“My avocation was a spark ignited by sugar.”
Remember Candy Dots? Sometimes called buttons, those little rows of rainbow sugar were easily peeled off long white strips of paper. (I always ate the cherry rows first.) Penny candy and nickel chocolate bars were sweet rewards in my childhood. Neighborhood Groceries or “Dimestores” displayed glass canisters of candy that could be scooped into little bags for little cravers deliberating over choices like Atomic Fireballs, Tootsie rolls, Root Beer Barrels, Sugar Babies, Blackjack Gum, and Taffy squares in four flavors. I was lucky to get my fix for a dime…at a little red brick store about half way (six blocks) between home and school. (Yes, I once walked a mile for a two cent box of candy cigarettes.)
So, as my mouth is now under construction for implants with three dead molars needing replacement, I’m shamed into recall. Did the origin of my porcelain decline begin with a landmark splurge after winning my first writing contest at age ten? A Western Union Telegram (remember them?) notified me of my win. A five dollar prize in the hands of a ten year old with a sweet tooth was dangerous. I blew it on Candy Buttons.
The win propelled a normally shy little redhead to the front of her class for Show and Tell. I like to imagine classmates were more awed by telegram proof of my new literary status than the candy strips I distributed.
Decades later, as I prepare a power point presentation for Book Clubs and organizations interested in the novel journey of a writer with a crammed portfolio and sore gums, I am reminded of those Candy Buttons and what literary lessons I might salvage from that bittersweet childhood splurge:
Everybody loves a winner! True. It is easier to get noticed when you can show you have some credible awards and great reviews. This requires losing enough humility to put yourself out there. I try to do a lot of 21st century Show and Tell now that I’m an award-winning author working on my fourth book. This includes speaking to groups in their venue...or at my teaparties featuring the sweet treats that hallmark my novels.
Marketing means spending to receive! So true. Candy was once a sweet incentive to grow attention. Not so much today. Adult readers in a market with more supply than demand crave discounts, free books, gift certificates or even trendy gadgets to win their attention. Book parties--online and off--feature incentive give-a-ways to promote a book. However, the price of those give-a-ways and necessary ads, as well as review and promo services, can take a bittersweet bite out of royalties. New novelists are like minnows swallowed up by bigger fish with a publisher or a unique platform that attracts schools of followers. I think of “50 Shades of Gray”—and turn 50 shades of green over the 16,000 reviews it garnered and how the book saved a Publishing House. No candy or freebies required?
Creative people need to promote creatively! Right. When a promotion works well, writers are encouraged to repeat the success and always think outside the box. Candy Buttons inspired celebrity a half century ago. Are they still sold—like candy cigarettes and tootsie rolls? I check online and find Minnesota’s largest candy store (a 90 minute drive away) sells new and nostalgic candy. In a historic town closer to home, I find a chocolate shop that also sells Candy Buttons. Five packages for $6.00 inflates the childhood price by about 1000%. Still, it’s a small price to pay for renewed celebrity and more readers. When I present my “Novel Road” power point to Book Clubs and aspiring authors, I’ll have a sweet reminder to give away with bookmark swag. It feels right—a nostalgic treat to promote a taste for my nostalgic brand of fiction.
“Sweet!” My eight-year-old granddaughter approves the idea with a high five and a toothy grin white as chicklets. She loves to read, but actually prefers veggies.
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