(La Jolla Light, Nov. 25, Daniel C. Peterson)
Andrew Peterson is finding out firsthand, as he crisscrosses the country signing books and meeting readers, it’s a full-time job.
Peterson, who was raised in La Jolla and now lives near Paso Robles, has accomplished what very few authors ever do: his novel was purchased by a major publishing house. Leisure Fiction, an imprint of Dorchester Publishing, has picked up his debut novel, entitled “First to Kill,” and the paperback is currently for sale in Barnes & Noble, Borders and Warwick’s, and online through retailers such as Amazon.com and VJ Books.
In early September, Costco purchased 9,400 copies and sold all but 700. But due to space limitations, it will not be on the Costco shelves during the holidays.
In other areas of the country, sales have been strong. On Nov. 9, Peterson was a featured author at a book signing at Warwick’s in La Jolla.
The story revolves around an action driven character named Nathan McBride, a special forces type with sniper skills, who is refreshingly un-PC and driven to do whatever (and I do mean whatever) it takes to do the job and catch the bad guys.
The book deals with issues of just how far interrogations could or should go, mirroring the current debate on use of such tactics when lives are at stake. The theft of plastic explosives is the plot line, but it has an unexpected twist. There also are plenty of interesting supporting characters, including highly placed politicos who don’t necessarily want their fingerprints on the jobs they need done.
The story Peterson wrote is full of intrigue. Book touring, however, is difficult work and not very glamorous.
Peterson’s day on the road goes something like this: At 6 a.m. he wakes at a hotel in Chula Vista and begins the day with a miniature pot of coffee. He responds to e-mails until about 8:30 a.m. before getting on the road to hit the Barnes & Noble and Borders stores before Costco opens.
He’ll arrive at Coscto around 10 a.m. when the doors open, introduce himself to the store manager, and find his way to the book section, where he stations himself in front of a stack of his books.
He begins signing and placing “autographed copy” stickers on the covers. As people filter past, he speaks with anyone interested in what he’s doing.
Some customers are eager to meet him, but others, including one particular older woman, are less enthusiastic. She accusingly asks why he’s writing in the books. After a quick explanation, she warms to the idea of meeting an author, asks for a personalized copy, and places her new memento in her cart.
“This kind of personal networking is the difference between the store selling 15 books that day rather than three,” Peterson says.
After a brief session, Peterson makes his way to the next Costco in Santee, and the cycle begins again. Next is a Barnes & Noble, then another Costco, then a Borders, followed by a smaller mom and pop independent bookstore.
By 11 p.m. he has covered five Costco locations, four or five Barnes & Nobles, an equal number of Borders stores and has driven more than a 100 miles. Tonight, he will be speaking to a local book club. Tomorrow, he will do it all again in another city.
He’s been doing this for eight weeks, having recently completed a tour through California, Arizona, Colorado, Utah and Nevada.
All told, Peterson has driven 5,600 miles, and signed books in 91 Costco warehouses, 78 Barnes & Noble stores and 67 Borders.
When he is not signing books, he is often found speaking at writer conferences. Many fledgling authors look to him for information on how to succeed in a business that rarely affords success.
All told, this “shuttle diplomacy” promotion tour does not even begin to describe the work that went into writing the book, let alone finding and landing an agent and a publisher. That three-year odyssey is a story all its own.
Peterson’s family – his parents and three brothers – who all live in La Jolla, offer support in the form of encouragement. They also buy a few copies for friends and relatives.
But it will take much more than family and friends purchasing copies to make the sales numbers impress the publisher. “First to Kill” is in its second printing, bringing the total number of books in print to 42,000.
“In this business it’s all about the buzz,” Peterson says. “If you can get people to talk about you, you have a chance at success. Oprah is gold. If she endorses your book, you’re practically guaranteed bestseller status.”
But until Oprah gives him the nod or he gets The New York Times to review the book, he is promoting it the old-fashioned way – he earns it, day by day, one book at a time.
And, by the way, Andrew Peterson is my brother.