Let’s be honest. Most authors won’t make it to Oprah, chat with Katie Couric or nail a New York Times review.
But playing in the big leagues isn’t the only measure of a book’s success. Success comes in small packages too, and if we continually create and celebrate lovely little wins, that elusive call from Good Morning America loses some of its ability to rob us of sleep.
Recently, my book and I have had some fine experiences, successes all. As I share a few, perhaps you’ll think of small victories that satisfied, enriched and motivated you.
My book, Ribbons of Highway: A Mother-Child Journey Across America is the story of a 12,000-mile, post-9/11 road trip I took with my two children. It strikes universal chords — travel, patriotism, family, and women’s issues, and I’ve had fulfilling wins in each of these niches.
I write for several newspapers and my editor had another reporter interview me about Ribbons. I focused my interview responses on vast, strong America and a woman sharing the freedom of the road with her kids. These images resonated with townspeople and things began to happen.
The president of a women’s organization invited me to read excerpts and show slides. After a lively Q&A, I signed and sold a dozen books. Other women’s groups heard of the event and are planning readings.
Two friends recommended Ribbons to their book clubs. Fifteen people will gather in two separate living rooms to discuss my book, and one club wants me to join them and sign their copies.
To thank me for an article I’d written about a new craft shop and gallery, the owner hosted a book signing. He handled publicity and set out grapes and bread and brie. I sold eight books, and he moved lots of merchandise. A win-win. He now stocks Ribbons in his shop on consignment.
I’d called on the town bookstore to give the owner a heads-up about the newspaper story and asked if she’d like the article to send interested readers to her store. She bought five books on the spot and has called me three times to restock her supply.
The principal of my daughter’s school let me stuff teachers’ mailboxes with flyers announcing I’d be at the spring book fair with Ribbons, donating $3 per copy to the school. The flyers went home to hundreds of parents and I sold 25 books. My kids still come home with checks and book requests.
I sold a book to my daughter’s riding instructor. A few days later, she called and asked me to bring more to the next lesson. She wanted to give them to clients and friends as gifts. We traded books for riding lessons for the next few weeks.
Online sales and publicity chasing have yielded successes, too. A travel radio host liked our interview so much he’s already aired it twice and promises to have me on again.
A reader from Texas emailed to tell me a road sign I describe in the book actually marks his friends’ driveway. They don’t have a computer, so he asked how they could buy Ribbons from me. He also sent a check for a second copy for himself. He wanted it signed, by me — and by the kids. They were thrilled.
I got a lovely email from a woman I’d never met who told me my book had convinced her to take the cross-country trip she’d been planning but putting off for years. She and her kids are setting out in June 2005. And, this summer, the reporter who wrote the story for my town paper is setting out across America with her kids. Both of these women will have rich experiences as they explore the country with their children. That Ribbons and I played a small part in their journeys is a reward I didn’t expect and can’t adequately describe.
I could go on. I suspect you have stories like this. Small, sweet victories that prove the magic and power of a book.
I’ll pitch her again, but if the Life section editor of USA Today doesn’t call this month, that’s okay. I’ll have other wins to celebrate.
Lori Hein is a Boston-based freelance writer and newspaper correspondent who’s authored over 75 published articles on a wide range of topics. Her photography credits include a national cover. Her book, Ribbons of Highway: A Mother-Child Journey Across America is available at http://www.Booklocker.com/books/1451.html. Read excerpts at www.LoriHein.com.