My First Book Signing Experience

Dave was my first! I’ll never forget Dave. He walked into the gym wearing jeans and a bottom up shirAnn Bernard Signing Her First Book t carrying his gym bag, unaware of who I was or what was going on. He scanned his membership card and noticed the food laid out to the right and inquired about what was going on. That was my cue.

I jumped on the opportunity to introduce myself and tell him about my books. Within what seemed like no time at all, he was ready to purchase one of my books (Diet and Exercise: The Road to Healthy Living and Self-Acceptance).

I asked his name, smiling uncontrollably, as I prepared to sign his book. This was it, for the first time in my life, I was putting pen to the inside of a book cover to sign my name on a book I’d written and sold.

I arrived at the gym around 6:20pm, my car filled with food trays and boxes of books. I was wearing a new outfit I’d bought just for the occasion. I knew I had spent more money on this event than what I could ever expect to get out of it, but it was my first book signing, and I wanted it to be an event I would remember fondly.

The press releases I’d sent out in the hope I would garner some coverage for the event had yielded no interest and very few people had RSVP’ed to my event invite on Facebook. I had no idea what kind of turnout to expect.20160615_190602

Before I walked in to the gym, I prayed one more time, asking God to make this event exactly what I needed it to be, according to His will and knowledge of what was best for me. I then proceeded to walked into the gym. The staff had already arranged the front area of the gym in support of my book signing—the setup was perfect.  With the manager’s help, we finished setting up. Once done, it was time to wait and see who showed up.

While overall the attendance was small, it was still an excellent event. I had plenty of time to chat with those who did come out, and each time I signed a book, I was all smiles. It was fun, it felt good, it was meaningful (having some of my family present who have supported me on my journey meant the world to me) and I had the opportunity to introduce my writing/begin sharing my story with new people.

After the event, my family helped me clean up. I drove home filled with gratitude and joy. I gave thanks to the Lord for blessing me with a humble initial book signing, but worthwhile beginning to my career as a writer.

I look forward to more book signing and expanding into doing speaking engagements. I’m not going to ease up in continuing to write and continuing to put myself and my work out there. There’s a lot of hard work to be done but I’m ready for it!!

Steps I took before the Book Signing

  • Wrote and sent a press release announcing the book signing to all local media (newspaper and news stations)
  • Posted event on online community calendars.
  • Created an event poster and posted it on community boards around town.
  • Created a Facebook event on my Facebook page. Paid to boost the post (no return on investment)
  • Made one of the books available for Free download
  • Promoted the book signing through the Free download
  • Ordered thank you/stay in touch cards with information about my website from VistaPrint.
  • Ordered Poster with my picture and “Meet the Author, Ann Bernard” to post behind me.
  • Bought light refreshments (sandwiches, veggie platter, cheese plate, and cookies) and wine.

At the Book Signing

  • Had a sign-up sheet for my newsletter. Offered a chance to win the next 3 books in the series for those who signed-up.
  • Had a notepad to first spell out names I wasn’t sure about. (A recommendation that came from an author’s Facebook group I partake in).
  • Realized how horrible my hand writing truly is!
  • And got confused if I was supposed to sign all three books…if they bought all three books…

My First Book Signing

Men and Sex by Ann BernardIt’s no secret I travel a lot and because I travel a lot, I don’t belong to any specific groups, organizations or church. So when it comes to leaning on or reaching to a community for support—it leaves me empty handed. But then I walk into the gym, and people welcome me back, ask me about my trips, and check-in on how the writing is going…the gym is the one community, I’ve always had. And as it were, this particular gym also happens to be where my fitness journey began.

At 16, I walked into Asylum Fitness to get ready for Marine Corps boot camp. Twenty-two years later, it’s still where I go when I’m in Palmer—now a Lieutenant Colonel Select. Gary was the owner then and still welcomes old and new members with the same enthusiasm today.

My second book in the series is called Diet and Exercise: The Road to Healthy Living and Diet and Exercise by Ann BernardSelf-Acceptance

So what better place is there for me to hold my first book signing?

I asked Gary and he didn’t hesitate to say “Yes. Anything you need.”

