Monday, November 26, 2012

Marketing Battles and Promotional Breakthroughs

As you’ve most likely gathered from my last post, I’m obsessed with my book. In the past couple of weeks I started to feel very anxious and nervous that there was no movement in the conquest of my book sales and marketing. With Christmas coming up I really need to take advantage of the timing. But there seemed to be nothing happening and I began to fret and stress, to which Mom kept saying, “stop stressing so much, it’ll all work out. We’re all working our hardest.” And she was right, as usual. It seems over night the book has picked up and things are lining themselves up. The next couple weeks are going to be really eventful and exciting. Starting yesterday, a journalist for the Dutch Newspaper, Noord Holland Dagblad, came to our house to interview Kees and me. We were both able to tell about our adventurous travel and our how lives crossed paths in West Africa while both on long term journeys, he in his truck, the family and I on foot with backpacks. To bring those up to date, Kees has a well-travelled past having done many trips to West Africa for drumming, South East Asia, a two year overland journey to India and back in his own bus and then the one year African adventure in the big yellow truck which my family promptly hijacked. The journalist seemed very interested (by Dutch standards, not American) as we showed him pictures, the line on the map, journals, the book and trailer (that Kees made), “Sihpromatum”. He stayed for over an hour and was certain he would be able to make an interesting article out of the stories we’d told. It was really nice to share this experience with Kees and Dad, as I’d already had a similar experience with Ammon, Mom and Bre with North Shore News. I am just so elated to have been interviewed not only by another newspaper but to have my story shared internationally. The interview went extremely well and I will post the article as soon as it is out (though it of course is going to be in Dutch).

The first book trailer.

We also recently put a few books in a large Alkmaar bookstore, which was placed in the English section. Our success in this had a lot to do with the newspaper coming to interview us. Of course the fact that it is in English doesn’t play to my advantage but I am just happy to have any kind of exposure. It really feels like a blessing and I am so grateful for all the support I have and the wonderful people in my life who have been willing to help me make my dreams come true (I’m looking at Kees when I write that). The upcoming weeks will be exciting as I wait for the newspaper to come out in Holland which is distributed all over Northern Holland and has a readership of 140,000, the equivalent of North Shore News, except this is not a free newspaper. It is sold in gas stations, train stations, grocery stores, just about anywhere you can think a newspaper would be sold. Mom has been working on her side of the world arranging to go to Christmas markets to sell and promote the book. Ammon has been an amazing help, proofreading my interviews, blogs, etc, searching reviewers, contacting libraries and writing incredibly professional proposal letters for me.
“Sihpromatum” is now available in the West and North Vancouver Libraries, Black Bond Books, People's Co-Op Bookstore on Commercial Drive, Hagar Books Ltd. on 41st Ave, 32 Books in Edgemont Village and Wanderlust on 7th Ave.
We recently received a request from the West Coast Christmas Show for us to send them a copy of the book so that they could put it on display on CTV NEWS! There will be hundreds of vendors, thousands of items sold at this market so it is an honor that they requested my book to be one of few on the display table, with the possibility that it gets picked it up and given a brief description. The ad will be playing on Tuesday November 27th, on CTV NEWS!!
To further our luck and chances when Mom dropped off the book and actually met with George, the show organizer who will be appearing on CTV, he seemed very interested in our story and even implied he would be showing and giving a description of the book but it would only be for a few seconds. But that is ALL we need!!! This particular Christmas market has been going since 2008 and last year there was a turnout of 13,500 people!
The West Coast Christmas Show will be on from November 30th-December 2rd in Abottsford and you can expect to see Mom, Ammon, Donavin and Bree there, in high Christmas spirits. Poor Ammon will suffer for three days straight having to listen to Christmas carols… but it’s not my fault he’s such a BA-HUM-BUG! ;) Bree will be in her element having the chance to dress up as a little princess Santa Clause. If anyone in or around Vancouver is interested, they would be so happy to see you there!
And then there are another 2 Christmas …markets/fairs. One at BCIT Dec 6-7 and another December 15th-16th in false creek.
If we can only manage to break even on the cost of renting a stall I will be thrilled because our main goal here is to get exposure. Though Bre of course won’t settle for anything less than 50,000 copies sold! 
In the meantime I have been writing lots of interviews for small travel blogs and websites. I’ve lined up dozens of reviewers, signed up in some contests and will be the featured author in January in “Real Family Travel Magazine” which is a new electronic magazine available on the Apple Ibookstore.
I feel good about our progress and can’t wait for the next couple weeks to play out. I will try to keep you updated as well!!!
With all of this going on it would seem I have been doing extremely well for myself as an unknown author with a newly released book. I really couldn’t be happier and at this point it is all about the exposure so I just hope to keep this rhythm up. I still can’t believe my book has made it locally and internationally in newspapers, bookstores, libraries, interviews, magazines, and now TV!!
To date “Sihpromatum” has been read in over fifteen countries and the website has been viewed in eighty-three!

