There the similarities end. One book marks the beginning of an educational curve and the latter, Ghost Towns of the Southwest, represents a forthcoming test to see what has been learned in the past five years as a starving artist on Route 66.
The Big Book of Car Culture, should have been a roaring success. It received rave reviews from a wide array of critics, was well designed, was colorful, and was awarded the bronze medal at the International Automotive Media Awards.
The content had broad appeal as a result of subject matter that ran the gamut from the evolution of crash test dummies to Route 66, from the Model T Ford to the Ford Mustang, from the history of the hearse to the history of the parking meter.
The first lesson learned was that for a publisher to stay afloat they needed a steady stream of new material to meet the challenges of the competition. This means that like a truck load of onions the book will only be fresh for a short period of time.
The next lesson learned was that a publisher has very limited resources for the promotion of a book. The author must pick up the slack and be creative as well as agressive.
After months of looking in the mail box everyday for the royalty check that would enable me to quit the day job reality came to roost. Then I came up with a briliant idea – do my homework.
I can be a slow learner. Apparently this was not a lesson I learned in high school. As evidenced by past projects where the directions were read only after the bicycle was complete but the handle bars were on the bottom charging into things was more my speed.
As the inital advance covered expenses and and provided a return of several cents per hour for my labor any promotion I did had to be on a very tight shoestring. First, I combined our weekend excursions with calls to book stores and an offer to stop by to sign books.
These were not formal signings but most stores were eager to have books signed by the author to display at the front counter. With enough notice even stores that did not have the books ordered them. I had discovered one of the secrets to seperate my books from the herd.
On occasion I would have a formal sit down signing. These seldom result in sales of more than a dozen books but the insight gained by talking to the customers was priceless.
A sense of humor, or at least insanity, should be mandatory for anyone who dares attempt writing for steady income. I quickly learned that the internet was one of the best tools available for mass international marketing without a great deal of expenditure.
So, I took time from writing to learn how to create a blog. You are reading the result. Then I had to learn how to market the blog to market the writing and myself. Then I learned that to market the blog to market the books I needed a website and Route 66 Info Center is the result. Now, how do I market the website?
I was now like the prospector of old wandering with his burro forever in search of the big strike, lured on by the faintest trace of color in sands and rock ledges. The feedback and the sales numbers all indicated I was on the right track. But how far was it to the finish line?
You might say I was relearning the lessons learned long ago on Route 66 and the back roads of America. Never forget that more often than not the journey is better than the destination.
This takes us to the latest endeavor, Ghost Towns of the Southwest, and the project under construction, Ghost Towns of Route 66. Contacts made and lessons learned on the previous book projects are already coming into play even though the new book is not due for release until the first of March.
On the 22nd of this month I will again sit with Tonya and Lew on the set of AM Arizona in Prescott to discuss the book as well ghost towns in general. The day before this I will spend a portion of the afternoon signing books at the Barnes & Noble in Prescott after stopping at the Barnes & Noble in Flagstaff and a museum gift shop in Jerome to sign books.
The hope is that the book will be well recieved, that it will be enjoyed, and that it will inspire those who hunger to write as well as those who love the lure of adventure. Of course there is also the hope this endeavor will be a financially profitable one in the long run.
Meanwhile this will provide another excuse to leave the old cats in the care of my son, for my dearest friend and I to have a weekend adventure that includes a stay at the delightful historic Hassayamapa Inn, and, if time allows, to see if we can find a new way home on some old back road. From that perspective it is already a profitable venture.
How ever the chips fall, my adventures in ghost towns, such as Cerbat seen as the faintest of traces from a hill above in this photo by Kerrick James, or on an empty old highway like Route 66 west of Truxton, Arizona, have taught me two very important lessons.
Life is short, so enjoy it while you can but never loose sight of the fact that none of us are promised another day and we should always be prepared to stand before our maker. The goal should be in leaving this a better place than it was when we got here instead of striving to be remembered.
The second lesson is in regards to humility. Never take yourself to seriously. Most of the folks who lived, died, prospered, and went bust in towns like Cerbat are now forgotten. The most succesful are now little more than historical footnotes and in another couple of decades most of these will have vanished as completely as the old town itself.