When I first arrived at the dealers’ room at Con Nooga, I was greeted by one of my earliest readers who was wearing a Brotherhood of Dwarves t-shirt. First starting out, I sold those shirts along with the books as a way of generating additional income at festivals and conventions. There aren’t many of them left in the world. I only have two or three myself. Seeing one in public brought back a rush of memories and emotions that are hard to put into words, but I’m going to try.
I’ve written many times about my hesitancy to begin writing the series, so I won’t cover that again here, but when I made the decision to self-publish, I did so with full confidence that one day I would find my audience and be successful in the endeavor. The t-shirts were part of a larger strategy and were pretty popular, mostly because of their elegant simplicity. They definitely helped make shows less draining financially and increased visibility at many of those early events. In fact, the t-shirts are a big reason why John Rhys-Davies insisted on giving me publicity photos.
I had wanted to give him a copy of book one, but he had refused the gift and demanded a trade. He wouldn’t accept something for free, so he gave me an autographed picture of Gimli in exchange for the book. Later, his business manager (or girlfriend or both) came to my booth to thank me again. When she saw the shirts, she said he would love one and wanted to buy it. This time, I insisted that I would not take any money and gave her the shirt. A few minutes later, a furious (in a somewhat playful manner) John Rhys-Davies approached my booth and demanded that I accept something. We argued for a few minutes (an epic battle between Scottish and Welsh stubbornness) until he asked if I had a camera. My good friend Tilman Goins was in the next booth over and chimed in that he had one. Mr. Davies ordered us to follow him to his table, where he posed for the publicity photos of him reading Brotherhood. Those pictures sold a lot of books for me in the early days.
Because of my marriage falling apart and the implosion of the economy, I never got to do a second run of those shirts. When I finally was able to publish Red Sky at Dawn, I tried doing shirts for that book, but they just didn’t have the same appeal. Looking back, I wish I’d done another run of Brotherhood shirts instead of Red Sky, and I remember vividly wrestling with which one I should do. During this time period, sales for Red Sky were sluggish, very sluggish, because too much time had passed between the release of each book. Three years is too long to let readers cool off, and I constantly felt like I was starting from scratch at each event I attended. Finally, after three years of muddling through, I conceded that I’d gone as far as I could go as a self-published author and began seeking a larger press for book three and the series.
I’m grateful to be with Seventh Star, and today, the series is poised to explode (Stay tuned folks. Exciting news is just around the corner). Moving to SSP was the single best decision of my entire career, and every day I am grateful to be a member of such an amazing team. But part of me still feels the bitter sting of my failure to succeed on my own. I poured so much of myself into those early years and came up short, and no amount of spin can change that basic fact. Although I accomplished some good things, my foray into self-publishing ultimately failed, not from lack of effort but from a combination of bad decisions, bad luck, and bad circumstances. No matter what level of success I may ultimately reach, I will always bear the scars of that failure.
But when I saw that beautiful t-shirt last weekend, my heart skipped a beat, and I was reminded of a time when my oldest son was still a baby and I was full of optimism. I remembered why I chose to dive head first into the publishing world and endure the criticisms and trials and setbacks and humiliations and triumphs and everything else the last nine years have brought my way. The Brotherhood of Dwarves is a damn good book that deserves to be on the market. The series as a whole, as I envisioned it back then and have since brought to life, is epic, and deserves to have an audience. Seeing that t-shirt reminded me of the things that are truly important. Whatever the future may hold, I will never forget the people who took a chance on an unknown author with an “ugly” book. I will never forget the people who encouraged me on my darkest days and nurtured me through my leanest years. You are my friends and family, and I am blessed and grateful to have you in my corner.
I’m D.A. Adams, and I’ve just begun to kick ass.
3 thoughts on “An Old T-Shirt Made My Day”
I just wanted to say thanks for sharing even some of your triumphs and failures with the world. I’ve had some hard times lately, and to know that other people that I deem pretty successful not only have their own, but come out the other side, is a source of great hope for me. I am glad you saw that shirt, and glad you shared your thoughts.
I’m sometimes accused of sharing too much on here, but I believe we need to stop hiding so much behind our facades and share more of our whole selves if we are to grow. Chin up, my friend. The dark days will pass.
You’re awesome and you are making me cry into my a.m. iced coffee. Of course there are highs and lows, but to keep going is the thing, isn’t it. Now stop being so inspiring, my limbic system can’t take it this early.