Great Exploitations

In my daily life I try not to worry because, above all, worrying is not productive.  I procrastinate with the best of them, but worrying isn’t an approved time-waster in my life.  However, with the book just over five months out, I have some worries.

I worry it won’t sell well, but you can help with that by visiting my It Takes A Heartland post. So, that’s just part of my book-might-not-sell-well worry mitigation strategy.

I worry people won’t like it, but people I love liked it and I like it.  So I get over that worry pretty quickly.

I worry most of all that people will think I’ve exploited Liam to sell a book.  This worry really bothers me, and as someone who likes to nip worry in the bud and do something about it, I’m writing this post to clear up why Heart Warriors is not exploiting Liam.  To be fair, let’s talk about why people could think it might exploit Liam.

Exploitation-Theorists Point One:  the book is about Liam and I shouldn’t tell his story without his consent as an adult.  Yes, the book is about Liam’s chest being ripped open multiple times and his life growing up to the age of seven learning that he isn’t like all the other little boys.  It’s about his advent to the age of reason.  These are his life experiences, and he has the right to tell them from his own perspective when he’s formed one. This is a fair point and the one that causes me the most worry.

However, my counter to the first point is that Heart Warriors is not all about Liam.  It’s mostly about me and what went on in my head in my journey from pregnant lady to heart mom.  It’s about Jim, and it’s about Moira.  It’s about our family and how we’ve dealt and will deal with the fear and the pain of this disease. It’s about standing up for other people and driving change instead of being a perpetual victim.  Heart Warriors is about how I want Liam to see the possibilities in his life despite of the pain of it.  It is my gift to him by sharing our mutual story, not stealing his.  In the end it only matters what Liam thinks, and the jury will be out on that for many, many years.

Exploitation-Theorists Point Two: This book only benefits you.

My counter to that is that this book will probably make me personally less money than I will spend on publicity.  The most I hope to get from this is a tax break for my losses.  I am spending double my advance (so my entire advance plus and equal share of my own money) on a publicist to raise awareness of the book, and more importantly awareness of Congenital Heart Disease.  Most writers don’t ever make enough money to quit their day jobs, and I’m no exception.  But I didn’t write this book to make money.  I wrote it to make a difference.  It was a labor of love and I wrote it in whatever spare time I could find between the kids extracurricular evening activities and weekends.  My family paid a price for this book in the time I put into it and the money I will spend on it, and that comes at a cost to me as well.

I’ve already spent a few hundred dollars on promotional materials and postage and will spend more when the book comes out.  In the end, I’ll be out at least five thousand dollars of my own money, which means I’ll have to sell almost thirteen thousand copies of the book to even break even.  So, this book really doesn’t benefit me financially, unless it takes off like a race horse, see It Takes a Heartland.  Seriously though, thirteen thousand copies to break even.  I’m not going to get rich off of Liam’s story, so financial gain is not a valid point.   Heck, I’d have to sell a quarter of a million copies to make as much as I’ve spent on medical bills, so let’s just drop that fantasy here, it’s making me a little sad.

Happily, Heart Warriors does benefit me in that I’ll be a published author, and that gives me warm fuzzies if not cold  hard cash.  It benefits me in that if my investment in promoting the book raises public awareness of CHD in the long run that might help save Liam’s life by causing decision-makers and donors more become aware of CHD.  So, to that end, yes it benefits me and every other one of the millions of moms like me fighting CHD and their kids.

And that’s the point, I wrote this book because there is a gaping hole in the nation’s bookshelf for mainstream books about CHD.  There are some books out there, but they’re hard to find and mostly self-published, so my hope is that this book will be the book people find when they are like I was so many years ago – lost and alone facing a disease that no one knew anything about.  I didn’t write Heart Warriors to exploit Liam, I wrote it to help him and all the kids like him have a chance to be seen for the heroes they are and get the research funding they need to live whole and long lives.

I reserve all pronouncements for my son, and I will face Liam’s judgement when he’s best suited to make it himself.  Anyone else with a negative opinion should read the book before becoming too resolute.  It’s out in April, so go ahead and become one of thirteen thousand!

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