Tuesday, November 20, 2012

Ramblings of a Newborn Author

These days I find, whenever I make a post it always starts with, “Well, it’s been a while since I last wrote a blog.” But how else can I start? I apologize. I really wish I had kept up with the blog all of these years because there has been so much to tell. There is always something exciting going on, but since I started writing my book I find I have had no spare time for any extra writing. I regret to say, that since the family journey ended nearly 4 whopping years ago my journals have seemed to dwindle down to occasional notes on my Iphone… Okay, by occasional I mean a blur of random notes constantly being thrown down on a piece of paper or somewhere to get lost and mixed up.
I was always so obsessed with my journal writing that I feel I kind of lost a piece of my soul when it stopped. I just cannot find that same rhythm or routine I did while I was on the road. Journaling takes a whole lot of discipline and I think I used up all of the self-discipline I have on writing the book. I am so grateful that Mom forced me not only on the trip but to write a journal all of those years because I don’t think I could’ve written the book without them.

The book release in Vancouver was spectacular and I was shown such incredible support. I was so excited to open that very first box with five proofs. They were beautiful. And each of "The Originial Four" were given a copy. Bre quickly snagged her copy and immediately ripped open the cover, flattened it open and began scribbling all over it. “ONE MILLION COPIES SOLD!” “#1 BEST SELLING BOOK SERIES IN THE WORLD.” Although I was cringing with pain at the sight of my freshly born baby being abused in such a way, it was very sweet of her. I of course, anal as I am, hardly even opened my copy, preferring to keep it perfect and 100% intact. If I had the money I’d probably seal it safely away in a diamond encrusted glass box.

I was surprised more than a couple times during the month of releasing my book. In every direction I turned people were helping me and showing me the way. I never believed a self-published book could get into bookstores but I was proven wrong when Bre started calling all of the bookstores in and around Vancouver. She was accepted again and again and we ran around dropping off books in store after store. Some of the bigger chains such as Indigo and Chapters were obviously a little harder and we were rejected every times on the basis that we need a Canadian distributor, but there is still hope because in the spring they do consignment, so hopefully by then they will be willing to give us a chance.

The North Shore News photoshoot.

