From self-published writer to Barnes and Noble author
R. Ann Rousseau will be at the Barnes & Noble in Manchester on Sunday at 2 p.m. to sign her book "Portsmouth: A Love Story" and to talk to writers about the process she went through to get her book on the shelves of Barnes & Noble stores in New Hampshire and Maine.
Rousseau picked Portsmouth as the setting for her story because it is a city she knows and loves.
"I love to write about what I know and it helps you to sort of chisel some details into a story," Rousseau said.
She said she could also think of no better backdrop for a romantic love story, with a metaphysical twist.
She worked with a content editor in Kansas, who had never been to Portsmouth but told Rousseau that through her words and Google images of the places mentioned, she had fallen in love with the city.
"The story is about falling in love in Portsmouth and falling in love with Portsmouth," Rousseau said.
Rousseau spent a lot of time researching some of the unique aspects of the city's history, including urban renewal development that displaced many families in the North End, to give historical context to the story.
Other true facts also ring through the story, starting with a visit from the United States Navy Blue Angels in 1991 and concluding with their return 20 years later.
Rousseau started her book as a challenge to complete for a contest after being laid off from her job as a certified public accountant. She did not win the contest, but said the discipline of deadlines helped her complete the book.
Rousseau said she learned the process of getting books into Barnes & Noble the hard way.
In August 2012, her book was published online by Amazon's CreateSpace program, and she chose to have it listed with the Library of Congress. This allowed the book to be printed on demand when customers ordered it through Amazon or Barnes & Noble online.
But Rousseau felt the book fell into a "black hole" online and wanted to see it on real bookstore shelves only to learn that Barnes & Noble would not take a CreateSpace book in their retail stores.
So she went through an entirely new process of establishing a new ISBN number, getting a new printer, and getting the book on shelves.
She became her own marketing and public relations team, visiting local Barnes & Noble stores in New Hampshire and Maine and convincing them that her book was worthy enough to grace the shelves.
In a short time, 24 books sold out in Portsmouth, which opened new doors to stores across New England. Rousseau said her name is also fortuitous, as her books are appearing near to New York Times best-selling author Nora Roberts.
Rousseau said she wants to be helpful to other authors that have a dream, but are afraid to take it to the next level.
"A lot of people say they are going to do it and never do, never let it go, and their book stays on a bucket list," Rousseau said.