This whole business of starting a creative business has thrown me more curveballs than Catfish Hunter playing backyard whiffle ball. Which is to say a lot. In the signature block of my New Bayou Books email (jr@newbayoubooks, if you want to drop me a line), it still says “launching soon”. Because really, I’m just getting started.
That said, the last year has been pretty wild. I’ve cycled through a handful of support personnel, changed my mind on several big production-related questions, guessed and second guessed about the website, about (anti) social media, and probably a dozen other elements of the business. But now I can clearly see a model for New Bayou Books taking shape in my head.
I’m at least smart enough to understand that these things evolve over time, so I can’t lay down a ten point plan or anything, but I can offer three big elements that feel like bedrock to me. For what it’s worth, here they are.
The Center of the New Bayou Books Universe is Eunice, Louisiana. Not because every New Bayou Book I publish will be specifically rooted in this wonderful little town in the heart of the Cajun prairie. But it’s where I’m from. It’s where my heart is. And so it makes sense to make the Big E the global headquarters of New Bayou Books.
More to the point, really, is my own realization that everything ultimately comes down to a place. You must have a center, I think. Early on I made the mistake of thinking that since my main marketing and outreach efforts are online, I didn’t need a locus of control. But my thinking has changed. I’m not saying I will ever have a brick and mortar store in Eunice . . . but what I am saying is this. I will make a concerted effort to focus my efforts on my hometown.
The public library, the local print shop, and the community college are just a few of the institutions I plan to get in bed with. Not just because Eunice is my spiritual home, but also because, as a native son, there are certain doors that are, if not already open for me there, then at least they will be easier to force ajar.
Go analog. I’ve realized that, for me, the old fashioned, tactile process of dealing with a physical book is what I want. Just the simple act of handing someone a book is so gratifying. You can sign your name in it, you can dog ear the pages . . . and you can pass it on when you’re done. For me, there will also be a place for hard copy, and that place will be first in line.
Social media also factors in here. To be blunt about it, I don’t like (anti) social media. I feel like it breeds conformity. And as a result it tends to be boring, I think . . . just a bunch of people sort of copying each other. What I care about is individualism and independent thought. I’m interesting in engaging with people who don’t feel the need to check in with any one or thing before they decide what they think or how they feel.
Engage with New Readers One at a Time. This sort of relates the analog thing. When I was in Louisiana recently, I was reminded of how satisfying it is to engage directly with individuals. Isaak Brock once said to the crowd at a Modest Mouse show: “I’m just gonna play another song because I don’t like talking to a bunch of people like they’re one person.” That pretty much sums up how I feel. Human to human contact is what it’s all about for me. I’d rather have a hundred different conversations than to have one conversation with 100 people.
In Conclusion. There’s something that permeates all these elements that’s worth calling out. It’s the realization that success, for me, has absolutely nothing to do with money and nothing to do with legacy. Rather, it’s about sharing these South Louisiana books I’m writing (and hopefully, the books of other Acadiana writers who decide to get involved) with new readers. And it just makes sense that I should introduce this new brand of Louisiana literature to the people of Acadiana first. So that’s what I’m gonna do.