Sunday, May 13, 2012

Interesting Times

Tuesday afternoon, I was at my desk, writing e-mails, trying to drum up editing business and rescue a slow slow year, when the phone rang. The call screener read “The Jenkins Group.” A tiny waved rippled through my memory.

At last, a client, perhaps?

“My name is Andrew Parvel, from the Jenkins Group,” a voice called from another world. “Did you get our e-mail last week?”

“No. Which one do you mean?”

“The one announcing that your novel Dragon’s Ark has won the Bronze medal, third place, in this year’s IPPY Awards contest in the Horror Category. Category 15. Go look. Oh . . . and congratulations!”

No, I did not and have not fainted. But you may catch me pogo sticking around my neighborhood, wearing a shiny grin.

The Jenkins Group is a large publishing services company, based in Farmington, Michigan. Every year, since 1996, they’ve held the Independent Publishers Book Award (known as the “IPPY”), awarding a series of medals honoring the year’s best independently published titles in 74 categories.

This year, Dragon’s Ark found its place in the crowd: again, Bronze medal, third place, in the Horror category. One among over 5,000 entries. Consider the odds.

The IPPY is one of five indie book contests I’ve entered the novel in this year, and only the second to respond, so far. In 40 years of writing, it’s the biggest award and highest honor I’ve ever received. I didn’t expect it would happen this soon, if at all.

The first person I told, of course, was Elizabeth; then my two sisters-in-law; old friend and colleague John-Ivan Palmer; and later, the quasi-communities on Twitter and Facebook. There remain many more pigeons to send. This is one of them.

In between e-mails and phone calls, I’ve paced a mile or so around the house and have become familiar with the contours of empty space. And gone pogo-sticking up and down the sidewalks of Oakland.

The IPPY award ceremony will be held at the Providence, a former church and recording studio in New York City, on June 4, the night before the opening of BookExpo America, the largest publishing event in the country, also held in New York.

“Of course,” you say, “you are going to New York, aren’t you, Burchfield?”

 “You betcha!” I chirped that day in my best Sarah Palin gloat. “Elizabeth and I both!” I went so far as to RSVP the IPPY staff.

The next evening, as I walked home from celebratory libations at Cato’s on Piedmont Avenue, I tapped the brakes on my speeding mind, pulled into the slow lane (Yes, it’s true. Three beers and a scotch can, sometimes, be a key to wisdom and caution).

For one, fierce, frantic research had led to a cost estimate of $2,000 minimum for the trip to New York from Oakland, just for the flight and hotel (unless we were to settle for the Staten Island Ramada Inn, $90/night and Earl’s Boy-Are-My-Arms-Tired Airline, $100 round trip, no seat belts, no engine, but free peanuts, a used WW II parachute and layovers in Gardnerville, NV, Oshkosh, WI, and Johnstown, PA).

The editing business, as said above, has been very bad this year so far. Two thousand dollars would be two arms, a leg, and a knee, no crutch.

Further, as Elizabeth pointed out that evening as we talked it over, I’ve been eager all year to launch an advertising campaign for all three of my books (and two more to come out), under the Ambler House imprint.

Books that win awards, even relatively minor ones, show increased sales. But the world must be told. And my win would speak louder with a steady, persistent marketing campaign, than would it would with carbon footprint increases and a two nights on a lumpy hotel mattress in Staten Island.

The glamour part can wait.

I reluctantly withdrew my RSVP. I will stay home and spend the money from behind the desk in my tiny office.

This decision will remain—in our current economic frame—quite pricey. Already I’ve burned a hole in my pocket to have Dragon’s Ark featured, with other winners, in the New Title Showcase, a display shelf to be set up at the front door of the BookExpo. I’ll be ripping a big one for advertising space in the “Show Daily,” the official daily magazine of BookExpo America, produced by “Publishers Weekly.”

And that’s just the beginning: The Jenkins Group (and other companies) provides a variety of PR services; there are ads to buy on Goodreads, Facebook, Google. The list is larger than can be known.

I still feel like a leaf in a windy blue sky, anxious as I try to keep from becoming overwhelmed. I’m grateful to the IPPY committee and judges; to Elizabeth—to whom I owe so much for this; and everyone who contributed to Dragon’s Ark, including all the beta readers, my interior designer Joel Friedlander and cover designer Cathi Stevenson.

I pray to keep my head clear and my feet on ground, one step, one day at a time . . . .

Among my amusing thoughts: as the independent publisher of Dragon’s Ark, I’m put in the odd, slightly embarrassing position of congratulating myself on my accomplishments. In the third person, like it’s been said, Richard Nixon used to do. Luckily, there are only two mirrors in our apartment and their reflections are fragmentary.

It’s not like I’ve never been here before. But each time, the door opened to a room that I found to be empty and I walked out hollow with disappointment.

This time, it’s very different. This time, there’s furniture and a small window and a door taking shape in the opposite wall. At this, point, all I can add is thanks to all of you that have been coming by here over the years and . . . stay tuned.

Time for another turn around the neighborhood on my pogo stick.

Copyright 2012 by Thomas Burchfield

Thomas Burchfield is the author of the 2012 IPPY Award winning contemporary Dracula novel Dragon's Ark, and the original screenplays Whackers and The Uglies (e-book editions only). Published by Ambler House Publishing, all are available at Amazon in various editions. You can also find his work at Barnes and Noble,  Powell's Books, Scribed, and at the Red Room bookstore. He also “friends” on Facebook, tweets on Twitter, and reads at Goodreads. You can also join his e-mail list via tbdeluxe [at] sbcglobal [dot] net. He lives in Northern California with his wife, Elizabeth.

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