First Year Lessons

Who is that? Why, it’s Lisa Garber in the garden, reading one of the first copies of Paddle for a Purpose.

A year has passed since I received word that the manuscript I struggled over and nurtured – alternately cherishing and despising the words that sounded gifted one moment and utterly ridiculous the next – would become a real book. It would be published! I still remember the excitement that set in. Then, the fear and the doubt. Would anyone want to read it? Would they like it? Did I tell the story, that meant so much to us, well enough to hold the interest of readers? Would it mean something?

This past year has been filled with even more questions and with many firsts – first launch, book tour, radio interview, royalty check, TV appearance, book club guest appearance, book review, and sales and use tax calculation. There have been thrills, disappointments, touching moments, and confusing times. But, I have finally settled on contentment.

Here are a few of the lessons I’ve learned:

  1. Authors don’t do it for the money. At least not the ones I know. Writers have stories inside and feel compelled to put them on the page. It’s lots of work, but trying to keep an untold story inside is like keeping a song in one’s heart from passing through the lips or a dance in one’s soul from starting the feet a-tapping.

    Profits from 2018 book sales, sent to the charities described in the book.

  2. The difference between gross profit and net profit is indeed a difference. Net profit eluded us this year, due to business startup and travel costs. Nevertheless, we were delighted to distribute over $1550 between the charities in the book, which represents all our 2018 book sales, minus our cost for the actual books. We hope to be able to help for years to come!
  3. Wisconsin Sales and Use Tax are due at a different (and earlier) time than Income Taxes. Thank you, Wisconsin, for realizing this was a rookie mistake and giving us some grace!
  4. Metrics usually aren’t worth quoting. I occasionally get the question, “So, how’s the book going?” Rather than explain that it depends upon the metric used to judge, I usually defer to, “fine – I think.” It’s hard to know the number of books that Paddle has sold, but it’s somewhere over five hundred. In 2018, we sold 250 personally. More were sold online and through independent bookstores who ordered through a warehouse. Although the profit isn’t as great through those channels, we help to support our traditional small press, eLectio Publishing, and the bookstores that fulfill such an important role in our communities. Through Amazon Author Central, I can find out not only my Amazon sales, (292) but also the book ranking and author ranking each week. The first time I peeked, the sense of competition in the statistics felt overwhelming. I only checked occasionally after that – an exercise in humility, mostly. These rankings vary widely, depending on each week’s sales numbers. Suffice it to say, Paddle‘s book sales for most months rank in the top one million. “That would make a great T-shirt!” my son, Eric, suggested. I’ll think about that. Out of eight million books, it’s technically top 12.5 %, but a ways from a mic drop.

    Couldn’t do it without him!

  5. I’m thankful to Gene, who continues to be an essential member of this team and of our new venture. His role, now, is less in the spotlight than during the trip, but Gene joins me for presentations and provides staunch support. I’m grateful for his amazing bean counting skills that help us to stay organized and on top of all those pesky little numbers we need to manage for the sales and inventory side of this author business.
  6. My mom was right. Yep. Pretty much always. But especially when she told me, “Everyone is not going to like you, and as much as you want to, you can’t change that.” I remember the shock that coursed through me the first time I heard this message. And yes, I needed to hear it more than once.  As the middle child between two brothers, I learned the role of peacemaker early. My goals? Avoid conflict. Make everyone happy. The thicker skin she helped me to grow has prepared me to be more open to a variety of feedback. Thanks, Mom.

    Loved talking with these ladies of the Mount Hope Lutheran Church Book Club!

  7. The absolute best part of marketing is talking with readers! During the first year since publication, Gene and/or I had thirty-seven different appearances. (These are listed on the Appearances tab above.) Of all the different opportunities, I found the chance to talk with readers one-on-one or in small groups to be the most rewarding. I love getting to know more about each of you, hear about your passions, and learn what you thought and how you felt as you read Paddle for a Purpose. You are the reason I wrote it – to bring you along on our service adventure and share the amazing experiences we had along the way. I’ve learned from you and enjoyed every minute!
  8. “If the book is true, it will find an audience that is meant to read it.” – Wally Lamb I’m sticking with this wisdom. Our trip was God’s idea, and the book was written with my prayer that it might reach people with the encouragement that God wants them to receive. So, Gene and I will make ourselves available to any who want us to present, interview, or join them in discussion. We will trust. And then, we’ll see what God does.

Blessings to You,

Barb and Gene

 

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