One of the most interesting aspects about my book Greyhound is that it won't stop selling. Yes, there are some definite low months, but overall, the book has a frequency that's pretty impressive. My publisher once said "it's the train that keeps on chugging."
When the book first came out in 2010, it was heralded by librarians and became the subject of discussion in Booklist, a monthly publication from the American Library Association, which is probably read by every active librarian, especially those in charge of purchasing materials for their location. For about a year, it seemed like the book was the darling of educators who were definitely in my corner.
One would think I was destined for greatness with this book, but sadly ... the world was happening. The day the book came out, the Deep Water Horizon Platform exploded, not that it affected sales, but there would be no further twists of fate in my favour. Oprah wasn't saying: "Steffan Piper? Call him." Amazon was at war with Macmillan that summer and the tone at the time was to blacklist any author who sailed under the Amazon Publishing banner, myself included. Several of the authors who initially signed up, actually jumped ship as the pressure was too intense. Now, I might actually be their longest signed client, but that also gets me no favours. Some days it feels like a curse, as I might remind them of 'yesterday' or 'start up woes.' Marketing Literary Fiction is not something people wake up to happily and say "Wow! What debut Lit Fic author do I have on my plate today? Yay!" No. It's a hot mess and likely always will be. People need to believe in you without any wavering. They need to be ready to put you on a shuttle mission if need be.
As time has gone by though, an interesting thing occurred. I started getting email from High School students. At first, a friend casually mentioned to me that my book was being read by another friend in his High School. I was shocked. No one told me. Then, the emails started trickling in. I discovered that Greyhound was being used actively in the Los Angeles Unified School District, The San Bernadino and Riverside School District. My book was being offered alongside Catcher in The Rye as an alternative. Kids in school were predominantly choosing my book -- and loving it. Thank you awesome cover art! I honestly never cared much for Salinger's book and always scratched my head over its popularity, so when I heard this, I couldn't help but emit a sly smile.
Once in a while, I get an email from a teacher, educator, librarian, graduate student, or the like and I'm always riveted, because it's always some effusive, glowing response to the book and a report about how much the students loved reading it. A Grad Student, at the University of Missouri, once adapted the book to a two person stage production. I also recently got an email from an educator in Georgia, where her students made promotional videos for the book after reading it. Schools across the Southern states of the US are quickly picking up the book and using it (Georgia, Tennessee Arkansas, South Carolina, Oklahoma, Texas, New Mexico). This is a double edged sword though. I'm now getting emails from parents, white households, complaining that it seemed to them:
"All your white characters are evil and the hero is a negro. I don't think that's a positive message for school children. Your book is teaching kids to not trust people. I don't think it should be used in school."
Yeah, before you gasp -- that's an actual quote lifted from an email, and I've gotten more than one. Clearly, they didn't finish the book, because the opposite is actually true in regards to the message of the book. Some people doth sip heartily from the cup of stupid.
I don't receive official letters from school boards informing me that my book is being used, I usually find out later, after the fact. If there's some process, I'm currently unaware of it. I'm incredibly thankful for the work the librarians have done on my behalf and for the fruit that's been reaped and all the young minds that have crossed the country on a Greyhound via the 256 pages. Mission accomplished. Maybe this is how a book becomes a classic.
A few weeks ago, I was approached by a fourth grader (!) that had read my book and proceeded to tell me how much she loved it and what her favourite parts were. My eyes were as big as tea-cup saucers and I really didn't know how to respond, but I'm definitely thankful. When I asked "What was your favourite bit?" She replied, "The suitcases cracked me up."
Gotta love it.