Making book

Author Alasan Mansaray is peddling his first novel any way that comes to mind

One of those bookstores was Black Images Book Bazaar. Emma Rodgers, co-owner, says she was impressed enough by Mansaray's presentation to take a chance and sell the book on consignment. The store has sold three copies since getting it in June, she says.

"You might have the best book in the world, but if you don't have a marketing plan to sell it, it won't sell," Rodgers says. "We try to encourage all self-publishers to do that."

Yet Mansaray still thought things weren't going fast enough. People who go to book stores don't go to browse, he says. They usually have their minds made up.

"It's better to catch people before they get to the store," he says. "So I do that through meeting people."

Now, Mansaray will use any opportunity to sit and talk with people and pitch his book. Once while on a plane, he talked to a few people sitting next to him, and sold three. Another time he was pumping gas at a service station when he approached a man at the pump next to him. That man also bought a book.

Mansaray isn't always successful. At first, he had a hard time working up the nerve to approach total strangers. And, he says, rejection can be hard.

"I'm a big dreamer and thinker. I've never considered myself a salesperson," he says. "But it got to a point where I wanted to succeed. This was the most practical option."

His brashness took him as far as New York and into the office of The New York Times Book Review Editor Charles McGrawth. Mansaray says he had been wanting to see McGrawth for months and had sent the paper a book, but never received a review. So when Mansaray went to New York in July, he decided to look McGrawth up. He found the office, rode up the elevator, and walked in.

"I'm here to see Charles McGrawth," he told the woman in the outer office.
"Right this way," she said, and led Mansaray straight to him. The two talked, for about 10 minutes, about the book and a bit about Texas. Mansaray made a quick pitch for a review. Then, Mansaray says, he began to feel guilty about imposing on such a busy man, so he cut his visit short.

McGrawth says he was impressed with Mansaray's chutzpa.
"I admired his initiative," he says. "I couldn't help it. I looked up and all of a sudden there was this charming man at my office.

"But this doesn't guarantee his book any more or less chance at a review," he adds quickly. The book hasn't been reviewed yet.

The New York trip was also lucky for Mansaray in that he sold his largest number of books there. He set up a stand on the street and hawked them to passers-by, selling 49 in a few hours.

The book is never far from Mansaray. He has at least one copy with him at all times, and keeps a box of them in the trunk of his car. He chooses his customers in a very unscientific manner: He mainly talks to black people. White people often eye the nearly 6-foot coal-dark Sierra Leonean with suspicion, he says. Black people are much more sympathetic.

"And I usually give them a discount" off the $21.95 cover price, he says.
Mansaray concedes he still has a ways to go before he makes the bestseller lists. Although he has interest from a couple of distributors, there still are about 3,000 unsold books stored in a Carrollton warehouse. He is making ends meet by doing computer work for a temporary agency.

Mansaray says his next step will be another publicity method used by the big publishers: the book tour. He plans to rent a van this winter and travel cross-country to California, Florida, any place that has nice weather. He will have a portable sign to set up anywhere, and a cooler so he can offer potential customers food and drink. "If I have to sell on the street, then I sell on the street," he says. "I will be like a roving salesperson."

Mansaray says he will sell his books until he has recouped some of his investment. Then he'll rest and get to work on his next book, a tale about the trials and tribulations of an interracial marriage.

"I want one day to focus on my writing," he says with a weary sigh. "But first, I have to be known.

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