Wednesday, May 29, 2013

Writing a Book - Who Cares?

Today I met with a woman who is considering writing a book about the history of her community. Because she knows that I have published several niche books, she asked me if I would share my experiences with her. One thing I firmly believe in as an author and a publisher is that we should help other writers out. So many wonderful people helped me along the way that I feel the least I can do is provide the same sort of support to others traveling the strange and sometimes scary path of putting a book together.

Who cares?
Those of us who write non-fiction have to ask ourselves a really hard question: Who cares? Does anyone care about the subject of our book? More than that, do enough people care so that the book will sell a sufficient number of copies to make the publication of it worthwhile? It is something I have struggled with since I came up with the idea for my first book. Because the topic was not just researching house history, but instead was specific to researching houses in St. Louis County, Missouri, I knew that I was severely limiting my potential audience. And I was asked more that once why I did not just do a generic book on house research. The answer was simple in my mind. There are already several books in the market on researching the history of your house, so there was no point in going generic. And more importantly, there was no guide for researching in St. Louis. To research a home in St. Louis County is a very painful, drawn out process. My book needed to be specific in order to really benefit researchers in my area. In the end I believed that just because I was not going to sell thousands of books did not mean my book should not be written.

The same was true of my second book about my dad's service in WWII. Is there a huge market for this book? No, but the historical photos and documents my dad left behind needed to be placed somewhere that people could enjoy and learn from them and not simply be left in an old cigar box.

My advice is that you need to ask yourself why you are writing the book, and who is your intended audience. Who cares? Once you know that, you can make the decision on whether to go forward or not. I leave you with this extremely funny video about writing a book.

Thursday, May 9, 2013

Saving The Book House

The Book House
Another independent book store in my area may soon face its demise. The Book House in Rock Hill has been operated by the same woman for over 27 years. The business is in a charming house built in the 1850s that has been designated as an historic structure. She has persevered despite the downturns in the economy as well as the world domination of Amazon. What she may not be able to escape from is a bulldozer. She does not own the house or the land upon which it sits, and she has just received a 90 day eviction notice from her landlord. And what will go in the place once occupied by the house and several other businesses? A storage facility, of all things. Remember the lyrics to that old song, "They paved paradise and put up a parking lot"?

The Book House has been a wonderful supporter of authors, both traditionally published as well as independently published writers. She holds many events at the house, and is generous with fundraisers for schools or other charities in the area. She was the first person who bought copies of my book to sell in her store, and actually wrote me a check for them on the spot. Add to this that she is the single parent of a handicapped child, whose sole support is this book store, and you can begin to see why people have been busy garnering support for her.

KSDK interviews Michelle

some of the rally attendees

A petition has been circulating in support of the book store, and it now has over 1,600 signatures and some press coverage as well. I attended a rally Tuesday night at the store, and News Channel 5 came out and interviewed Michelle and filmed a bit of the rally. The footage appeared that night on the 10:00 news. Tonight the preservation committee in Rock Hill is meeting to discuss the possible demolition of the book store. Michelle had served on the committee until a few months ago when she was asked by the mayor to resign. Hmmmm... Anyone else smell something fishy?

I am not sure what can be done since the city is taking the position that they have no say in a private sale between two individuals. I think that is hog wash as they certainly have a voice in whether or not they will allow an historic building to be torn down. I can't believe that these people think it is okay to destroy what may be the oldest house left in pretty much its original condition in St. Louis County. The house survived the Civil War, but it just might not survive the city of Rock Hill.

sign on The Book House