City Desk

The Fabulous Life of a Published Author

Last week I got a letter that made my heart sink a little bit.

"Dear Mr. Beaujon," it read, "On Friday, November 14, 2008 we will partially reduce the stock of the book Body Piercing Saved My Life (ISBN 9780306814570). Please be assured that copies of the book will be in stock and available after this stock reduction."

I spent most of 2005 researching and writing that book; it came out not long after I started working here. It sold respectably (I think) for a book about Christian rock, something very few people outside evangelical culture care about, and got mostly positive reviews–and also I got to speak at a couple of colleges, one of which I tried growing a beard for in a flailing attempt at performance art–but my last royalty statement was negative, suggesting that at this point many more stores were returning the book than stocking it.

DaCapo has 2,038 copies; I can have 'em all for $1.93 apiece if I want (shipping is separate). I think I'm gonna buy 50, more than enough to have a few on hand to give to houseguests I'm trying to get rid of and to sell in person if I ever write another book.

Which I'm not sure I'll do–it really was a ton of work for not very much money, and I don't seem to have the knack some of my friends do for writing about things that people are interested in. But now that Body Piercing Saved My Life and I have reached the end of our rainbow, I thought I'd share some of my favorite memories about promoting the book:

  • Appearing on OnPoint with Randall Balmer and realizing I'd misspelled his name throughout the book.
  • Getting grilled by the immigration officer in the Winnipeg, Manitoba, airport who'd never heard of the college at which I was speaking.
  • Gacking on an answer on a Canadian radio show the one time my mom was listening.
  • Talking to Lisa Carver!
  • Realizing that blogs are far more important than most mainstream media outlets in terms of moving books. After this interview, for instance, came out, my Amazon number soared.

A couple weeks before the book came out, City Paper ran an excerpt, which did not, as far as I can tell, build any measurable anticipation for its release. It did, however, inspire a man who felt I had given his contributions to the anti-abortion movement short shrift to leave me an astonishing number of voicemails and e-mails; I then spent a really, really long time with him on the phone hearing him out and a couple weeks bracing myself for a letter to the editor that never came.

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  • http://notionscapital.com Mike Licht

    With that cover, you could sell it for full price at those huge Promise Keepers men's ministry events, like the one that filled RFK a few years back. Their season is over, though.

  • Ernest

    Indeed, Andrew. You missed the bus. But hey, if at first you don't succeed... Why not try hip-hop this time? It sure to sell. You must make haste though.

  • Andrew Beaujon

    One of the huge differences between signing a book contract and a record contract is that you have ABSOLUTELY NO input into your cover design. I remember joking to the editor, "Well, as long as it's not someone wearing a T-shirt with the book's name, I'll be happy." He laughed kinda nervously.

  • Ernest

    It's not just the cover design, Andrew. I suppose you have input into your title. Did you have input into the title, Andrew?

  • Andrew Beaujon

    Ernest, have you checked out DCist? A lot of great stuff over there to comment on.

  • http://www.washingtoncitypaper.com/columns/showandtell/ Amanda Hess

    I saw Ernest over at Brightest Young Things today. It's really nice to see him expanding his horizons.

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