The Challenge of the Ingram Database
Some days, it feels like I’ve been waiting forever for this book to be published. Other days, I want to put on the brakes to take care of “just one more thing.” In truth, I’ve reached the point where the book is fully out of my hands. It can meet the world in any number of ways and formats, and indeed it already has. Two small papers in Virginia published a review last week and the esteemed author of The Watch, Joydeep Roy-Bhattacharya, reached out to me and offered his unsolicited impressions. It’s exciting to be welcomed in this way. I know Bookland won’t always be kind or full of praise or even accurate, but at least I’m starting on the right foot and in good hands.
One thing that’s struck me about hiring a publicist is how much I’ve learned–not just about marketing a book about war, but about marketing in general. By default, I’ve also learned about the challenges of book distribution. When I asked my publicist who was handling distribution, she referred me to my publisher. When I asked my publisher, he referred me to my publicist. What they weren’t saying is this: book distribution is up to me…and the book’s reputation, however it unfolds.
When dealing with a small but respected publisher such as Loyola University Maryland, they consider their job “done” when they upload the book the Ingram database. Being distributed by Ingram is great–that’s how anyone with a respectable title is getting his or her books out there. But in this day and age, it’s not enough. There has to be something else that encourages book sellers to actually look up the book in the first place. With 900 new books published a day in the United States, why would a book seller think to look up Flashes of War?
That’s where my publicist comes in, and if her work does its magic, then booksellers will hear the buzz about Flashes of War, look it up, and stock it in their stores. It’s also where my friends come in, so readers, pick up your phones and start dialing, please!
The tough truth about this model is that I’m relying on good faith, good PR, luck, the right timing, and the ability of book sellers to follow through. That’s a lot to rely on, especially without a face-to-face connection or real person to reach out to Time will tell just how detrimental this hole in the system could be for Flashes of War. The optimist in me hopes that the book will get noticed and things will solve themselves. The businesswoman in me knows that I have to ask everyone I know to call their local bookstores and request it, in addition to ordering through my website (that’s right, the Buy Now button is there, on the lefthand sidebar of this page!) And the pessimist in me–well, I just can’t go there. I’ve come this far. There’s just a little further to go. No point in looking down at my feet!