Through Bre’s connection with The North Shore News, having been featured for The Best Job in the World before leaving to Australia, she managed to get us an interview with Jane Seyd.
You can find that article here on pages 3,9,10,11 just turn the pages by clicking the right hand side of the picture.
An hour appointment with the newspaper turned into 2.5 hours. It probably would have gone on longer had it not be the end of the work day. There is just so much to tell and with the four of us together we could talk for days on end. A photographer was sent to Bre’s new house and we had a few photos snapped. Our moment to shine! And it felt great. After all of those years being in the dirt, suffering on long bus rides, washing our laundry by hand and dreaming of one day writing a book, my dream seemed to have been completed in that moment, holding my book up for the camera, surrounded by my three best travel buddies and showing off our passports. It was a moment I had imagined and hoped for, but thought would probably never happen.
For those that don’t know, Sihpromatum, [pronounced SIP-ROW-MAY-TUM], means in more common terms, "a blessing in disguise." The world is full of sihpromatums and I can give you one small example off the top of my head that happened while I was home. I had delivered 20 books to Black Bond Books in Vancouver which were then sent to their warehouse. Not long after I was contacted by the owner saying a couple of my books had been damaged in transit… Poop! Right? I mean, that sucks… now I’ve got two damaged books. I can’t afford to be having losses already. But then, the manager at one of the stores asks me if I could give/lend one of the damaged books to one of the employees who really wanted to read the book. I agreed that this woman, Melanee, could read it. Why not, right? I mean, it’s already a dead book.
Well, shortly after I received a phone call with a woman literally beside herself with excitement, nearly screaming at me on the phone like a crazed fan that somehow got a hold of Oprah’s number.
“Oh my gosh!! Is this Savannah?!?! You are a fantastic writer. You are going to be the next best selling author, I know it. I just know it! You are incredible!” Of course, my initial thought was “Are you sure you’ve got the right Savannah?” “You’re talking about MY book!?” She had read and absolutely LOVED “Sihpromatum”. Wow, my first real fan!
“Do you remember the part where-OH of COURSE you remember!! You were there!!!” she squeals excitedly. She had jotted down notes and recorded passages and pages she loved.
This was another moment where I just had goose bumps running up my arms, chills of overwhelming delight. All those years of writing, doubting, not knowing and dreaming became so real and worth it. I had dreamed and envisioned such scenarios a millions times, praying to have a solid real book in my hands.

With Melanee, our #1 Fan.

She went on and on praising me beyond belief. I promised to come to Black Bond Books in Lynn Valley where she works with the whole family to sign the copy she had purchased. What an exciting visit! When I walked into the store to meet her she was literally hanging over the counter trying to sell a young woman my book. Hahah, what a situation to stumble upon.
“I can’t even explain to you what it’s about. It’s incredible! You will love it. You just have to buy it…” She was saying when I walked in and announced I was the author of the presented book.
Even though I am an absolute unknown author I didn’t need to have a billion dollars to feel like J.K. Rowling. There is no amount of money that can give you that same thrill as somebody complimenting you on your work.

Long story short, Melanee has been selling my book like food at the end of the world and I am so grateful to have her as part of my team. All thanks to those two damaged books which were hardly damaged.
Melanee, who has dubbed herself my #1 fan, is one of many examples of feedback I have been getting from my readers. She has kept contact with me through email, ending each one with Your #1 fan Melanee. It almost feels a bit weird, because who am I to deserve such attention and praise? It’s still hard for me to believe and accept that I really wrote something that brings joy, excitement and emotion to other people. What better gift is there in the world? Every so often I get an email from a reader telling me they cried or got teary eyed. Is it slightly cruel that it makes me happy to make people cry?! Basically I have accomplished my goal if I make someone cry. What a strange job I have!! Though, every day I tell Kees “Okay, don’t bug me, I’m at work” while sitting at my desk at any given time of the day. He always laughs that I take it so seriously and believe I’m at work sitting either at my desk or 5ft away in our big bed in my pyjamas, hair flying everywhere. I suppose I need to earn at least one cent before I can call it “work”, eh?
I am so grateful and happy that I have been getting such incredibly positive feedback from readers, though marketing and promoting is still a major battle in the world of publishing. It is comforting to know that I have a good product but all of my time since being back in Holland has been given to Twitter, writing interviews for blogs and requesting reviews. It’s amazing how time consuming it is.
You can find the reviews on Amazon at though I also receive feedback from those on Twitter.
I don’t know how hours go by and I still seem to get nothing done. Well I do but...see.... I feel like I do nothing because all day I'm planting seeds in the ground and at the end of a long day (10am-11pm) I still just see a big, ugly, brown field exactly how it looked when I got there. Nothing seems to have happened or been accomplished until months later when I’ll start to see some green sprouting. I am hoping that time is coming soon.
I have to find balance between the marketing and writing, because I’m getting lots of pressure to get #2 finished. I have hardly even started. It’s all still in my brain storming up, but one of these days it will spill out onto the page. Basically what I’m trying to tell you guys is that every single moment of every single day my brain only thinks “BOOK!” I’ve actually become quite a slave to it. I eat, breath, dream and sleep talk boooookkkkk. It’s funny because while travelling I constantly had dreams about keeping my journals safe and having nightmares they were getting wet. Now I dream of book reviews on Amazon, newspaper articles, statcounter stats and how many copies I’ve sold. There’s nothing else on my mind. My whole world revolves around…okay, I think you get the point. 
But now I have to get serious and there is only one place to start, and that place is Chapter 1. So I am off to see the wizard.
PS. I have recently been dubbed “Odysseus Grace” by a fellow self-publisher who has just read and enjoyed “Sihpromatum”. I think I might stick with that one, lol!