My First Book Signing

My first book signing… The thought generates excitement and dread. Will anyone show up? Will it be awkward sitting there, with my books on the table, pen in hand, as people enter the gym to work out? Or will people come out to see me, buy the books, and ask questions?

What should I expect?

The word on the street is that most book signing are not very well attended, unless it’s an event with many authors. I also know from experience that public appearances where people are scheduled to come to see you, are much different to public appearances where you hope people will come see you. I’ve worked events, booths, and crowds before…so I know the drill, and it can be an uncomfortable, brain numbing, and painful experience.

FailuresandLessonsLearnedfrontBut I’m going for it—I’ve worked hard to write, edit, and publish the books I currently have and I want to celebrate what I’ve accomplished so far!

I know my family will be there and it will be the first time I get to share an event like this with them.  Second, if I can make one new fan, and sell a book, I’ll count the experience as a success.

I’ve learned over the years the key when you start out is to balance being optimistic with managing expectations. I’ve had enough failures and disappointments now to strike that balance better than ever.

Come out to meet me!!

Event Information

What: Book Signing and Meet the Author

Where: Asylum Fitness 280 Wilbraham Street Palmer, MA

When: June 15, 2016 7-9PM

7-8 PM Meet the Author
8-8:20PM Ann shares some of her lessons learned
8:30-9PM Q & A

Light refreshments will be offered. And there will be a drawing for a giveaway!!

Books will be available on sale at the event or get your copies now on Amazon.

My Writing and Publishing Process

When I decided to write The Chapters of My Life Series, I didn’t quite know what I was getting myself into—I had never done anything like this before. I didn’t have any experience or process in place. But as of right now, the third book is with my editor, and two of the books have been self-published both as e-books and paperbacks. While sales have been abysmal, I’m not letting that throw a shadow over the joy I feel about my progress.

The Writing Process

It took me a week to write the first book because I found myself on a condensed timeline, but the other two books took about three weeks each. Had I not been traveling while writing, they might have taken less time, but I can’t say for sure.

The fact I was traveling allowed me to enjoy new environments, adventures, and an easy way to ensure I provided my mind and body with fun, exciting, and rejuvenating breaks.

I’m what is called a pantster in the writing community. Meaning I don’t outline, I write by the “seat of my pants.” I normally begin writing the introduction in my head, and while I don’t outline on paper, I do make a mental list of the topics I want to cover. Once I know my introduction, I start writing. I write until I hit a road block—either I run out of content to write or I don’t know how to express what I want to write. Once I hit a road block, I step away from the computer and go do something else. Since I write while traveling, it’s easy enough to pick something to do.

As I’m out and about exploring, sightseeing, or having a new adventure, I think on and off about what I’m stuck on. I don’t rush it. In due time, what I need to write next comes to me.

I also usually read through from the beginning of the book before I start writing anything new. It allows me to do some editing and best maintain the tempo and voice of the story. Plus, a few times, during my outings, I’ve thought of something I wanted to add to already written parts of the book.

Once the completed draft was finished, I set it aside, and I’ve enjoyed the remaining of my time wherever I happened to be. Upon my return to the United States, I did another read through, and then sent it to a few friends who served as my content editors.

They made recommendations, I implemented the changes, and then sent it to my editor for grammatical and mechanical review/editing.  She makes her edits and sends it back to me to make the changes. I make the changes, and send it back to her for a second round of edits. At this point, I make the final changes, and after a final read through, I send it in for formatting.

Writing a 20,000 word book while planning trips, traveling, editing, and publishing another book is quite frankly only possible because I’ve been blogging for about a decade.

My thinking and writing process for my books, I came to realize, is on par to what I’ve been doing for years for my blogging. So while I had never undertaken the task of writing short books, I’ve written 100,000s of words in blog posts.

I’m used to bouncing content in my head and finding ways to weave it together to tell a story. I’m also used to talking to my audience, through my blogging, which I’ve converted over to my books. What I’ve been working on (and need to continue to improve) is the actual story telling. I want to keep improving how I engage, draw in, and entertain my readers with what I have to say—not just in my books, but also on the blog.

Self-Publishing Process

I published the e-books through Amazon Kindle Direct Publishing and the paperback versions using CreateSpace. The toughest part of the publishing process is formatting.

