By Reno Bailey
“How’s the book doing?” That’s a question we frequently hear. Second only to “Excuse me, do you have the time?”
We’ve learned (and should have known) how quirky and speculative this business of writing and publishing books really is. Did you know there are about 200,000 books published every year? How many of them catch the attention of anyone inclined to buy books at all? How many of them are stocked in—and promoted by—any given bookstore? The answer: very, very, very few.
You walk by shelves bulging with books with titles like The Art of Weaving Orange and Yellow Alpaca Lap Robes and Rare Albino Arachnids From The Amazon Rainforest. They’re huge in size, on slick paper with exquisite photographs, very expensive to publish. (One wonders: Are these tax write offs for the publisher? Did they honestly think they’d sell enough of these to pay for the printing? Yet there they are.)
Then, if we’re lucky, you wander over to the Regional shelves, where, sandwiched and nearly hidden between big important volumes about lighthouses and Grandfather Mountain that stay in print for years, there are one or two copies of our slim little tome. If you actually happen to notice it/them, and tilt you head just so, you can barely make out the title: Cliffside, Portrait of a Carolina Mill Town. Likely as not, you have no idea what or where Cliffside is, and absolutely no interest in Carolina mill towns. So you move on over to the big boys of the book world, the John Grishams and Sue Graftons, and actually make a purchase.
But anything can happen. The other day, Osama bin Laden, that international man of mystery [now deceased], who deigned to emerge briefly (via videotape) from the mists of Pakistan, suggested that we all ought to read an obscure 5-year-old book titled Rogue State, A Guide to the World’s Only Superpower, by a little-known American college professor named William Blum. The book (critical of U. S. foreign policy and containing opinions that mesh nicely with Osama’s justifications for his political agenda) immediately shot up the Amazon.com sales ranking, from 205,763 to 27. In a TV interview, the author revealed the total printing of his book to that point had been only 2,000 copies.
And then there’s Oprah…
Meanwhile, back on earth, our little effort has done well, although on a much smaller scale. Its initial printing of 1,200 copies has nearly sold out, our publisher reports, and there’s the possibility of a second printing. At Rutherford county’s largest bookstore, Fireside, in Forest City [now defunct], Cliffside was high on the best-seller list of 2005, second only to the most recent Harry Potter sensation.
If you’d like a copy, and haven’t run across the book at your usual venues, try Arcadia Publishing or search PayPal.
That is all.