Tuesday, June 12, 2018

Mining for Ghosts

Last week I was back in my home town of Levack, Ontario, helping my mom with painting a few rooms in her home. Because Alexander had a PD day off school, we managed to get up there earlier in the week so I could get the work done.

So when I was in town, I recorded a short video at Levack Mine, referencing a chapter from my book Spooky Sudbury. I did this as part of my ongoing #FreeFridayFrights weekly series of live Facebook videos where I either read a story (FICTION) or relay a true tale (NON-FICTION).

In the short video I recalled, mostly off the top of my head, the tale about an eerie encounter from the 1970s at the mine in Levack that I wrote about in a chapter called "Haunted Level 2650 at Levack Mine"

I was startled to find that, within just a few days of posting it, the video has already had more than 2,600 views. I also, of course, realized I had goofed up and used incorrect terminology when relaying the story. So, when I did the post-live video upload (where I add sound effects, graphics and other enhancements to the video, I thought it best to record an introductory apology for getting the terms wrong and then also a conclusion where I read part of that chapter to share the proper and more full story.

I have been doing the Free Friday Frights videos every week since April 6, 2018, but this one, by far, has been the most watched video of all. I was delighted to see how many folks from my home town area commented, shared and then re-shared the video.

It reminds me of an old adage that my friend, fellow author Robert J. Sawyer said years ago and which stuck with me. He said it was important, when marketing yourself as an author, to define yourself as a big fish in a small pool.

The idea is that, as a writer of thrillers, horror and ghost stories, if I compare myself to Stephen King, I barely make it onto the radar. But if I compare myself to all the other thriller, horror and ghost story writers in the Sudbury area, at least I rank a spot on the charts. (There actually are a few authors who write those same things, but at least my presence, compared to them, is a lot more even than my comparison to Stephen King)

I find it fascinating that my largest success from writing always related back to my home town. When I launched my first book, One Hand Screaming there in 2004, there was a line-up of people, the newspapers and radio featured the release. And then, of course, in 2013, when Spooky Sudbury was released, the support from local media and the local public was truly overwhelming. Jenny and I sold out at both the Chapters and the Coles on the day of our book launch, and the following day, I spent 8 hours at the local Costco and sold most of a skid of books.

And, reflecting back on the comparison to Stephen King, it was awesome to see that, at least in one city in one afternoon in one store, I outsold the master of horror. (Of course, I was there signing copies, and he wasn't. Let's ignore the fact that, if King had been there signing copies of his book the only thing people might be looking at me for would be directions to the restrooms or where to find more copies of his books, because the skid sold out yet again. But best NOT to focus on that.)

Sales on that particular title continue to dominate my annual royalties, even though the local population of the City of Great Sudbury (about 165,000) is far smaller than the cities of Hamilton (550,000) and Ottawa (950,000) where a couple of my other books are set. A smaller community seems to take much more pride either in celebrating the accomplishments of a home town boy, or wanting to read about their home town itself.

For writers, the lesson is important. Focusing on defining a smaller and more focused target audience seems to be a consistent key for larger success.

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