Impromptu talk and book signing at Rossville Middle School

Posted on August 25, 2009 (Subscribe to Blog)

I don't want to harp on about every book talk and event, but this one was great! Brandy, from the Rossville Library, phoned yesterday to say that the local middle school was having a small shindig, a sort of parents' evening, and would I be interested in having a table with my books on?

Well, of course I would! So off Brandy went to organize it. A little later she phoned again and said, "It's all arranged – but the teachers want you to speak to the parents and kids."

Yikes! Well, I said yes, since it was only going to be a short talk, just a few minutes or so. So, that evening, I met the teachers and was amazed at how eager they seemed to have "a real live author" there. I'm not used to this sort of attention; I'm just some bloke wot rote a book! Anyway, I "spoke" – or shouted, since the parents and kids were gathered in the gymnasium where voices get lost in echos. It was okay though, and afterward I sold a nice bunch of books – mostly to kids for a change!

Although I wrote Island of Fog for the 9-12 age group, more adults than kids have read it. I've revised my age group to 9+ now, and have been told it's more like Young Adult. In any case, it seems to suit all ages. But I'm keen for more kids to get hold of it, and finally it's starting to happen. It was really nice to meet the teachers and they kept asking if I'd come and talk to classes about writing and so on, and I kept saying yes, of course! So hopefully I'm "in" with the school system now. Meanwhile, completely separately, I'm "in" with another local middle school just because I built their website for them a few years ago.

I recently completed a website for another author, who lives in England. David Schutte, a writer of children's mysteries, tells me that he's visited over 200 schools in England. He does a talk and then manages to sell a healthy amount of books. That's what I want too, although I should add that it's really not about the money – it's about getting as many copies out there as I can. The more copies I sell, the more "weight" I'm likely to have in the eyes of big publishers in the future. "What, you sold 2000 copies on your own?" they drool. "You obviously have a following! Can we publish your book for you?"

That would be cool. I believe about 95% of self-published authors don't ever break the 500 barrier, or anywhere close; most sell less than 100 books and then bite the dust. I plan to do a little better than that! Big publishing houses make money by selling a hundred thousand copies of a FEW books, while print-on-demand companies typically make money selling a handful of copies of THOUSANDS of books. My goal is to be one of those "rare success stories" who sells a substantial amount of his self-published books.

So library talks and book fairs are fine, but it's the middle schools I'm most interested in. That's where my target audience is.

Comment by LAURA CANNING on Tuesday, August 25, 2009...

Nice one Keith, great that you're selling plenty of copies. Just to confuse you on your potential market, I'm not sure I'd call Island of Fog 'young adult' per se, more 'upper primary' to use a UK term, ie for/from around 10-12 years old. But I think using the term '9+' is a good way to put it... Good for you re the PR stuff, I feel left out at the mo 'travelling' - I hate to say it but I probably need to get back to the grim cold north of Ireland soon to do my own PR run!

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Tuesday, August 25, 2009...

Yeah, I'm not sure about "young adult" either... It seems like everyone has their own opinion. The main thing, to me, is that I aimed it at 9-12 years old, or 9+, and I think that's all that matters. So you're thinking about leaving Australia and heading back to Ireland? I thought you'd turned into a bush-girl and were there to stay!

Comment by NIGEL ROWE on Tuesday, August 25, 2009...

Hmm,' young adult' to me suggests 18-21 - you're not an adult till you're 18, so I would prefer 9+! I think it is a pity that kids books seem to have to be put into an age bracket. You don't pick up an Agatha Christie and see, 'Suitable for 14 - 100' inside. Glad to hear you're getting a good reception, Keith.

Comment by KEITH ROBINSON on Tuesday, August 25, 2009...

Hehe! I like the Agatha Christie comment. Technically speaking though, Young Adult (or YA) is for the 13-20 age group or thereabouts (depending on where you read the definition). In other words, teenagers or adolescents. But it's semantics; 9+ works for me! If it's so important to label or categorize age groups, I wonder if there are certain books that are aimed at 21-25 year old men with no girlfriends, or 34-46 year olds who are currently unemployed. Or, "Do not read unless you are exactly 53 years old, or you won't understand the plot."

Comment by PHILIP MANNERING on Tuesday, August 25, 2009...

Now I know why I always hated seeing 8+ or 9+ at the back of the cover of a book! After all, each reader has his own different understanding ability: it may occur to him that the so-called 8+ book is for 6-year-olds! Or, worse, he may find it a bit above his head and say, "That's more suitable for 12-year-olds." I think that categorizing books according age groups is just the worst idea since DRM (Digital Rights Management). Glad to see that some publishers have now started to avoid writing the age group on the back cover. I think I just like books that are "suitable for all ages." Those types of books are the most popular, too! :-)

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