Column: Columnist flushed with tips for selling book


I decided to take the high road and not abuse my privilege as a Herald columnist for personal gain. It would just be plain wrong to use this space to hype my new book, “Nose Hairs Gone Wild: Collected Humor Essays by Scott Saalman.”

Shameless self-promoting — that’s just not how newly-released-book-author Scott Saalman rolls. Speaking of rolling, I am selling my books out of my car trunk, so if you see a white Corolla, honk and I’ll pull over. I will also make home deliveries, especially around suppertime. So, put an extra plate on the table. I’ll even do a private reading.

There is nothing special about getting a book published. Here in the golden age of self-publishing, anyone can write and publish a book about anything.

Exhibit A: “Nose Hairs Gone Wild” is about nose hairs — or so it would seem. It’s not entirely about nose hairs, although one essay is titled, “Nose Hairs Gone Wild.” It’s what I like to call the title track.

Anyone can self-publish a book. Selling that book is a different story, though.

Here are some practical tips for you self-publishing wannabes.

”¢ Pick the right sales venue. I originally selected four can’t-miss locations: a flower shop, a home decor shop, a café, a spa. The flower shop didn’t sell a single book. What’s with this backward town? Haven’t you hicks heard of book bouquets? On a somewhat promising note, someone did actually show interest in my book at the spa. A customer was seen thumbing through it but refused to shell out $14.95 when he realized it was not a how-to guide on managing unruly nose hairs. I kid you not.

”¢ Think e-book. E-book sales are all the rage (one notch above the book bouquet concept). At the time of this writing, my “Nose Hairs Gone Wild” e-book is listed at No. 833,357 on the Amazon Best Sellers rankings. Can you say early retirement?

”¢ Naming your book is crucial. Your book title needs to be unique, memorable, clever, sophisticated and, if at all possible, it should allude to a popular video franchise involving drunken college coeds willingly baring their skin. And, in hindsight, most importantly, it should never have “nose hairs” anywhere in its title. A friend of mine suggested that my Amazon best-seller ranking might improve by at least 800,000 positions if I simply retitled it “Fifty Shades of Grey Nose Hairs Gone Wild.”

”¢ Embrace the bathroom reader market. Sure, I still fantasize about “Nose Hairs Gone Wild” being placed on bookshelves beside other classics, say by Hawthorne, Flaubert, Dostoevsky and Tolstoy. I get the feeling, though, that unless these classic novels are stacked atop a toilet tank, that’s not going to happen. Currently, the bathroom seems to be a popular place for my book. “I am indeed enjoying these by the toilet as promised,” wrote my musician friend and WhyHunger champion Jen Chapin from Brooklyn. And this glowing review from local reader Emi D: “Your book is great. I must tell you, and please do not take offense to this, it is in our bathroom reading book crate. It stands beside other great reading material like ”˜Calvin and Hobbes,’ ”˜The Far Side’ and ”˜The Darwin Awards.’ It is actually a compliment. Not to get into too much detail of our ”˜pooping’ habits, but some of the D’s (the men of course!) can read one story per bathroom visit and the others can read two or three stories.” For my next book, I promise to use two-ply paper to help in the reading process.

”¢ Promote, promote, promote. In theory, book signing events are a good way to turn over your inventory. When “Nose Hairs” first came out, I scheduled a three-day whirlwind local book tour. Well, “whirlwind” might be a bit strong. “Dead calm” would be a more truthful descriptor. The Ferdinand library graciously allowed me to hold a signing there. Since it was held after hours, library staff  simply gave me the key to the building. You know you are in trouble when you can’t even draw a librarian to your book event. I once wrote to my humor writing hero Dave Barry about my disheartenment over the poor turnouts for my first self-published book in 1994. Dave responded, “If it cheers you up, I once drove from suburban Philadelphia to Cape Cod, where I stood in a hardware store (don’t ask) for four hours and sold three books, two to the owners of the store.” I am still envious of Dave. Three books!!! I’d sell my grandma’s kidneys if it helped sell three books. It is not lost on me that Dave eventually won the Pulitzer Prize despite his humbling hardware store experience. I suspect my Pulitzer is just around the corner.

So, there you have it: some sure-fire tips about how to — or not how to — sell and market your new book. Seriously, if you see me driving, honk. I’ll pull over, really, whether you want a book or a kidney. Shameless? Me? At least I won’t use my coveted Herald space for self-promotion. This taking the high road stuff is making me feel pretty good inside. I think I’ll write a book about it.

Scott Saalman and the Will Read (and sing) For Food Players will perform at 7 p.m. Wednesday at Vincennes University Jasper Campus to benefit Community Food Bank. The public is invited. Admission: a canned good or monetary donation.

More on