Making the BC Bestseller list – guest blog by Rick James

Ever since the release of my book, Raincoast Chronicles 21: West Coast Wrecks & Other Maritime Tales, in October, I’ve been very eager to pick up a copy of the Vancouver Sun every Saturday morning.  Why? This is when the B.C. Bestseller list, compiled by the Association of Book Publishers of B.C., is featured in the paper’s Weekend Review.

I must say, it’s been heady times seeing the outcome of my efforts up there on that list for over four months now; especially after pounding away at the keyboard in the basement in isolation for so many years.  Still, my making the ‘list” didn’t happen all on its own.

Rick at the Royston hulk breakwater

I can’t say enough about Harbour Publishing who have done an absolutely fabulous job of promoting the book. Howard White’s staff went the extra mile ensuring that book review editors in all the big papers on the coast, as well as various radio show hosts all had their review copies and invitations to interview me.

But I also went the extra mile on my own since since I wasn’t content to just sit back and leave it entirely in Harbour’s hands. And I realized that they, like all publishers, only have so much money available to send an author gallivanting around the landscape to book store readings or PowerPoint presentations.

So I volunteered to head over to Tofino and up to the North Island, where I was convinced there was an excellent market, on my own dime. I was right, and much to Harbour’s credit, they contributed to expenses after all.

And what about social media you ask? That must have been a major factor in the book’s success. Right? Well, as much as some friends and colleagues are totally convinced this is the way to go, I avoided it.  No blogs, Facebook, or even a webpage!  While it might seem I’m a total throwback to a different day and age, I have never been fully convinced that this route was ever worth pursuing.  (God forbid, I waste enough time trying to keep with emails!)

I must admit though, I did rely on some social interaction. But it was the old school kind. Since I was up and down Vancouver Island a lot this winter, I made it a point to stop at each and every bookstore I was going by. Whether it was Chapters in Nanaimo or Ivy’s, the small independent on Oak Bay Avenue in Victoria, I  walked in, introduced myself and volunteered to autograph any copies of my book they had on hand.

I did this, not once but twice and even three or four times over the past four months.  And has it paid off? You bet! Here it is mid-January and I’m still sitting at #6 on the BC Bestseller list!


What’s your writing goal for 2012?

Where do you want to go and when do you want to get there?

Most people ask themselves those questions before heading out on a trip. I also ask them when I’m writing a book.

Completing a book requires a huge commitment of time and energy. If I don’t have a map of where I’m going and when I want to arrive, the project can stretch on into infinity. That’s scary.

So I set goals.

It took me a while to figure out what a goal is. I want to write a book and have it published is not a goal, that’s a dream.

A real goal goes something like this: I want to complete a 60,000 word manuscript by August 31, edit and revise it by December 31 and send it to a publisher/agent by January 1. In order to accomplish this I will work on my book for two hours every Saturday and Sunday.

Now that’s scary too. But it also gives you a clear idea of what you need to do.

However, sitting down at the computer knowing you intend to write 60,000 words is enough to give anyone writer’s block. So what I do is break the project down into smaller increments, say so many words or chapters each month.

I try to be reasonable about what I can accomplish, yet push myself a bit too. Every month or so, I review what I’ve done. To be perfectly honest, I never meet my self-imposed deadlines. But they keep me on track and motivate me to try harder.

Most folks lead busy lives and frequently have to give something up in order to create writing time and achieve their goals. That might involve setting the alarm an hour earlier each morning, having a writing lunch break or drafting your manuscript in the laundromat while waiting for your clothes to spin dry.  Many writers – including me – don’t watch television and limit their email and social media time.

But simply having a goal isn’t always enough. To be really effective experts say you should write your goal down, make a commitment by telling it to someone and to also be accountable to someone.

It’s early January, the time of year when many people make resolutions and set goals. Have you given any thought to where you want to be in your writing journey by the end of the year?