When I hit the 2000 downloads for Dating A Cougar at Smashwords at the end of my first three weeks of being published, I had a strong feeling that my work would sell after that. As I got inundated with learning about self-publishing, a giant light bulb in my brain started glowing just like it does in cartoons sometimes. I got this great idea that other unpublished writers nearing or over 50 needed to know that dreams of being published were possible in a world now open to Indie authors. Of course in order to spread the word, I had to find a path to the right audience.
Being a card-carrying member of AARP since the age of fifty, I send an email to them on March 21, 2011 asking if they would review Dating A Cougar which featured older characters in a genre romance or be interested in talking to me about what it was like being published finally at my age. I got a very nice note back on March 30 informing me that AARP only reviewed "mainstream, widely-distributed books targeted to the over 50 age audience". So I wrote them back and told them my books did that, plus they drew an even wider readership because of the humor. I was making over 50 sexy and doing a pretty good job of it. I ended my reply with an admonishment for them to re-think their book review policy and get back to me if they changed their minds.
My downloads of Dating A Cougar at Smashwords at the moment I write this blog entry are 7550+. Last night I calculated my downloads of Dating A Cougar at Amazon which are over 13,000 since they made it "free" in the Amazon UK channel. I have no visibility to the exact number of downloads at Apple where I have 144+ reviews on this one book and 806 book sales in April for the other two in the series. I guess I don't know what AARP means by "mainstream, widely-distributed". You can't distribute much more widely than the internet. That's how the writer from Bloomberg Businessweek found my book.
Harrison Ford is on the cover of the newest AARP magazine I currently have in my house. He's a hell of a good-looking guy and that grin of his is certainly worth a cover. But I can't help thinking that many readers of their information might be just as interested in the fact that as an average person I am launching a second business at age 50+ and it's starting to look like I just might be on to something good for myself. Oh--and I found a way to be happy as I try to deal with the fact there are more years behind me than ahead for me.
Now I know most published Indie authors are looking to sales numbers for their books that draw the big New York publishers and might get their books into the NYT book lists. Maybe I should be thinking along those lines myself at this point, but I'm not there in my head yet. Maybe six months or a year from now I might be.
Funny as it seems, my original instinct remains to share my self-publishing journey with other financially struggling and restless Baby Boomers like myself who still want to make their dreams come true before they die. AARP can keep Harrison Ford or some other sexy hunk or babe over 50 on the cover. I just wish they would allocate some publishing space to the rest of us less glamorous achievers on the inside. We have some moderately interesting stories that could be inspiring to their members.
When my company downsized and I left in 2009, I renewed with AARP for five years. I thought they would be a helpful support group to look to and they are about many, many factual things. But they aren't really focusing on realistic needs with merely providing appealing pics of celebrities. Baby Boomers are motivated by seeing the dreams of each other come true. We look at the person riding in the car with us and say "yeah that's great, maybe I can do that too". Face it, AARP. If your members are not Harrison Ford by the age of 50 in their lives, it is unlikely they will ever be. Laugh all you want, but you know that's both reasonable and true.
So motivate the rest of us, AARP. Acknowledge less famous members making real achievements. Try putting age 50+ entrepreneurs on your covers. See what kind of response you get. Look, keep the membership dues. I'll give you the five years I've already paid you for to convince me that you "get it".
Just call me a "mainstream, widely-distributed optimist targeting the over the age of 50 audience".