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Exclusive: The ‘Unsanctioned’ Secret About Tales of the Cocktail

Prior to attending Tales of the Cocktail last week, I received hundreds of pitches from publicists trying to set up meetings with their respective brands. One caught my eye. It was an apology from WhistlePig Rye Whiskey: “We have been informed by Tales of the Cocktail that our previous invitation represents an unsanctioned event. WhistlePig is an official participant and proud sponsor of Tales of the Cocktail, however, we were unaware that our affiliation is limited to on premise events. The fault is entirely ours…”

Bad, WhistlePig!! No more premium Canadian whisky barrels for you!

Wait, what is an unsanctioned event anyway?

It’s basically a party, seminar or cocktail event away from Tales, a non-profit cocktail festival that earns its revenue off of sponsorship and ticket fees. You can read sponsorship levels here, but they start at $250 and go up to $10,000. (Other for-profit cocktail festivals ask upwards of $50,000 for private rooms.)

Going to Tales, I wondered if I’d catch wind of other unsanctioned events. And if I did, would I investigate them? Why were people doing them? And what did Tales think about somebody using the event as a platform to schmooze its attendees?

Lo and behold, while sipping a Pernod Absinthe cocktail in the lobby of Hotel Montleone, a friend asked me if I was going to the unsanctioned Brown-Forman event. No, I said. He then gave me a discrete black card with an old timey key stringed inside. The invitation for Brown-Forman’s House of Whiskey felt secretive and featured Woodford Reserve, Jack Daniel’s, Old Forester and Gentleman Jack. Surely, ever-ethical Brown-Forman wasn’t trying to pilfer people from Tales of the Cocktail.

The secret  invitation to Brown-Forman's Tales event.

The secret invitation to Brown-Forman’s Tales event.

Then, I received an email from the Tales Founder Ann Tuennerman urging me, other media and sponsors to not attend the Brown-Forman event and other unsanctioned parties. “Brown-Forman has elected to use the popularity of Tales of the Cocktail, and the fact that the Event attracts tens of thousands in the Spirits and Bartending Community, from around the World to New Orleans, while continuing to not participate as a Sponsor,” Tuennerman wrote. “I have said in the past, it is unfortunate but some brands elect to not support the bartending community and ride on our proverbial coattails. …”

Brown-Forman did not comment on the unsanctioned event, but said there is a history between the spirits conglomerate and Tales. “We have a right to do promotions when we want to do promotions,” Brown-Forman spokesperson Phil Lynch told me.

But it may not be that simple.

Tales of the Cocktail saved the New Orleans bar scene, says Neal Bodenheimer, owner of the popular Cure in Uptown NOLA. On a more global scale, Tales reinvests its revenues into financial aid and education for bartenders.

After Hurricane Katrina, the spirits community was one of the only factions that came to New Orleans, Bodenheimer told me. “Ann is trying to protect her sponsors and New Orleans,” Bodenheimer says. “I can understand why a smaller brand would do an unsanctioned event, but Brown-Forman has no reason. They have the money to be active. … There’s a lot that Ann does year-round to make sure this is a great event. People try to take advantage of that; I can see why she is frustrated. She has to protect New Orleans.”

Tuennerman’s home flooded during Hurricane Katrina and she found herself displaced, living in Houston and New York. When she returned to New Orleans January 1, 2006, her then boyfriend (now husband) took out a loan to execute Tales of the Cocktail. She had no major sponsors. “It took several years for me to pay that loan back,” she told me.

As Tales has grown to an annual attendance of 15,000 to 18,000 bartenders and developed events in South America, Tales is largely thought to be a cash cow and Tuennerman’s sponsorship advocacy has rubbed many sponsors the wrong way. But Tuennerman says Tales is not making money “hand over fist. … I understand this perception is out there, but I don’t even have a retirement savings and my husband works a full-time job so I can do Tales full time.”

The Tales Spirited Awards cost $300,000 to produce, Tuennerman says, and “we lose money on that.”

Last year, according to the University of New Orleans, more than 200 Tales events yielded a $14.1 million impact on the New Orleans economy and an additional $1.1 million in state and local tax revenue. Bodenheimer says unsanctioned Tales events could hurt this impact because they keep patrons from visiting New Orleans restaurants and bars.

“Tales is becoming a lot like the Super Bowl,” Bodenheimer says. “During the last Super Bowl, hotel venues and parking lots were the only places that made money. People weren’t out in restaurants as much.”

Bodenheimer says a small party in a hotel room, aka an unsanctioned event, is not effective. “Go host people at a bar,” he says.

When it comes to unsanctioned events, I have heard rumors about crazy stripper parties and witnessed smaller brands bringing bottles into another brand’s tasting room or placing stickers on people’s cups as they left. “You just tasted so and so’s tequila; now try mine.”

Steve Gubb, who spent $6,750 on a couple sponsorships for his new rum, Gubba Rum, says these guerilla marketing tactics are “dirty. To show up at somebody else’s tasting room is a sleazy way of doing business.”

To stop unsanctioned events, Tuennerman plans to research and pursue a “clean zone,” which New Orleans created in 2013 to protect Super Bowl vendors from losing revenue to non-vendor outfits. New Orleans mayor Mitchell J. Landrieu said {for the Super Bowl} the clean zone eliminated confusion and “requires that commercial businesses get the appropriate permits if they wish to operate….”

