Monday, September 15, 2014

Passing it on      
          I learned early in this tough business of writing that you can’t hope to make it on your own.  Publishing has always been a complex cooperative endeavor involving lots of folks.  And I vowed early that the least I could do would be to thank all those who help me along my way. 
          Aside from I’m sorry, a simple thank you may be the most powerful little phrase in the language when sincerely delivered.  Problem is, it’s heavily overused and abused.  How many times have you heard, “We truly appreciate your business. Your call is important to us.  We are committed to—” while you’re put on hold and made to wait until you fall asleep on top of your cell phone?  A pinnacle of insincerity. 
          I believe that an honest hand-written note, however, will always be warmly received and remembered.  I’ve tried to send them to everyone who has been kind over the years.  I’ll put an image of a new book on a 3-3/4” x 5-1/2” fold-over note so it fits in a standard 4-3/8” x 5-3/4” envelope.  There’s a simple “Thank You” across the image in white script.  Inside I’ll write a message for the person, such as, “Becky, you and your staff could hardly have been more cordial and accommodating at the signing.  I’m grateful.”  The notes go out via old-fashioned snail mail.  
          Folk who have really gone out of their way receive signed books, which I send out in tasteful white fold-together, peel-and-stick cartons I get from Staples.
          Some time back, in addition to the stores in which my publisher’s distributor placed my books, I set up two outlets on my own in the Smokies, where my stories take place (I also set up a number of other outlets nearer my home).  These mountain outlets are a Cherokee shop featuring authentic top-quality Indian arts and crafts called Bearmeat’s Den, and a restaurant in Maggie Valley called Country Vittles.  The two places alone have sold over a thousand of my books, insignificant by best-seller standards, but gratifying nonetheless.  Whenever I’ve made the day-long drive to the Smokies, I’ve visited both places, and the people there have become like family.  All of the waitresses at Country Vittles, including the owner, Judy, have read and liked the books, and talk about the characters as though they’re as real to them as they are to me. 
          How can you thank such folks? 
          They’re among the many people I’ll never be able to thank enough, much less repay, like those who’ve taken time out of frantic schedules to read and endorse my work, or to read and review it.  All I can do in those cases is pass their kindnesses on to some other strugglers as best I can.
          And I’m trying.  The biggest surprise in that endeavor is I’m discovering it can be good fun.

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