It’s not a large nursery, but it’s a great one, crammed full of wonderful things for plant lovers, and employing folks with friendly faces, happy to answer any gardening questions you might have. I discovered it quite by accident a few years ago, while on my way to lunch at Highbanks Marina. Little did I know then that both the marina and the nursery would play such a big part in my life, one day.
The marina was part of the inspiration for my second novel, Swamp Ghosts. The little town of DeBary was, too. And of course, Captain Jeanne Bell and her husband, photographer Doug Little, inspired my main characters in the book, since I fell in love with their Eco-Boat tours, and decided to build a story around a similar enterprise. But that’s not the surprising part of this story I’m sharing today. No, that came after my book was written and published.
It happened one afternoon, as I was plant shopping at DeBary Nursery. I got into a conversation with the owner, Bev McCain, about books. I gave her a couple of my bookmarks, with Wake-Robin Ridge and Swamp Ghosts pictured on them, told her a bit about the books, and she promptly decided she wanted to read them both. So she did. And she enjoyed them. A lot, apparently (thankfully), because she started passing out bookmarks to all her customers and recommending them. And some of them read, and enjoyed them, too.
Before long, Bev decided she’d like to sell the books in her nursery gift shop, so we set up a little counter display. She’s very much into local businesses helping each other, and she wanted to be sure everyone knew I was a local author, and that Swamp Ghosts was set in a fictional version of DeBary, and featured a fictionalized version of Highbanks Marina. Done, and done, with a printed sign in an acrylic counter “frame.”
And this is where it gets good. Bev started by ordering 5 copies of my first two books. In a few days, she wanted more. Now, she orders from me nearly weekly, and has sold just over 100 copies of my books in just a few weeks…from her nursery. I don’t know about you, but I find that astonishing. She doesn’t have a book store, and other than a few pamphlets and whatnot on gardening, doesn’t sell books. But she sells the heck out of mine. Partly because she really liked the books and it shows when she tells people about them, and partly because she’s a dynamite sales person. (I once saw her sell a copy of Swamp Ghosts to a woman who told her up front that she didn’t read! “Aw, that’s too bad,” Bev told her, “because this book is really a fun read, and you’ll recognize so many central Florida places in it.” The woman decided her husband might like it, and left the store carrying my book!)
Will I get rich on the sales of 100 books? No, of course not. But just last week, a customer came into the nursery, walked straight up to the counter, and asked to see the book set in DeBary, adding that she’d heard from several people how good it was. Now THAT kind of word of mouth is gold.
The moral of this tale is, you never know where you might find an opportunity to sell your books, get your name out there, build a group of fans, meet your readers face to face, and take another step up that ladder to writing success. I highly recommend keeping your eyes open when you are out and about. You never know where your next chance to find readers will come from. It could be anywhere, even in the gift shop of a local plant nursery.
If you live in central Florida and you love to garden, I also highly recommend stopping by DeBary Nursery. Tell Bev I said hello!