Promote or stagnate

February 5, 2024
The man who does not read, has no advantage over the man who cannot read.
Mark Twain

‘Real’ authors have an agent and a publishing house behind them. The publishing house will of course have all the necessary people to produce a book – planners, editors, proof-readers, graphic designers, wholesalers, distributors and possibly the most important … a publicist. This publicist goes about their job shouting from the rooftops telling all how good you and your books are. It is of course their job and their competence can have a bearing on the success of your book.

When you self-publish there is no one but yourself to do all these jobs.  There are very few people who go around in their normal lives self-promoting.  Apart from the Big Donald, most of us wait quietly, desperate for accolades but too shy to tell the world how great we and our wares are.  This course of inaction naturally leads to a state where our sales stall and without some action on our own behalf our careers as writers and purveyors of books enter a state of being becalmed.


My best sales come from events and shows where I can interact with people and garner some sort of rapport and explain my adventures.  It is this entering someone’s consciousness that gives me a chance of making a sale.  Often people like to see that I am just an ordinary person who has done ordinary people’s adventures … but recorded them for posterity.  We all have a back-story.


The most recent opportunity to promote and sell was at our local A & P Show. For the non-Kiwis who may read this, nearly every country town or area in NZ has an annual Agricultural and Pastoral Show. Still today these embody all the old values of times gone-by and the traditional activities of competitive wood chopping, shearing, and horse-jumping are all supported by raucous and enthusiastic spectators.  More sedate are the stock and poultry displays as well as the baking competitions.  These are equally competitive with a lot of prestige accorded the winners of the various classes.  Naturally this sort of show needs entertainment so there will always be an amusements’ area with Merry-go-rounds,Ferris wheels, ‘dodgem’ cars, candyfloss, hotdogs etc.  Possibly there will be brass bands and marching girls.  The formula is very similar from one end of the country to the other.


There are also the trade stalls selling everything from books to combine harvesters. For more than 125 years Takaka has hosted the Golden Bay show and following tradition it was held on the third Saturday of January.  With a generous area of 4 m x 6 m, my site comfortably accommodated a borrowed 3 m x 3 m gazebo with space to display four of the old motorbikes that feature in my books. It was great to have all four ride in. (It should be admitted that one didn’t ride out … but that is another story).


At the beginning of January we welcomed home our son Steve, wife Maud and their two children Jude and Nelson who are moving from France to NZ to live.  For them,this was their first A & P show and they embraced it all with gusto.  For Steve there was also a reunion.  In 2005 in his alter-ego of Cabin Boy he was a vital part of our Last Hurrah ride from Beijing to Holland.  After illness necessitated Dick being flown out from Southern Iran to his family in Arnhem, Steve took over the helm of Dutch Courage full-time for the rest of the ride.  That was 2005 and here in Takaka at the ‘Rec Centre’ in 2024 they were reunited.  Dick passed away in 2015, bequeathing the 19S Norton to Steve but with him living overseas it has been living in my shed and more recently friend George’s, waiting for the return of the prodigal.


Such a good day unfolded.  The four old bikes, each with a story, drew in the meandering crowd and a steady four-books-an-hour left the site until the four o’clock beer-time pack-up.  Whilst this isn’t quite a Dan Brown level of sales, for me it was enough stimulus to order a couple more boxes of books and think about a campaign for next summer. Maybe I should do the Nelson, Rai Valley, Blenheim, Murchison, Reefton and Hokitikas hows … all in the top of the South Island? Mmmm … could be fun.


Of course, if I did have a publicist perhaps I would be sitting back, stacking up the royalty payments as they come in and not having to worry about organising going to events.  But then I wouldn’t meet all the nice people who come and chat, often sharing their journeys and adventures with me.


Meanwhile, I have an Author’s Talk to give at the Richmond Library in a couple of weeks’ time.  “Roll up, roll up … appearing in person … the one and only …”