Friday, October 24, 2014

Selling books in a global village

Of all the things I appreciate about being an author in the digital age, nothing beats being able to reach a global audience. I have never been to Europe, India, Southeast Asia, Australia, or South Africa, but because of, I’ve been able to sell books in all of those places.

There is something liberating about that. In the past, authors without the backing of a major publisher were rarely able to distribute their works beyond their local market. The costs of shipping a physical book even to other parts of the country were prohibitive.

The Internet has changed that. Like thousands of other authors, I can now send an entire novel — in digital format — to someone on the other side of the planet in seconds. The cost to me — and to the online retailer — is measured in pennies.

Challenges remain, of course. It’s one thing to be able to deliver books instantly. It’s another to actually sell them overseas — even in markets where English is the dominant language.

When you write about Americans doing American-like things in the United States, you expect to sell at least a few books to people who know and perhaps appreciate the nation’s customs, culture, and history. You don’t expect to sell books to people from much different backgrounds. At least I didn’t.

One reason I’ve had at least marginal success in other countries is because of bloggers like Heena Rathore Pardeshi of India, who reviewed The Mine this week. By focusing on things their readers have in common with my characters, they’ve opened doors and reminded me that the world is, indeed, a pretty small place.

For that, I will always be grateful.

Technology has made it possible not only to publish but publish everywhere. If you've ever wanted to write a book, there has never been a better time to do so.

Wednesday, October 8, 2014

On-site inspection

To be sure, Galveston, Texas, is not the place it was 114 years ago. Like every other mid-sized city in America, it has modern buildings, streets, and services. Like other tourist destinations, it has plenty of twenty-first-century glitz.

When I visited Galveston this week, however, I didn’t find it difficult to imagine what the city was like on September 8, 1900, when it was virtually destroyed by one of the worst hurricanes in history. Signs of the city’s past were as visible as those of its present.

Scores of well-preserved Victorian homes can be found in most of the seven districts listed on the National Register of Historic Places. So can public buildings that date to the 1800s, businesses that have operated for decades, and the ruins of a house once occupied by pirate and privateer Jean Lafitte.

I visited the city, the setting for my upcoming novel, September Sky, because I wanted to experience the place I was writing about. And I’m glad I did.

It’s one thing to read about stifling heat and humidity. It’s another to feel it. Just as it’s another to stand in the shadow of the Texas Heroes Monument, walk down The Strand, wade in the churning Gulf of Mexico, and hear the horns of seagoing vessels in Galveston Bay.

I specifically visited some sites — such as the City Cemetery and the Garten Verein, an octagonal dancing pavilion built in 1880 — because I knew they had changed little in the past century and because they were settings for important chapters in the novel.

I visited others — like the Rosenberg Library, the Tremont House, and Old Red, the University of Texas’ first medical school — because I wanted to see if they were as impressive in person as they were in literature. (They are.)

Throughout my two days in the island community, I took notes, snapped photos, talked to people who know the town, and made the kinds of observations one can only make when they see a place up close. I intend to use this information to make what I think is already a good book even better.

September Sky, the first novel of the new American Journey series, is tentatively scheduled for a December launch.

Top photo: Garten Verein. Bottom: Old Red (Ashbel Smith Building).