It would probably be wise of me to learn how to format my own books, but I’ve found vendors I can count on, on Fiverr.com, so I’ve been using them for each books. You need different formats for each platform you publish in.

Same for the book cover design. I found my designer on Fiverr.com and since I’m currently doing a series, I keep using the same designer.

I’ve been able to write a book and release a book each month, for the last three months. This month I haven’t started writing the fourth book since I’m trying to focus on some marketing, but will be releasing the third book by the end of the month.

I’ll start writing Lead and Follow: My Twenty Years in the Corps in June and release it in July, applying the processes I’ve been using!

Are you thinking of starting a book? Is there anything else you would like to know?

 

You’ve Got Mail: Point of Contention

You may recall from my blog post “You’ve Got Mail: Initial Feedback” me saying:  Much like there is competition and healthy banter between members of the different Services, there is even more “contention” between Special Forces Units and Navy SEALs.

Well…you can’t have an exchange between an Army Ranger and a U.S. Marine without running into some points of contention either. Thankfully, both AG and I are officers.  Besides the trash talking between services, the no love lost between the SOF communities and SEALs, the differences between women and men, nothing gets more lines drawn in the sand like discussing the differences between enlisted and officers.

Anyway, AG has interacted with and admits liking Marines, but he is definitely proud of being an Army Officer (West Point Grad) and especially of being a Ranger. He started out as an infantry officer before going to Ranger school.  I respect his background, although I don’t completely understand how strenuous and difficult his training was or what he has done so far in his career.  He has made some separations between his reality as a Ranger and what he puts it as “Big Army.” Meaning, Rangers aren’t like Big Army…but to me, at the end of the day, he’s part of the big green Army machine, and has to claim them as his own, as much as his elite section of the bigger monster.

Last week, I saw a post on Facebook that said “God Made Marines.  So Soldiers Would Have Heroes.”  I sent it to AG. Thought it would get a much deserved snide comment back that would give me a good laugh.  However, what I did is clearly hit a nerve. One I was recommended not to hit again.  I was taken back, but I apologized, and promised to not poke the bear again (as tempting as it might be)

No harm done.  The Ranger and Marine could go on collaborating. Our exchanges continued.

But then two nights ago, AG hit one of my nerves…or two. I was having a hard time with the conversation between Josh and Ava.  I couldn’t get them into any sort of small talk (see yesterday’s post) so I asked him what he thought about it. Part of his comment, rubbed a sore spot:

…the one thing that’s challenging about this is she is signal, correct? That creates some challenges. There’s definitely a difference in mindset between combat and support troops… I know marines are supposed to be marines first… yeah yeah ok. Believe it or not, officers of every branch went through a course designed to teach basic combat skills before they went to branch specific training. It didn’t matter… the signal dudes were still bitches and the infantry guys ran shit. It’s the mindset that’s different. I (and guys like me, and I guess Josh) chose this work because we’re willing to close with and destroy the enemy to get the job done. That doesn’t apply to a guy who picked logistics as a career path.

And there lies the biggest difference between the Army and Marines.  Every Marine joins with the mindset to close with and destroy the enemy. I didn’t join to play with radios, and setup communication networks, I joined to fight and win battles.  That’s what Marines do, we make Marines and win our Nation’s battles.  We’re war fighters, it’s our history, our ethos, it just is who we are. Sure, Marine Infantry talk trash about Marines in other MOS, and all Marines talk trash about Marines in the Wing, but we’re allowed.  No one outside the family can say, a Marine isn’t designed to ultimately close with and destroy the enemy.

Ava just as much, as Josh, is trained as a war fighter and would hold up her own in any conversations about combat…especially with the experiences I’m putting in her background. I definitely have a close with and destroy the enemy mindset…I don’t recommend putting that to the test.

I went all Marine and replied to AG, and pointed out that he’s forgetting the Marine Corp is much smaller and a lean fighting force – all members, are designed to either be infantry or in direct support of the infantry, but we all have the same mindset.  I went on to say much more about the difference between a signal officer in the Army and a Marine Corps Communication Officer (CommO). The challenges of being a CommO compared to a straight line infantry platoon commander – another touchy subject for me.

He replied in his annoyingly, on point, accurate way (I really have the highest of regards for him):

First by saying “hahaha I knew that would get you going” Got it, a little pay back, well done.

