hit tracker Dave Shields Author Blog: December 2008

A journal detailing my efforts to launch my career as a novelist. The goals are to share info about succeeding in this field with other aspiring authors, to provide updates to the many supporters who have asked me for them, and ultimately to build the momentum necessary to assure success in this venture.

Sunday, December 21, 2008

How to Lose Your Shirt... then put it back on.

I've always known my career would take many twists, but I never dreamed I'd turn this many unexpected corners. Not long ago I believed my writing career was on the verge of financial success. I'd had the incredible fortune of writing Saul Raisin's biography, and from the very first it began receiving critical acclaim. On the day of the books official release Saul made good on his amazing early declaration to me by competing in the 2007 U.S. Pro Cycling Championship. A year and a half before, on the verge of death, nobody could have dreamed such a ride was possible.

On the strength of the early reviews and also what looked like a powerful stream of upcoming publicity my distributor, Independent Publishers Group (IPG), placed thousands of copies of Tour de Life on bookshelves around the nation. Small publishers dream of this sort of an opportunity. Barnes & Noble, Borders, and Amazon all made large orders. Inside Edition, the news magazine show, sent a three person crew to Greenville, South Carolina to film a segment on Saul's inspirational return to pro cycling. A producer from the Ellen Degeneris Show told my publicist that if the ratings for the Inside Edition piece were strong that we'd get a spot on Ellen. Since Inside Edition is distributed by King World, the same organization that represents Oprah, we believed we also had a legitimate shot at telling Saul's story on the most sought after of all media outlets for books. Everything was going according to our dreams... in fact, things were going better than we'd dreamed.

Then everything changed. On the day the Inside Edition segment was to air O.J. Simpson got arrested in Vegas. Not surprisingly, given the focus of the show, we got bumped. My publicist and I made many calls to Inside Edition but were never again able to speak to a producer of the show. Within weeks the producer we'd been working with left Inside Edition. Some time later Saul made a call to Inside Edition hoping for an opportunity to at least see the footage, but he never got an answer.

Then in November of that year Saul learned that Credit Agricole would no longer allow him to race. A side effect of that decision was that the publicity Saul was getting further subsided, and as a consequence our already slow sales slowed some more. This combination resulted in the worst insult. You see, bookstores generally have 90 or more days to pay for their inventory. Even after it is paid for books remain fully returnable, so publishers face a big risk. As the grace period on all those books IPG had placed began to expire the bookstores made the decision to return the books instead of sending in payment. Every time a book got sent back not only did we lose the money for that particular copy, we also had to pay a re-stocking fee. Our tremendous small press accomplishment of getting so many copies on bookstore shelves turned into a nightmare. My small company ended up deep in the red.

Back in 2004 when a series of events prompted me to create Three Story Press I made my wife a number of promises. Some of them were financial since she has this curious determination to put food on the table for our children. Since I wasn't upholding my end of the bargain financially there was no alternitive but to search for a new career. After a shortlived job with one small company I found myself studying for the insurance exam in order to take a position with Aflac... the duck company. I had never dreamed I'd become an insurance agent, but the good news is that I made a great decision when I chose this company. Slowly but surely I dug my way out of my financial hole. Aflac has been an incredible organization to work for, and the flexibility they've given me ought to eventually enable me to continue with my writing as well. I still believe that my cycling novels can eventually earn a mainstream break (one production company is currently researching a film option), and Saul's determination to benefit brain and spinal chord injury patients through his Raisin Hope Foundation could spark that books sales as well.

Today I'm particularly happy because tomorrow I will officially qualify for a one week trip to Kauai. As excited as I am to explore Paradise, I'm even more excited to give my wife a vacation. I've asked more of her than I have a right to during this challenging attempt at writing fortune and fame. While I've received the non-monetary rewards of awards, recognition, relationships, and travel, she's come through the experience mostly empty handed. Thank you, Aflac, for helping me turn things around.

So, after losing my shirt in the publishing business I was able to put it back on via the insurance business, and I've had such great success in the process that I get to take my shirt back off on a warm beach this coming April. Life continues to be one adventure after another!