Indy Book Gifting – 2019

2019 is the year I came out of the closet as a writer of fiction.  Published a novel The Coal Tower (https://amzn.to/2DvSTcZ), which I’d labored over at dawn for nearly ten years, and then a collection of a dozen short stories Last Rites (https://amzn.to/2DBvdE4), most of which I’d written in just the past year. Then came the hard part, promoting the books.  I tried some of the approaches learned at the James River Writers Conference, sending copies out to reviewers, relentlessly begging for readers on social media and then begging them again to post reviews on the books’ Amazon pages. Braced myself to ask local book stores to stock them (most were kind enough to agree, and two – Book People (https://www.bookpeoplerichmond.com/) here in Richmond and New Dominion (https://ndbookshop.com/) in Charlottesville – even held beautifully organized and well-advertised book launches, events I’ll never forget). As my friend author Katy Munger had warned me, I also began to obsessively check the KDP website where Amazon’s publishing arm lists current sales.  I entered a couple first novel contests, and was gratified when The Coal Tower got short-listed for the Faulkner Society’s award.  My friend Rosemary Rawlins, also an indy author, included my novel for discussion at her book club in Nags Head, and I’m looking forward to sitting in for that.  My cousin Ronnie even wrote and performed a blues tune summary of the novel’s plot!

Getting the news out was exciting, but also a lot of work, and now that I’ve seen what other indy authors do, how promoting a book can be a full-time job in itself, I’m a little flummoxed.  For one thing, it feels somehow unseemly to tug at the sleeves of my friends and followers on social media.  For another, I’d prefer to spend my few free minutes working up a poem or a new story instead of shamelessly hawking my already published books.  Writer friends shake their heads and agree.  It’s tough, dude. Then comes the pep talk about being the best champion for your own hard-won achievement, about the books deserving wide readership, about building something called a “street team” (friends who will talk up your books and share them far and wide).  Right here let me say thank you to all of you who have acquired and read my books, who have reached out with supportive words, who have shared the books with others, and said kind things about them online. You’ve made this all more fun and more meaningful than I’d have imagined at the start of the year.

As a reader, one benefit to reading indy authors, especially if you have met them at a book launch or know them from work or church or as an old friend, is that you can ask them out for coffee, you can talk about the story that touched you, they’ll even sign your book!  (I’ve cold-emailed poets and received immediate replies of thanks.)  You become a sort of partner in the effort, giving back inspiration and interest, and it helps.

All that said, I’m a happy street team warrior for a few friends who are also on the indy author path.  Asking you to consider their new books for your holiday gifting.  All of them are available on Amazon, as mine are, or you can ask your local bookstore to order them:

Katy Munger, well-known mystery novelist .  Her new one in the Casey Jones detective series is Fire and Rain (https://amzn.to/2P5f1jP).  Here’s a typically witty interview you may enjoy:  https://tonygentry.com/2019/01/04/katy-munger-by-the-book/.

Rosemary Rawlins, author of the memoir Learning by Accident, has just published a deeply moving historical novel about one family’s travails during the Cambodian civil war, All My Silent Years (https://amzn.to/2qTaIA4).  Here’s my recent interview with her, discussing the books’ gestation:  https://tonygentry.com/2019/11/09/rosemary-rawlins-discusses-her-debut-novel-all-my-silent-years/.

Finally, I interviewed my VCU colleague Jim Cotter, about his tale of international intrigue The Bridge Over the Bering Strait (https://amzn.to/2Ldoog1) here:  https://tonygentry.com/2017/06/18/an-interview-with-james-cotter-60-something-debut-novelist/.

So, these are my indy author recommendations for now.  Hope you’ll seek them out, read and enjoy, share and join their street teams.  If you’d like to continue this conversation, or if you’re an indy author, or want to be (heaven forbid), add a comment here and let’s chat.  Happy holiday shopping!  And happy reading (and writing) in 2020!

The Year I Came Out (as a creative writer, in pictures)

November 2018 – Visited author friend Katy Munger and her daughter Zuzu in Durham, where over a bottle of champagne, she showed me how to typeset my debut novel The Coal Tower using a software called Vellum.
The book cover my son Stephen designed, using a snapshot I’d taken years ago, when the sculpture atop the coal tower in Charlottesville still wore a dress.
The magic of seeing your book in a store – thank you to Chop Suey in Carytown!
Collected a dozen short stories for the collection Last Rites, and my friend for life Karen Bowles graciously agreed to let me use one of her paintings for the cover!
I’ll always be grateful to David at Book People in Richmond for hosting my first ever book reading and signing.
And to Julia and her team at New Dominion Book Shop in Charlottesville for hosting this book launch, right in the town where my novel is set, and on the same week when its events occur!

In October, excited to learn that The Coal Tower was short-listed for Faulkner Society prize!

Productive year for pomes, too. Thanks to Sow’s Ear Poetry Review for publishing this one, to Deep South for another, and to Poetry Society of Virginia for two poems that placed in their annual competition, to Central Virginia Bards anthology, where two were printed, to Mad Swirl, which printed three more, and to Bottom Shelf Whiskey for another. Mad Swirl and Bottom Shelf Whiskey also published short stories I wrote this year.
Another shout-out to the Mad Swirl collective, which also published a series of my photographs, along with the poems and the short story. They even set up a webpage for my stuff on their site!
Finally, full circle, visited my friend Rosemary in Nags Head to pay Katy’s favor forward, helping Rosemary use Vellum to typeset her debut novel, which is a heart-felt and beautifully told story of courage in the face of unspeakable suffering.

As you might imagine, feeling gratitude for all the support, sharing, and hugs that have made this year so much fun. Thank you to everyone who helped get these words out in the world, to those of you who read and talked up my work, and especially to my family, who have tiptoed around the house for years, while this typing got done. For 2020, all I can say is: Write On!