(omitting initial part due to nature of language)…if there’s one thing the soldiers are good at it’s finding the army’s faults. Sometimes I think marines look at the corps with rose-tinted glasses. I went to airborne school with a few marines… as usual, some were good and some needed to be reminded of their place. I don’t want to continue to needle you, but think about possibility including it as a discussion… Josh is obviously going to see the corps differently than Ava. That’s not to say he doesn’t respect it (or that I don’t), but being on the outside typically reduces the attribution bias inherent in being a proud part of an organization.

His point is exactly why while there are lots of Marines I could bring on this project to help me, and many of them will get enlisted to help down the road, none would bring the kind of perspective AG brings. They too, are cut from the same familiar cloth of being Marines, and we do sometimes wear rose-tinted glasses. The perspective AG offers is unique and priceless.

Our discourse continued for a bit…more about the difference between communication (support MOS) and infantry officers – but that’s a conversation/contention I’ve had with Marines as well!

So we found some kinks in each others armors…some sore subjects best left alone.  I’m sure we’re not done with finding those…

The Journey of this Book

I love the twist and turns of life, the journey is indeed what it’s all about! This book is one of most powerful thing to come into my life for so many incredible reasons, it’s opening up more about who and where I’ve been, and who I am today and where I’m heading.

Ava and Josh have arrived to the first village of their journey, Castelnau de Montmirail, and for the last few days, they’ve been sitting down to have lunch, while I wrestled to figure out what they would say to each other.  Their initial conversation on the way there hit some deep topics, so I figured it was best to lighten up the mood…except I just couldn’t switch gear.  Small talk just didn’t seem at all appropriate for intense, complex characters like Ava and Josh, as they are first getting to know each other.

Imagine how this plays out in my head, my two characters are sitting at an outdoor cafe in a dormant authentic medieval town with both of them carrying the wounds of imperfect childhoods, battle scars of fighting in multiple wars, and unexplainable feelings for each other. Just can’t see them chatting it up about the weather. I had to keep digging into the heavy burden they carry, and the things they share in common.

Ava  once more became a barrier for me. I created Ava with the Marine Corps experiences and background I wanted for myself but never had. Now that it was time for her to share some of those experiences with Josh, I hit a wall.  There is so much I didn’t get to do in the Marine Corps because I was a female and those opportunities didn’t exist for me.  It’s so different now, and Ava found herself in Iraq as a young Corporal/Sergeant, not as a Captain who had to beg and threaten resignation to go.  She was able to partake in the Lioness Program, and do things I only dreamt of doing.  But in order to more realistically write about that, it was time for me to read more into them.

I’m proud of what Women Marines (and women in other services) have achieved over the past decade in combat and elsewhere, but I haven’t been fully following it.  I’ve been too envious and jealous.  Every time I see a headline like the one of PFCs. Katie Gorz, Julia Carroll, Christina Fuentes Montenegro making it through the School of Infantry (SOI), I want to badly turn back the clock, and get my shot at breaking the barriers waiting to be shattered. I never got to be the Marine I imagined in my head, and joined the Marine Corps to be.  Ava gets to be that Marine. She’s once again messing with me, and revived these burning desires I thought I had finally put to bed.

At 38, with an already aching body, I have no illusions that I could grab a pack, rifle, and full combat load, and do any of the things I could have done 15 years ago, but I’m still stronger, faster, and more motivated than most women, and many men my age, and I can lead the way, in many ways. I have to accept the role I can now play.  A supportive, encouraging and exemplary role.

My renewed love for the Marine Corps that was kindled the last two years, is on fire now, and I know I have to become more active in seeking out opportunities to make a difference, and I have to do whatever it takes to make getting Command a reality.

I downloaded Band of Sisters:  American Women at War in Iraq by Kirsten Holmstedt and Ashley’s War: The Untold Story of a Team of Women Soldiers on the Special Ops Battlefield by Gayle Tzemach Lemmon on my kindle. I must fully immerse myself in the incredible achievements of women in combat across the different services so I can make Ava as realistic as possible. It’s hard to read, I keep having to swallow my jealousy, but absolutely worthwhile.

