When I was a tween, I was a weird kid in suburban Sacramento. Among the many things that set me apart from all that was good and normal, I was heavily involved in the 4H rabbit project. It was not only that we had a few bunnies in the backyard. Hobbit Haven Farms, as my father named our one and a half acre spread, had up to a hundred pedigreed rabbits at any time. These were not only the prosaic Californians and New Zealand Whites raised for fur and meat, but also the fifteen to twenty pound Flemish Giants which outweighed most people’s cats. I bred and raised these fluffy creatures, and showed them at official American Rabbit Breeders Association events. I even taught one Giant named Mickey to play dead.
As you might have guessed, I did not get a proper date with girl until I was almost out of high school.
Each summer, 4H would have livestock exhibits for a few weeks at the State Fair. Lucky and responsible child that I was, I got to be one of the three or four kids that watched everyone else’s rabbits for the time of the exhibit. This involved water and feeding all the animals and watching to be sure that no-one walked by a carried off a rabbit that was not their own. It was not very stimulating work; during the average day, there might have been two to three dozen visitors.
The rabbit exhibit was housed in an old wooden barn where a multitude of pigeons nested in the rafters. One year, a baby pigeon got pushed from its nest and wound up in our rabittry. We put the bald, quivering thing into one of the empty cages and came up with a bizarre plan to alleviate our boredom.
Starting well outside the rabbit exhibit’s barn, we posted hand-made signs which read:
COME SEE THE INISIBLE RABBIT!
Arrows on the signs pointed passers-by into the barn. At the entrances, more signs pointed visitors into the center of the exhibit. Along the cages, more hand made signs egged people on to their goal. That was the cage which housed the foundling squab. A very large hand-made sign proclaimed:
BEHOLD THE INVISIBLE RABBIT!
AND ITS COMPANION, THE INFANT VULTURE “GRONK”!
It was ridiculous, but it pulled in two or three times the normal number of visitors that day. As they came, my friends and I would regale them with stories of the rabbit’s activities and his more visible avian roommate, who was promoted from pigeon to a far more exciting bird. Of course, no-one expected to see an invisible rabbit, but our sincerity and industry encouraged strangers to take a look and engage for a moment. It was in some ways a kind of lunatic magick that gave everyone a smile.
That’s what I want to remember about book promotion.
My first novel Camp Arcanum came out last March. With a minimal budget, I set out the equivalent of gaudy hand-made signs to pull readers into my world, regaling them with the stories of the characters only I could see. Six months in, though, I began to let up. I was afraid I was annoying people. I didn’t entirely believe the rabbit was there.
I pushed on past that, connecting through social media and live events. Feedback came in on the book, some times strangers saying that they didn’t normally like “that kind of book” but they enjoyed mine. Other authors, ones that didn’t owe me money or favors, praised my work. As “Gronk” the foundling vulture napped in its nest, I began to catch the outline of our invisible rabbit.