Social Media Had Nothing to Do With It

Last summer Riverfeet Press released the Awake in the World anthology, which included an essay I wrote called “A Path to the Wild.” I hoped to sell 50 copies via Fact & Fiction, and I promised a hard sell to make that happen. I didn’t follow through at all on the hard promotion . . . but the book did sell far more than 50 copies, and actually made #5 on the store’s bestseller list for the entire year. I’m thrilled that it did so well. I credit its success to crafty store placement as well as its cool cover/excellent design. It sold very well during the holiday season. If I recall it was the biggest seller in the month of December. If not, it was definitely in the top two or three. I was watching it out of curiosity, but now I don’t remember for sure.

The thing is, social media had essentially nothing to do with it. Beyond the half-dozen or so friends I have who bought it online — people I am friends with on Twitter and Instagram, or who read this blog, all of whom I am eternally thankful to for supporting my work — essentially none of my social media contacts made any difference. The one local “event” we did behind the book drew not a single familiar face, and though we sold thirteen books at that event they were all to strangers. Basically, what I’m saying is that if I had to measure its success on whether or not people I actually know, whether via social media or personally, bought it, I would have to say it was a total flop.

That may sound like sour grapes, but it isn’t. It’s just curious to me is all. It also helps me decide how I’ll go about promoting the next book which will be coming out this summer, if everything goes even remotely close to as planned. This will be a release exclusively featuring my own work; an actual book, if a short one. I can’t wait to get it out there, and I have many ideas for getting out in person to promote it. I don’t think I’ll abandon social media, much as I would like to, but I don’t think I’m cut out to be the kind of person who maximizes its potential. I’d rather be out and about than spending more time on the friggin’ computer.

I don’t think I’ll do a solo event at all in Missoula, heh. I don’t think I could face a room full of empty chairs at my own event in my hometown.

For those curious, here is the full list of books that were bestsellers. There were other books we sold large quantities of, but those were tied to special events through the schools or conferences or things like that, so they weren’t counted. I think Lee Child’s book, The Midnight Line, which we sponsored the event for, was the biggest seller, but we didn’t even see those numbers as they were run through the campus location. It was also a slow year for big books; for example the new James Lee Burke book that has been out all of two weeks has already destroyed the sales of anything that came out last year. Regardless, I’m happy to be part of something that made the list for 2017.

  1. Bold Women in Montana History — Beth Judy (nonfiction, young adult)
  2. Ballet at the Moose Lodge — Caroline Patterson (short stories, adult fiction)
  3. The Wolf, the Duck, and the Mouse — Mac Barnett/Jon Klassen (children’s picture book)
  4. You Don’t Have to Say You Love Me — Sherman Alexie (memoir)
  5. Awake in the World — Various, edited by Daniel J. Rice (anthology)
  6. Indian Creek Chronicles — Pete Fromm (memoir/nonfiction)
  7. Bad Summon — Philip Shaefer (poetry)
  8. A Fly Rod of Your Own — John Gierach (essays/nonfiction)
  9. Reservations — Gwen Florio (mystery)
  10. Good Night Stories for Rebel Girls — (nonfiction, young adult)


Christmas Day

I’m happy to be leaving the holidays behind me this year. Not that I intend to sound like a Scrooge; we all have our issues with this season, don’t we? I will spare you my rant about waste, consumption, out of control capitalism, etc. This year I am only blaming  myself for the irritation I’ve felt. I ended up working too much over the final week before Christmas, and that will continue on through New Year’s Day. It is a situation I agreed to, and I’ve done my best to “serve the task,” but I’ve come up short of being my best self as the week wound down. I all but let it ruin the holiday for me, and that is no way to be. I’ll do my best to never feel that way again.

Reflecting on this past week as night settles on Christmas Day, I realize that it is how we handle time that seems to make the holidays so stressful. So much to do, so many tasks, so many appointments and extra responsibilities. Today I didn’t have any of that. I got up when I wanted to. I puttered around in my office. I got outside. I wrote a little. It was refreshing. It is too easy to fall into a trap of starting every day in a rush from task to task just to make possible the lifestyles we’ve come to expect, meanwhile sacrificing our ability to enjoy them along the way. Our relationships suffer. We suffer. It’s too much.

In the Daily Stoic some time ago I read that, “In his Meditations — essentially his own private journal — Marcus Aurelius wrote that ‘You could leave life right now. Let that determine what you do and say and think.’” I try and remember that, but failed this past week. Thankfully, with a new week starting tomorrow, and a new year after that, all is not lost. I have ample opportunity to try again.

Besides, Christmas Day turned out to be just fine.

Dividends of the Good Life

This is a quote from Sigurd F. Olson, a legendary outdoorsman/wilderness advocate/nature writer with whom I share a birthday (though his came nearly seventy years before mine):

It is hard to place a price tag on these things, on the sounds and smells and memories of the out-of-doors, on the countless things we have seen and loved. They are the dividends of the good life.

I love this river, this bank. Over the years I have stood here many, many times, in all hours of daylight and dusk, in every season, in just about every kind of weather. Alone or with company, including five different dogs. Today, while Bucky tore around in the bushes I watched a large heron wading the opposite bank, slowly and carefully. Then a bald eagle soared overhead. I was cranky when I arrived, but not when I left. Dividends, indeed.

For a Lifetime

The March 18th, 1998, entry from from Ted Kooser’s Winter Morning Walks: One Hundred Poems to Jim Harrison, a day the poet, writing from Nebraska, notes as being gusty and warm:

I saw the season’s first bluebird
this morning, one month ahead
of its scheduled arrival. Lucky I am
to go off to my cancer appointment
having been given a bluebird, and,
for a lifetime, having been given
this world.

I didn’t even know this book existed a month ago and reading it has felt a bit life changing. Beautiful.

The Solitary Bee

This is an excerpt from a piece called “The Natural State” by Emma Marris, appearing in issue 02 of Beside magazine.

“We keep the outdoors wild by remaining humble and aware, by embracing the wildness all around us, by fighting to protect nature both remote and nearby — by feeling awe not only for the grizzly bear but also for the solitary bee.”

At this point in my life, the majority of my encounters with “wild” happen in places far removed from what we traditionally consider to be wilderness. Not that I’ve abandoned the broad, remote places on the map. I long for them. But I also love my views from my front porch, and from my bird feeder. From the banks of the river running through the heart of Missoula, and from trails shared with joggers and dog walkers. They are all equally wondrous to me. They are where I am always, as Jim Harrison writes, “in search of small gods.”