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Going Postal: Is It Just Me?

Spirit of full disclosure: I started this blog in an attempt to pay it forward to other newbie authors. Coming onto the literary scene is terrifying, and information can be hard to find, unreliable, or simply just not available, and I wanted to put my journey out there so others could benefit from it. Now, I get that every author’s path is going to be unique, but lately, I’ve been feeling like mine is just a bizarre, weird spiral.

Still, here it is, for those of you who find this info useful.


<big sigh>

Talk about a massive suckfest.

I’m sure there are authors out there who are *so good* at this. I am, sadly, not one of them. Like many writers, I’m a introvert by nature. I’m socially awkward. I don’t like to dress up. I can’t walk in heels. I hate selfies, because they require me to look at my face. And yet. There goes yours truly on Instagram, creating posts 3-4x a week so I can “build my brand,” taking filtered photographs of myself with my ancient phone what feels like all the time, just 100% fully selling out. It causes me to wonder: what the actual fuck?

Across the board, it seems like no matter what house you sign with, you’re going to get a publicist. I have one, and I like her. But of course, she’s not just my publicist. She belongs to my imprint, so I’m pretty sure she’s got tens if not hundreds of authors whose books she’s working to promote. On our initial marketing call, I came super prepared. Like, scary prepared. (In a good way? Who knows.) My goal was to show my publicist that I was the kind of author who would step up and do anything I could to be helpful. After all, you only debut once, and I feel like if you’re not willing to give it everything you’ve got, then you’re missing a golden opportunity that will never come around again.

Well, this morning I was verbally assaulted by the supervisor at my local post office, all in the name of marketing.

Allow me to explain.

I made a binder. I am a binder girl. After my earlier description of myself, this should not come as a surprise to you. I printed out all the articles I could find on marketing your book, as if I was a self-publishing author. The reason I did this is because I figured I should know this stuff – authors want readers to get their hands on their books, so how else to do this but meet the masses where they are, right? So, where are they? Where are the readers of romcoms?

Evidently, they are on TikTok.

Sadly for me, I am a grown woman with children and a full time job. I cannot do TikTok. Correction: I will not do TikTok. But, according to the articles, I do not need to actually join TikTok (cue tears of joy/relief). I just need to have my book unboxed on TikTok.

Okay, so here’s me, studying TikTok accounts. What’s in these mystery boxes? I wondered. Ahh. Books, of course. And then… swag.

Realization hit. I guess we need to make some swag.

I am not one to assume that my publisher will do anything for me outside of what was specifically documented in my contract – you know, publishing my books. That’s their end of the deal. Nowhere in said contract does it state that they are responsible for turning my book cover into fake tattoos or t-shirts or socks or bookmarks for me. But, if these are the kinds of things that go in boxes, and I am a brand new baby author, not, say, Colleen Hoover, well then, I shall take to the internet and create my own swag.

Three thousand dollars later, here we are.

I made all the things: stickers, bookmarks, magnets, more magnets, more stickers, t-shirts, and yes, even tattoos. Then I bought a bunch of pre-fab stuff that related to my book – Starbucks gift cards, Bonne Bell Lip Smackers, NYC MTA subway maps (those were free, thank God), and more. Like, much more.

I bought boxes in different sizes – pink and white to match the cover of the book. I made special stickers to put on the boxes to make them look extra pretty for the videos, because my publicist informed me that “probably only about a third” of the influencers I sent my boxes to would actually open them on video. A disappointing figure, to say the least. But fine! No worries! I would just make the prettiest boxes possible and hope for the best – ever the optimist am I!

My publicist was kind enough to get me about 80% of the addresses I needed for the influencers on our list. She also got me the books, without which the boxes would be pointless. And then I spent about a week, after work, packaging and assembling the boxes with my stuff spread out all over my dining room. I originally thought I’d send the packages out priority mail, but at $17 a box, I’d be spending over $800 in postage, and we just couldn’t afford that. So I took the (free) priority mail labels that I ordered from USPS and cut off the tops and bottoms of the labels so they didn’t say “Priority Mail.” I planned to send the boxes Media Mail, because it’s much cheaper that way. Slower, too, but because I’m a planner, thankfully I have time.

My goal was to get the boxes out by the end of March, so I made sure to finish them up last night. And then today (March 30th), I brought them to the post office. I went in with two of them as samples, leaving the other 48 filling the back of my Honda CR-V. I wanted to ask the clerk where on the boxes I could put all my pretty stickers without having to worry about them being covered up by the postage labels they would require. I waited on the (fairly short) line at the 9am opening time, and approached the clerk with a smile.

Because even though I’m an introvert, I’m still a fucking polite, normal human being.

Well, the clerk (a greasy-haired, squirmy looking man of about 60 years old) looked at my pair of boxes as I explained to him that I had another 48 in the car, and said he would need to “talk to his supervisor.” He brings out the nastiest motherfucker I’ve ever met in my life, who comes at me full force saying they will not take my boxes unless I pay for priority shipping because I used their precious labels and cut off the tops and bottoms as if I was trying to commit mail fraud. I explained that the labels were free, and the boxes were mine, and I was still trying to pay the post office money to send them, so I didn’t understand. All the while honestly keeping as cool a head as possible about it. The dickhead supervisor begins to raise his voice at me, explaining that no, I could not cover his labels with my stickers and rewrite and affix my own labels, nope, now that his labels were on these boxes, they would have to go priority. You guys, I’m a pretty tough cookie. I grew up in New York City. I can hold my own. But this guy was menacing. It became clear to me that he simply didn’t want to do his job, which was to put in however many minutes it would take to post these boxes and get them in the mail for me. When I questioned him again (“Seriously?” I asked. “There’s really no way I can use these labels? I could pay you extra for the cost of the labels themselves.”) he told me that he was going to call all the other post offices in the region to tell them not to serve me.

For real! I couldn’t believe it either.

Now, I have a very close friend who works for a post office in Cape Cod. So, with boxes in hand and tears in my eyes, I left the post office and called her from my car. I asked her if I did something wrong, and she said no. She explained that my suspicion was correct, and the supervisor probably just didn’t want to do his job, and that there was no way in hell he was going to waste his time calling my neighboring post offices to “warn them about me.” He just didn’t want my business. She told me to call Consumer Affairs and report him. Then, she spoke to her supervisor, who said that I could bring my boxes to her post office in Cape Cod, and they would mail them all out for me. (I will be there this coming week for my kids’ spring break, which is the only reason this option is a workable one for me.)

So, yes, you read that right. I will be driving 50 boxes of books and swag 5 hours away from their origination point just to be treated with some basic human decency.

I guess I tell you this story because I don’t think that this is the norm for authors. Most authors don’t spend this kind of money on swag, and most don’t make their own TikTok boxes (at least, I don’t think they do). I have no idea if any of this hard work will help my cause – which is obviously to get my book into the hands of as many readers as humanly possible (and narrowly avoid being accosted by my local USPS workers). As with all things, time will tell.

In the meantime, I’ve learned a valuable lesson. I now understand where the term “going postal” came from.

Perhaps you will see this story in a future book of mine. Stay tuned.

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