It's been nearly six months since Runners of the Nish was published, and I now feel sufficiently removed from the book release honeymoon to reflect on my journey thus far. When my two-year project hit the shelves in July, it was nearly impossible to predict how it would be received, and where it would take me (if anywhere at all). With a small amount of gained perspective on the world of publishing, I feel better positioned to qualify my experience up to now. Here is how it measures up to my expectations:
**saved the pictures for the end - partly because I don't want to break up the writing, and partly because I still don't really know how to properly format a Weebly blog.**
- That I'd be a total rookie: I knew that this project would take me on a steep learning curve, even away from the writing. I had to figure out how to contact bookstores and position my book in a way that sells, despite spending the first few weeks of August not knowing about writing to reading ratio or what a consignment sale was - I since was thoroughly educated by the manager of a local Coles bookstore (thanks Linda).
- It created intrigue: I hoped that people of the running community would be at least curious about the book. As it turns out, they were. I rarely go to a race without someone asking me what the book is really about, or how it's doing, or the always intrusive and often fun "hey Cyr how many copies have you sold? Are you making money off this?" The book has even earned its own (mostly) positive Trackie thread (thank you Oldster for taking care of the trolls :) ).
It has been well-received: Probably the most positive of surprises. I started writing this book to challenge myself, to remember our last year at St. FX, and to gift my coach Bernie Chisholm. Because of both the book's initial purpose and the limitations that existed in plot development (as I was limited by how well we would perform at the U SPORTS championship - spoiler alert, limited indeed), selling lots of copies was not a goal I had set. Despite my approach, the book became the #1 best-selling title on the Friesen Press website, it ranked in the top 10 running books on Amazon.ca on multiple occasions, and it has enabled me to travel to speak at various events. Over 1,000 copies have already been sold, and they are still in demand (and thank God, because books are still invading my small room in Windsor).
- Some people recognize me and my teammates as characters. When Nic Favero and I were walking around the STWM race expo, we ran into someone who had read Runners of the Nish. Favero introduced himself, and right away was asked "Oh Favero, the guy who was in the library all the time? Sociology guy, right?" Hey, if my teammates are cool with this happening from time to time, I am as well (sorry Nic, should have given you that alias you had asked me for).
I got to know other new authors: After publishing, a few friends who were working on their own manuscripts messaged me. Some wanted to share their idea, and others asked about the process of publishing. While I am nowhere near an expert in this field, I was at least able to share my experience with them so as to provide a bit of clarity. Publishers are often overloaded with new manuscripts, so they rarely advertise their business (or existence in general). They are all around us, but we can't really see them - it's kind of like they live in the Upside Down. So, most new authors are in the dark when trying to get their first work to grace the shelves. That being said, without dropping names, a few neat books covering topics ranging from hockey to running to fantasy are hitting those shelves in the next few months...
I learned that presenting my book to the right crowds is essential for its marketing. In November, I got to set up a booth at the Canadian Cross-Country Nationals (BIG shoutout to Clive Morgan and the organizing committee in Kingston for having me there and for hosting a flawless championship), and show my book to many new people across the country.
I hope to keep making my way to running events in Canada with some copies in the new year. If I am lucky, I will be racing at them anyway. 2019 is off to a fast start, as I was fortunate to share my story with the Charlottetown Rotary Club on January 2nd, and then with Toronto West Athletics Club at their year-end banquet on January 4th. I never thought I would enjoy sharing the story of the book's creation this much - it is very cool to have people interested in something you did.
On that note, my main takeaway six months into this project is the following: I am thrilled with the book's reception, and any thought that this project would be perceived as weird or even alienating has been put to rest. I think it is natural to expect scrutiny and criticism whenever we try and do something unconventional. One might think that displaying something to the world that is artistic and purely my own - something that I may find silly or foolish in ten years - took guts. The truth is that I was so well supported by family and friends that it was not scary at all. Thank you for reading, sharing, and being my allies in this project.
Onwards to a great 2019!
Alex Cyr is a competitive runner, Master's candidate, freelance writer, and author of Runners of the Nish.