Friday, August 31, 2007

How I got here, Part 3: Pounding the Pavement

I have a disease.

Mom, pick yourself up off the floor. It's not THAT kind of disease, those nasty types that kill you. This is more of a mental disease, and I don't care what you may hear, all authors have it. It's called the Imneversatisfiedandwanttobemoresuccessful Disease. This has nothing to do with pride or selfishness. It has nothing to do with money. It has everything in the world to do with human nature, and it's not necessarily a bad thing. As long as you keep it under control and use it for good.

Shortly after my first book came out, I attended a small event where an author named Anita Stansfield spoke. She said something about how she's sold almost a million copies of her books. Instead of thinking, "Wow, great for her!", I looked down at the copy of my own book, nestled sadly in my hands, and wanted to cry. At that time, I'm positive I had probably sold just a few hundred books. Maybe.

Anyway, she then told us how she had become successful, and she used these exact words: "I went out there and I pounded the pavement." I remember distinctly, because it became my motto for the next year or two of my life.

It can't be put any more simply. I pounded the pavement. In the first 2 years, I know for a certainty I did at least 100 to 150 book signings and 30 to 50 school visits. (Ah, man, I'll have to save the joyous adventures of book signings for its own post. If I forget, someone remind me later.) I constantly went to bookstores and spoke with the employees, trying to turn on the charm in hopes that maybe, just maybe, one of them would someday recommend my book.

I pounded the pavement, paid my dues.

Dozens of sales turned into hundreds of sales. Hundreds turned into thousands. Having gotten the ball rolling, another beautiful, beautiful thing entered the story. Word of Mouth. People actually liked the book enough to tell others about it. I still can't get over the coolness of this concept. People, at no obligation, are taking the time to encourage others to buy MY book. That's like Christmas and Easter wrapped all into one.

I know I've shot my timeline all to pieces, but it's hard to break it out into individual events. The second book, A GIFT OF ICE, came out in the spring of 2004. Then THE TOWER OF AIR came out just a few months later, Cedar Fort wanting to roll the momentum wagon while they could. (I'd already written the second book by the time the first one came out, so that's why they were able to release books 2 and 3 in the same year.)

Slowly but surely, with the help of Cedar Fort setting up countless events, my pounding of the pavement, and some very nice dashes of word-of-mouth, Jimmy Fincher became a success for my publisher. Now remember, success is relative, but a fiction book that sells several thousand copies in a very small market is a success.

But then came the real kicker, the decision that surely was the final piece to the puzzle that would ensure I had a real future as an author. It's a day and a phone call I will never, never forget. Probably the only phone call comparable to it was when a real-life NY agent called me last year and said she wanted to represent me. (Well, um, except for every time my wife calls me, every moment of which is like drinking warmed milk with honey while listening to angels sing on high.)

It was Georgia Carpenter from Cedar Fort. She said that the whole company was very enthusiastic about the success of Jimmy Fincher, and that they wanted to give it an extra push. I can sum up the phone call with two words, both of which still make me smile to this day.

Re-release and artwork.

(to be continued)


Unknown said...

James, you have a real knack for making me giggle. And wow, I need to pound the pavement more so I can sell more books. Yeah, I just sighed really big.

Tristi Pinkston said...

You pound the pavement pretty good -- almost as good as you wife-schmooze.

Seriously, though, you've gone after this with a lot of determination. I've been very impressed.

Tiff Hunt said...

I just finished your first book. FANTASTIC!! I am off to the book store tomorrow for the next one. I can't wait to read what is in store for Jimmy!! To tell you how awesome it was, I am dead tired and I coundn't close my eyes until I finished. It had me totally captivated.

James Dashner said...


Hey, thanks, I'm glad you liked it! Ya know, I'm so excited for my new book coming out that sometimes I forget there are still plenty of people out there who might enjoy Jimmy Fincher for the first time. Thanks for making my day.

I hope you have a great one, too.


Julie Belnap said...

hey dashner, guess what? you've got really cute kids. I saw a few that came up to you during one of your book signings (see, pounding pavement!) and they are super cute. You could just stuff them into an adorable book and have it as your marshmallow fluff.

And now you think I'm either a stalker, or on crack. Yay me!