To get a taste of some of the interviews/reviews I have been doing here are a few:

For those who haven’t yet, you can follow me on Twitter @Sihpromatum
Also I’d LOVE if you took the time to LIKE my FB page: And you can connect with me on FB by friending me at Savannah Grace : Thank you so much! I really appreciate it. Believe me, it means the world to this author. ;) Author!!! It’s kind of official now, isn’t it?!
Oh and of course, go visit my website if you haven't already.

Saturday, November 03, 2012

Another Homecoming

So it's my 3rd visit to Vancouver since I started travelling in 2005. Crazy to think that I've been in and out of several countries (Netherlands, Germany, Philippines, Malaysia) as many or more times than Canada in the same time frame. Sorry I haven't updated since being back but it's been busy at time and just completely uncertain the rest.
I got back in the beginning of September, with mom and Savannah arriving a few days later. Vancouver was in the middle of a very long sunny stretch which lasted another month or so and it's really hard to argue against Vancouver being one of the most beautiful cities when the sun is shining.
Within a week of returning I had to renew my driver's license or lose it completely (you can only let it expire for 3 years, and I'd been using an Australian license the last couple years). I also had to get my knee looked at as I could barely walk through the airport upon my return. In the absence of an MRI (which take a very long time to get or are expensive privately) I was diagnosed with an aggravated case of patellofemoral pain syndrome. I've been doing what I can, which is rest and physiotherapy, and while it is slowly getting better, I'm still not able to do anything strenuous with it at all, meaning I have no idea when I'll be able to get away again. It's a kind of torture to be stuck in limbo on the travel front. The main reason that Savannah and mom returned at the same time was to attend Sandra's wedding with me (and Bre and grandma). Sandra has graced this blog and been part of our adventures many times now, having made guest appearances in Hong Kong, India, Turkey, Egypt and Australia. I'd last seen her in Melbourne in May 2011 as I was leaving Australia. It was where I finally met Ernie, her fiance and now husband, though they'd been together for years.
It was a beautiful wedding and we are very happy for them. I just hope it doesn't tie them down too much so that they can't come join me again somewhere else in the world...

Best of friends.

A beautiful couple.

Mom and Savannah planned to stay only a month and it was a very busy month for us as a group with a lot to try to accomplish before they left again. One of the major jobs was to finish off and ship 2 old Suburbans to Holland. Dad has started a company in the Netherlands that will import them for resale there. It's a way for them to qualify for a temporary residency permit for the country. Last year they'd bought 2 Suburbans but hadn't sent them as they needed a little bit of work restoring them first. They were being stored in Gold Bar, Washington with friends so we made a weekend trip of it and finally got them done and sent. One of them is a true monster and I can't imagine how it can possibly be street legal in the Netherlands. It's almost bigger than the apartment there.

Fixing up the "monster".

The smaller suburban.

Finished and happy!

And of course, last but not least was the release of Savannah's book in paperback. It's an exciting time for all of us, but Savannah was kept incredibly busy meeting with friends, promoting the book and generally trying to deal with all the little things involved. We did an interview about our trip with the local newspaper as well which was fun.
I won't go into the details of the book's success other than to say that the reviews have all been very positive and if you haven't picked one up yet you are missing out. I won't be updating on the status of the book as that is Savannah's department and her website is devoted to that. It also has a lot of the photos of the first part of our trip too in case you were wondering. While here, mom's visa developed some problems and she wasn't able to return to the Netherlands right away so Savannah returned to Alkmaar alone. She is now promoting her book there and starting to write the next one in the series. The rest of us here in Vancouver are doing our part on this end to continue to sell the book amongst our other activities.

A book about us!

The happy author with her first printed copy.

Delivery of the first 2000 books from the printer.