s any consolation, the term “Book Singing” and the book marketing concept it represents did originate from a simple typographical error.

It was one of those “typical typos.” You know the kind. One of those persistent errors that sneaks into your typewritten text, no matter how careful you may be. It’s your own, personal hallmark – as individual as your fingerprint, for it shows up in the same words over and over againówords that another typist might zip through effortlessly. Speaking of “typical typos,” I purposely mispronounce this term so that the first syllable of the first word takes the long “i” sound, while the second word takes the short “i”. Try it. Sounds like “Type-ickle tippo.” My husband’s idea. . . But I digress.

Why we tend to hit the wrong key, transpose letters, or commit other word processing faux pas consistently on specific words is a mystery to me, but I believe we all do it. A typical typo for me is “filed” instead of “field.” Even Angela Hoy, the illustrious, hugging publisher of WritersWeekly, admits she frequently catches herself signing off emails with “jugs” instead of “hugs”! She jokes that some of her male clients have sent back “raised eyebrow emails” in response to her typical typo. Experience and sharp-eyed editors have taught writers to double and triple check these pet blunders, for they can easily sneak by electronic spell checkers. They are real words. They just happen to be the WRONG words.

One day I was typing a book review and caught myself once again transposing the “g” and “n” in the word “book signing”. Hmmm. A book singing, I thought. Now that’s a novel idea. Since I had recently completed a novel, I got to thinking: I’m a singer/songwriter from way back. Why not see if I can write a set of songs about my book and perform them to promote it? It might draw more people than an ordinary book singing, oooops – I mean signing – and be newsworthy enough to make the local papers. In between songs, I could read related excerpts from the book. It was worth a try.

It was fall, and I was already scheduled to feature at a local coffeehouse the following May. Would that give me enough time to write, learn, and practice my new songs? I hoped so. I told the coffeehouse host that I’d be presenting a program of “Songs of Farm and Garden” to coincide with the expected release of my new novel, Seed Keepers of Crescentville, a story about a small farming community that rallies against a giant biotech seed and chemical corporation. The fliers and press releases went out, and I was committed to the project.
Now, for those of you who have never been to a New England coffeehouse, it is more than a place to sip coffee. Performers of all levels are encouraged to participate. It offers a friendly, warm atmosphere where musicians, and often poets, can test the waters in an “open mike” session before a forgiving and encouraging audience. Generally, the more seasoned featured performer follows. That was to be me.

I had written a few songs in the past, and felt I could write a few more with a little incentive. Knowing I was already booked and advertised for the program did the trick. Every evening, I spent the time I had previously allotted to writing my novel to memorizing some of the guitar improvisations I enjoy playing, but usually never remember. When I had several of them committed to memory, I began working on the lyrics. It wasn’t as difficult as I had imagined. After all, I already had about 80,000 words to choose from. My novel’s characters, scenes, and dialogue were well established. I just had to extract some of the more compelling ones and tweak them into some kind of rhyming scheme. I found, much to my delight, that the pains I had taken to make my text lyrical and flowing paid off. The lyrics were practically already written. I just had to get them down to my satisfaction and practice singing them. That done, I worked on a few favorite songs by other artists on the same theme, just to fill in.

We arranged for the proceeds of the evening to be split between the host church and an organization close to my heart, and close to the whole concept of sustainability touted in my novel. This seemed to make the whole event even more meaningful. Finally, the big night came. I was singing songs about my own book and reading before an audience! When the hour had passed, I looked up over the microphone and realized that my debut as a “Book Singer” was a success. About one-third of the audience ordered copies of my book!

I plan to take my program of “Book Singings” to Farmers’ Markets, bookstores, natural food stores, county fairs, and wherever else they will have me. It just goes to show that everything you do is practice for what follows. You just have to figure a way to connect one to the other. I realize that not everyone who has written a book can sing or write songs, but what do you do or make that relates to your book and might draw a crowd?

Think about it. If you write what you know, chances are, you’ve got a marketing tool staring you in the face. Use it!

Jeanne Prevett Sable is the author of Seed Keepers of Crescentville, a novel about a Vermont community’s struggle to preserve its organic farms, heirloom crops and old time breeds.