Last Wednesday afternoon as I was jumping on a video teleconference, I saw my phone light up with my publisher’s cell phone number. I was about to find out if I had made the elusive New York Times bestseller list. I had narrowly missed it last summer with the publication of my second novel, TRUE BELIEVER, after having to postpone the launch date when the Department of Defense “30-day review” process ended up taking seven months. The New York Times list gives one’s work visibility to a segment of readers difficult to reach via other avenues. As a lifelong reader and student of the genre, I’d grown up seeing New York Times Bestseller printed across the front covers of iconic novels that still grace my shelves today. Those novels were written by my early professors in the art of storytelling.
Launching a novel in the midst of a global pandemic that has put the U.S. economy into a tailspin was a challenge. Adapting to changing conditions is what you do on the battlefield. It’s what the enemy is doing to you. You can’t waste bandwidth worried about things you can’t control. Instead you need to constantly study your adversary, prioritize issues and initiatives, and capitalize on emerging opportunities. In this case, it was important for me to launch on time and do as much good as I possibly could along the way.
In the chaos of combat, there is opportunity. The same holds true off the battlefield.
OFFICIAL SAVAGE SON TRAILER
The launch for SAVAGE SON had been carefully planned over the past year. A multi-city book tour was about to start with a speech and book signing at the Ronald Reagan Presidential Library. There were private signings at the NRA’s Hunters’ Leadership Forum and a Sig Sauer Legion event with legends from the special operations community. And, there were the multiple independent bookstore signings scheduled along with the associated local media to promote the in-store events. A SAVAGE SON video was set to play on the huge screens in Times Square; it is playing there right now with no one to see it, through you can watch it on my website and social media platforms. The novel was carefully arranged on the front tables at Barnes & Nobel where they still sit today with no one walking by. It was also set to display in airport bookstores and newsstands across the country where now even those few who are traveling are hesitant to touch anything unless it is completely necessary.
With a traditional book tour no longer possible and with conventional book marketing tactics almost completely out of play, it was time to not just adapt, but to also evolve. It was essential to launch on time even amongst the uncertainty and to launch in an appropriate way. Fans had been waiting for the novel, people were at home in isolation looking for a good read, and independent bookstores needed assistance. It wasn’t time to postpone and wait for economic conditions to improve in the hopes of falling back on the more traditional means of promoting a book – it was time to launch. As we are fond of saying in special operations circles and is written on the dedication page to SAVAGE SON:
fortune favors the bold.
To help independent bookstores I launched a campaign with a limited edition run of signed SAVAGE SON bookplates available only through independent bookstores to help drive business their direction. I shifted all proceeds from my merchandise site to support the Center for Disaster Philanthropy COVID-19 Response Fund. I partnered with bookstores and event organizations to conduct interactive virtual book signing events. I reached out to friends from the tactical and outdoor industries on creative “missions” with epic prize packages including gear, equipment, and merchandise from Black Rifle Coffee Company, SIG SAUER, Aimpoint, Thunder Ranch, Sitka, Eagle Industries, Gatorz Eyewear, Winkler Knives, Dynamis Alliance, PSE Archery, GLG Knifeworks, Tomahawk Charitable Solutions, and the Rescue 22 Foundation to show my appreciation to those going the extra mile. I sent gift boxes of SAVAGE SON in limited edition branded packaging to both friends and early supporters with no social media presence as well as to friends who have established followings; receiving an early copy would be an experience they could share. I wrote opinion pieces on preparedness and what our enemies are learning from our nation’s response to COVID-19 that my publicist used as talking points for a marathon secession of local AM radio spots in five to fifteen-minute segments, and I jumped on as many podcasts as possible. And, I shared what I was doing and how I was doing it on my social channels so that anyone interested could follow the journey.
It was a full-on sprint to essentially scrap the vestiges of a traditional tour and shift completely to creatively leverage the new media while doing as much good as possible in the process.
The result was a call from my publisher, Emily Bestler of Emily Bestler Books, an imprint of Atria / Simon & Schuster, last Wednesday asking if she could talk to newly minted New York Times Bestselling Author Jack Carr.
Much like graduating BUD/S, or receiving your Trident from your platoon when they pound it into your chest, or opening that first box of published books, making the New York Times list is a completely surreal moment that is still sinking in. Yet, it’s not really just about “making the list.” It’s about writing something that resonates with readers enough to make the list. It’s about creating a character that people care about and trust with their most valuable asset, their time. It’s about writing a book that someone enjoys enough to take the time to recommend to a friend who in turn takes a risk on an unknown and then tells another friend.
Serving my country in uniform as a Navy SEAL and then transitioning to forge ahead as an author are the two professions I’ve felt calling since my earliest days. I am honored and humbled to have had the privilege of wearing the Trident and leading troops in combat. The same holds true for the events of the past week. Thank you to everyone who made this possible. It was a grassroots word of mouth effort. Thank you to everyone who posted a photo with the book, left a review, entered one of the missions, or told a friend to give the book a read or a listen.