The times keep changing for women, especially in the military, and instead of wishing things had been different for me, I’m going to use this book to make a statement and share my beliefs.

My stepmom remembers being at event many years ago where I made a speech and spoke out about how it was crap females weren’t allowed in combat, I don’t remember this – but it definitely sounds like me!

You’ve Got Mail: God at Work

Over the last 24 hours, the veil has been lifted on another portion of the vast tapestry of men God has been weaving together in my life for the last 5+ years to undo the hurt, pain, and damage that had been done.  To heal the wounds, establish a sense of safety, an ability to open up, and restore trust.

Almost 6 years ago, I was left totally wounded when my fiancee walked out the door and out of the complicated relationship we had found ourselves in.  I was broken.  I was broken when we started the relationship because quite frankly, when it came to having the ability to have a relationship, I was not whole enough to be in one.  As is the case with Ava, the main female character of The Hijacked Holiday.  She’s a former version on myself…and bringing her to life these last couple of weeks, awakened things that I simply hadn’t thought about for years. She really began to mess with me.

Airport Guy was also not adding up.  I knew God had placed him in my path, and while he was turning out to be super helpful, I was growing frustrated, and uncomfortable with him because of how little I knew about him.  I needed to know what kind of guy God had placed in my life to provide all this hard truth he was giving me.  AG also pointed out the time had come for me to really divorce myself from Ava.  He didn’t realize how much she was messing with me, but he saw that I was getting in the way of fully expressing who Ava was.

Truth is, I was protecting Ava’s flaws, the same way I used to protect those very flaws in me, instead of seeing how I’m not her anymore.  Ava won’t have to stay that way either.

AG came forth with more of his backstory, once I directly asked for it, which explained why he was helping me, and why I was the ideal candidate to help him with his story.  He hadn’t gotten personal with me, because he wasn’t looking for that.  He is happily married, and his wife, his friends, or his family could all help him with the book, but they are too familiar with the characters in the book to be of any substantiate help, without impacting the story.

I was so happy and relieved to finally have some information on him.  It helped to put so many things into perspective.

But back to God’ work.  Like I said, over the last 5 years, there have been some significant male friends (and role models) that have come in and out of my life to break down, undo, and improve the things I believed about men. I have named them all in my journal and the role they played, but I won’t do it here or ever, without either letting them know first, and/or changing their identity for the sake of their privacy.  But they have been part of God’s plan…and Josh, my male character is in many ways bits and pieces of those men/friends.  Josh will do for Ava, what they did for me.

Now that AG and I have cleared the air, we are forging on with helping each other, may be I’ll even discover he has a great sense of humor, and we can have fun working together. If I’m going to keep eating humble pie from him, I needed to know he was in fact a great guy, with a full life, surrounded by amazing people.

But AG is more than help for me on this project to make it better – I have past experiences with men partnering up with me for the wrong reasons and my getting really hurt by it.

I believe God placed him in my path to show me, there are stand-up guys who can have a personable professional partnership with me, that is based on mutual respect and exchange of knowledge, gifts, and skills to help each other out.

Of course God would gift wrap him in a nice looking package, He’s God, He knows how to get my attention!

If you haven’t turned your life over to God, you simply can’t understand how closely He will work in your life.  How He will answer your prayers, slowly at times, according to His timing and His ways, but He can, and will restore what you have lost, heal your suffering and renew everything about you. It will not likely be according to the way you want it, but in the end, much better!

I mean sure, I would have liked for a Josh to enter my life, and work through all my issues with me, but it didn’t turn out that way, it was a slow process because that’s what was best and it truly glorifies Him. I have been able to celebrate each man who changed something about me, be grateful for him entering my life, and acknowledge God for sending Him. I have witnessed how systematically God has been working, how carefully He went about carrying out His plan, and above all, how much He loves me to make it all fit together perfectly.

He’s continuing to work out my kinks, confirmed I need to continue on this project, and did I mention, He LOVES me.

There’s a hanging chad, which happens to be the lynch pin to falling down to my knees in the first place in this weaving God has been doing.  Not related to AG, but possibly related to either the future of my love life or the future of my professional career.  Either way, I’m excited and curious to find out what God has planned for him.  Not even going to try to figure it out.  I absolutely adore the way God surprises me with His plans!