Some people are fortunate enough to get an easy ride, a contact, a mentor with connections, and countless other things. I’m not saying everyone gets spoon-fed to success but a lot of people do get a break and that's great for them and power to anyone whose gotten that help. It makes a hell of a difference, I'm sure. For me, any success I’ve achieved is thanks to the generosity of people who read me, friends and family who push / motivate / read / review / motivate me, and for me saying what the hell and finding out if I can do X or Y thing rather than wallow, wonder, and remain idle. A lot has been far from neat and easy. Everything has been with time, effort, and money and although it can be frustrating at times, I'm proud of what I've achieved because it's been mostly through my own volition. No easy rides. No short cuts.
I’ve been asked how I got events at Libros AC in Santurce, The Poet’s Passage in Old San Juan, and The Bookmark at San Patricio Plaza (all locales in Puerto Rico). Answer? I walked up to someone at a register, asked for the manager, and found out if I could do an event. I left them a card, asked for a contact, and followed up. That’s three events I got just for asking although it has to be said that this hasn’t always worked, by the way. I tried to do the same at Librería Norberto González in Plaza las Américas, spoke with 3 people on the phone, emailed two people, and unfortunately wasn’t able to schedule an event or even get my books in the store. I've also not been able to get a response from Barnes and Noble here stateside, but I'll keep writing, asking, calling, and doing my best.
In regards to getting my books in stores, Libros AC and The Bookmark were the only ones that agreed to have my books on there and it was because I asked, I took the product to the store, and I did whatever was asked of me to make that happen. Mind you, having an inventory at both stores and getting consignment payments was also a challenge. As an indie author, you dream about getting your books in a store, but after you do, there’s more work to be done. I had to send people to the stores to ask for my books… people did, because people rock that way… and they were told I was not in stock…. Yet when I visited, there were my books. Sure, they were at the bottom shelf treated like expired generic cereal, but there they were. I organized the shelf so that all the books were visible. Not mine over others, but all equal… something apparently uncommon. I even went to el Festival de la Palabra at el Paseo de La Princesa in Old San Juan representing one of those book stores. They let me be there 2 ½-3 hours. I sold 8 books. 3 were mine, the other 5 were other books available in the exhibitor. Maybe it’s that mom and my grandfather had a store, but I felt a need to sell something if not my own and to me, any book was game. I would have liked if it were mine, but I offered information on other books and even sold a book on hamburgers (a sizzling read, I'm sure). I treated all the books equal even if I love mine way more, because to me it’s the right thing to do. The other two people in the tent sold 2 books during my time there (but that’s another topic altogether). My assessment was that their sales force might have lacked focus even though they were kind enough to help if you asked, but they were more interested in selling books that were easy to sell than making a concerted effort to sell any book and get great books to readers of all genres. So I decided to pull my books from those stores, which offered me the delightful experience of learning to keep my cool when I was told that either I picked up my books by a certain day or they would toss them.
Most recently I had my books on Libros 787, a Puerto Rican website dedicated to promoting Puerto Rican literature worldwide. When I got on the site, they were kind enough to do a piece where they mentioned my bilingual collection Twenty Veinte. It was nice to have some type of exposure but I do believe that having the website exclusively in Spanish hurt my ability to sell books since I predominantly write in English. Not only that, but when I began supporting the site, I’d get likes on my posts, retweets, and even shares. I even did a demo of electronic music to encourage people to buy on the site, but that didn’t work to drive sales. (I’ll be offering this later in the year, but more news on that soon). I also wrote the descriptive for my latest book, Given to Fly, in Spanish to see if it could help sales on Libros 787 and drive traffic, but the descriptive uploaded was the English one and I only sold a couple of copies. I was in Puerto Rico for two weeks and even asked if there was any chance to say hello to people from the company and possibly do an interview on their live shows to try something new or at least say hi. Didn’t get a response for that but hey, you can’t get a "yes" for everything or even an acknowledgment. I know that and I’ve always known that. Still, I tried. I always do my best, and always try because I always prefer to find out rather than wonder. Recently, Libros 787 changed their policy and to carry your books, you’ll get charged an amount for storage and shipping, plus you’d be limited to a certain amount of titles available on the site, both measures I understand but that would eat into any profit I make and limit me, and I'll never be about limiting myself. So between the combination of lack of results and feeling a disconnect with their business, it led me to pull my books from that website.
Also, people might question why I am naming names and saying the exact places where I've had my experiences even if they were not positive. For me, I'm big on accountability and on being honest and rather than beat around a bush, I'd rather tell people my experiences in places, the real experience. Not just the frosting and the good bits, but everything so people have a clear image of the effort it takes in case they want to go for it. My intention is never to deter anyone from their dreams, but I'll never BS you and say everything is an easy ride. My dream is to dedicate my life to writing and creating and I will always keep pushing because I believe in my work, I love writing, and I think I have interesting stories and writes to share. I'm also for positivity but sometimes you need to be clear, to thank people who have been there for you, to businesses who gave you a chance, and to let people know when things don't work out to avoid surprises. I used to always expect the worse and life has taught me that's a foolish way to live, but it's also foolish to think it's all sunshine and flowers. There's challenges in the road and I'm happy to tell anyone about my experiences without tearing anyone down.
You see, that’s the thing about books. Even if it’s a passion, at the end of the day, it’s still a business, and if you don’t sell, then you have to try something else… and like I said, I’m always up for trying something new. Mind you, I’m not saying any of these businesses were particularly mean and I actually do wish them much success. Didn't like the whole prospect of tossing my books or the tone of that communication in that particular instance, but at the end of the day, it's a business and I wasn't helping their business as much as they needed it to be worth their while. But it’s like a friendship, you can’t be the only one investing in it and expect things to work out.
I’ve been asked how I got into the Puerto Rico Comic Con and the answer is this: the same as everyone else. I applied for an exhibitor, wished for the best, paid for a booth, and got it. The event coordinators have always been extremely kind, supportive, and helped me to get more exposure when it’s possible. They’ve always made sure all is well with me and my booth, which is why I thoroughly encourage people to attend as a fan or an exhibitor. They go all out with their event and I’m proud that it is by far my best event. People who go to the PRCC are inquisitive, they love to talk books, and they’ve given me a chance to get on their bookshelves... and when it comes down to it… that’s all I ever want. A chance. Will I always get the best results? Not necessarily. Sometimes I fail. A lot of times actually. Sometimes I sprain my back pushing and the needle doesn’t budge… but sometimes I do connect. Sometimes I succeed. And that’s because of three things… always giving my best, always going forward, and the kindness of every reader.
So like my 2019 mantra says, forward is the way to go… and I thank you for joining me on this ride. It's bumpy, but with good company, any ride can feel like smooth sailing or at least can be fun.
Peace, love, and maki rolls