Ring! It was 7:08AM. “Hello. Can I talk to Thomas Trimbath?” It didn’t sound good. Early morning phone calls using Thomas instead of Tom could be some official relaying bad news. I answered yes. “I’d like to talk to you about publishing your book.” Oh, it was one of those phone calls. I asked her what time she thought it was. Ah, an East Coast call assuming everyone lived in their world, or at least their time zone. I politely pointed out that I lived somewhere else on the planet. She was surprised I was so pleasant about it. Writers know everything is a story, and an opportunity for insights. So, I thanked her and she didn’t know why.
Before I hung up, I also took the opportunity to practice my reverse cold calling. I don’t cold call. I don’t call strangers to try and sell them – anything. Maybe that explains why my marketing isn’t as aggressive as others, but there’s enough aggression in the world. There’s no need to make more. I do, however turn the conversation around on those who cold call me. Want me to buy something you’re selling? Well, first you get to hear what I have to sell. Evidently, she wasn’t in the market for real estate on Whidbey Island. (I’m a broker with Coldwell Banker Koetje, in case you’re curious; and a disclosure the state requires me to make.) The irony is that Whidbey Island’s writing community is enormous, disorganized, but enormous. Maybe she should move her business here. Some of the most expensive houses are owned by authors. Oh well, her missed opportunity.
After I hung up, showered, had breakfast, and was heading into work I replayed my memory of the call. She wants to publish “my book”. Which one? Amazon shows six. Blurb shows six. I’m working on a sequel to Dream. Invest. Live., the basis of this blog. A sci-fi novel is over 25,000 words into the first draft. A book based on tea is at least sketched out. That’s three more for the Amazon list. The photos for the next photo book on Blurb are already done; Twelve Months at Possession Beach, book seven in a five part series of Whidbey Island photo essays. (Side note: Fans of Hitchhikers’ Guide to the Galaxy can appreciate the math.) “My book”? She missed a multiple of opportunities, not just one. (My apologies to the librarians I announced my plans to in early 2019. Instead of two publications and two in draft, I have one photo book in publication, and only one partial draft. Hey, real estate keeps me busy. You know?)
I doubt that I’d use her services, regardless. My frugality appreciates the world of self-publishing where the costs are minimal, the upside is as good as a Lotto jackpot, and the control is mine. Mine. Mine! You hear that? Seriously, I’m not that serious about it. Despite that, or maybe because of it, I now get calls for what one writer called, their “Author Hero.” Gosh. If you’re serious about such things, check out the video produced by Don Scoby (Whidbey Island’s bagpipe playing biscotti baker and cookbook author) and me.
Her early morning phone call also made me think of other members of the unofficial writing community. As of 2019, Don and I have been producing a blog and podcast called WritingOnWhidbeyIsland.com (also known as WOWI, an acronym many writers dislike, which may be why we keep using it.) Self-publishing was dismissed when I published Just Keep Pedaling in 2002. Now, almost every author we’ve interviewed has either used or considered modern self-publishing. First they ignore you, then they laugh at you, then they fight you, then you win – evidently.
Almost every author also shares at least some aspect of frugality. One interpretation of frugality is the respect for resources and what is in the world around us. Authors are frugal with their words. Few are extravagant spenders, unless it is to attend conferences or travel for new experiences. (Though there are some very nice writer’s studios on the island. But I digress and pull myself back from conducting a market analysis of the value of a studio.) There may be 100,000 words in a book, but that probably means another 100,000 were in then out of the manuscript.
Her call was a reminder of how easy it is to disrespect others, to treat people impersonally, as if we are members of a market, not individuals. To assume that everyone lives in a world like ours. To assume that everyone has the same motivations and incentives. She even had a programmed response in mind, expecting me to be rude when I found out who was calling and why.
Her call has been valuable to me. From a conversation that lasted less than three minutes, I’ve been reminded of how easy it is to sit in a box and treat people as if they were packages.
She also reminded me of the work I get to do, of my opportunities to treat people as people, and of a world I left behind.
Now, back to the reality of unwinding from a stressful transaction, diving into a long list of end-of-year tasks (including my semi-annual stock portfolio analyses), and maybe upgrading my writing “studio”. Laptops are on sale, and I already have a comfy chair and a wide selection of teas.