Since June, I’ve been working with the Prince Albert Daily Herald crew to publish excerpts of stories from my new book, Forest Prairie Edge. These stories are printed in their free weekly publication Rural Roots which trundles out every Thursday into the mailboxes of about 27,000 subscribers.
Wow. That is a lot of people.
I know that the stories are being read. I know this because I’ve been getting phone calls, my Mom has been getting phone calls, and the newspaper is getting phone calls.
On August 9th, I visited Christopher Lake, Saskatchewan during their Western Days. An annual fair, it’s a day for both locals and summer residents at Christopher, Emma, Anglin and Waskesiu lakes in Saskatchewan to have a bit of fun.
As a guest of the Lakeland Regional Library, I was the visiting author for the day. I gave a talk and slide show from my research at the library, and I was thrilled with the response and attendance.
Nearly every single one of them said: I’m here because I’ve been reading your stuff in Rural Roots. And, one lady went on, I’m cutting all of them out and keeping them in a scrapbook. (No, I’m not related to her!)
Some may say, Merle, aren’t you cutting your own sales, here? If people are just going to read what you’re providing in their free paper, what are you going to get out of it? Will you sell any books?
That’s an argument that cuts in two ways. In a fundamental way, I agree. I don’t like providing content for free (which was our agreement) and don’t advocate that any writer should do this. All writers should be paid for their work. Always. (You’re paying for my blog by buying internet time, but you’re not paying me, so this blog is ‘free’ too). But to give my work to a newspaper, is indeed dicey.
But there is another side. Public authorship requires a certain amount of contact with the public. It can take many forms. I already blog for two websites (activehistory.ca and The Otter) which give free content. I run this blog (albeit somewhat sporadically — my apologies).
I recognize, though, that the majority of my reading public is over sixty years old, and not necessarily on the internet. The best way to reach them? Through their free local newspaper: Rural Roots.
And the strategy is working. My book continues to sell, and my name and stories are read, which generates recognition and more sales.
If you’d like to see one of my stories in Rural Roots, the latest three copies can be found online at paherald.sk.ca. Or, just go buy the book!