If Tuennerman receives this special ordinance, New Orleans essentially says Tales of the Cocktail is as big and important as the Super Bowl.

8 Fun Facts About the New Copper & Kings Distillery

There’s the new car smell, new shoe smell and the new distillery smell—a lovely aroma of fresh wood, copper and sweet alcohol dripping off the shimmering still. At Copper & Kings Distillery, near a slaughterhouse in the Butchertown District of Louisville, I picked up a hint of good old-fashioned farm smell, making this shimmering new facility a throwback to the farmer distilleries of the 1800s.

Copper & Kings is doing something many people think is crazy. They’re focusing on brandy. That’s right, a distillery in the middle of Bourbon Country will be making a spirit that starts with a “b” and it ain’t bourbon.

So, get your sidecar recipes ready, here are eight things you need to know about this new distillery.

The Copper & Kings Distillery is still under construction, but is now fully operational.

The Copper & Kings Distillery is still under construction, but is now fully operational.

In Butchertown

Located near a slaughterhouse, Copper & Kings will also have a pig-roasting pit. Brandy and pork, anybody?

 

Orange is its Favorite Color

Orange is also the color of my favorite college--Oklahoma State, where I graduated from.

Orange is also the color of my favorite college–Oklahoma State, where I graduated from.

In honor of the copper still, Copper & Kings has adopted the color orange. The distillery even paints its barrelheads orange.

 

Barrel Fun

Below are used sherry casks. Above rest former Woodford Reserve barrels.

Below are used sherry casks. Above rest former Woodford Reserve barrels.

Copper & Kings will be experimenting with subwoofer aging, a technique made popular by the fellas at Hudson Bourbon in New York.

Copper & Kings will be experimenting with subwoofer aging, a technique made popular by the fellas at Hudson Bourbon in New York.

Copper & Kings currently ages brandy in sherry casks, used bourbon barrels, used Cognac barrels, hogsheads and port barrels. They’re also aging Absinthe in juniper barrels from Serbia.

 

No Whiskey Here

Copper & Kings will not be making whiskey. They’re focus is brandy. Kentucky actually has a strong brandy history that was stifled by the Civil War and all but eradicated by Prohibition. Specifically, Copper & Kings is making apple brandy and brandy from Muscat, Chenin Blanc and Colombard (which is used in Cognac). They’re buying wine from California and distilling it. They also bought distillate from a handful of craft distillers. As owner Joe Heron told me, “there’s no MGP for brandy.” In other words, American brandy producers cannot purchase large quantities of brandy from other brandy producers.

Targeting Bourbon Drinkers

The ad board inside the offices.

The ad board inside the offices.

Copper & Kings knows its backyard is in Bourbon Country, so it’s pursuing bourbon drinkers.

The Stills are Beautiful

I’ll let the photos speak for stills.

Copper & Kings Distillery Copper & Kings Distillery Copper & Kings Distillery Copper & Kings Distillery

No Barrel Stamps

Copper & Kings DistilleryOne of the things I found fascinating about the barrels were pieces of paper stapled to the barrels. If you’ve ever been to a Kentucky bourbon warehouse, you may have noticed the stamp on the barrelhead for tax purposes. The paper is easier, they say.

Great View

What a view!

What a view!

Copper & Kings will be using solar power to supplement their energy.

Copper & Kings will be using solar power to supplement their energy.

This distillery is renting space for meetings and events. It’s hard to be that view. And, they use solar power.

 

BREAKING NEWS: Heaven Hill’s Beam Moves into Consultancy Role

Heaven Hill Distillery’s master distiller Craig Beam will be moving into a consultancy role, says Heaven Hill spokesperson Larry Kass.

An internal announcement was made in May, Kass says.

“Craig continues in his master distiller role,” he says. “But he has a lot going on with his life. This is for personal reasons. This is about him spending more time with his dad.”

Beam was not available for comment.

Last year, Beam’s father, long-time master distiller Parker Beam, announced he was battling ALS, also known as Lou Gehrig’s disease. Craig Beam was thought to be his father’s replacement.

Beam now operates from home, but Kass says he’s still doing all his normal master distiller duties.

“We categorically deny that he will not be our master distiller,” Kass says.

As evidence that Beam continues in his normal role, he has a master distiller event this Saturday at Belle’s in Lexington, Kentucky, and is scheduled for other national talks throughout the year.

After Heaven Hill announced Parker’s illness, the family-owned distillery said its Parker’s Heritage Collection 2013 release would benefit the ALS Association in the Parker Beam Promise of Hope Fund. The goal was to raise $250,000. The distillery community also chipped in, donating whiskey for a special bottling “Master Distiller’s Unity” bourbon at WhiskyFest New York.

Last year, Heaven Hill also opened the Evan Williams Bourbon Experience in downtown Louisville and unveiled new labeling for Henry McKenna and Rittenhouse brands. The company is currently pursuing an aggressive advertising multimedia campaign with its Evan Williams Bourbon, the No. 2-selling bourbon.

I’ve always believed Heaven Hill makes incredible whiskey, and Craig Beam is one of the major reasons why. It goes without saying the entire whiskey community pulls for his family, and this new role sounds like the same one to me. So, don’t expect to see a change in the whiskey. There’s a Beam still making it, after all.

Australian Distiller Labels Whiskey ‘Bourbon’; Others Use Term in Marketing

UPDATED, 8:01 p.m. EST, to include trade agreement correspondence.

With “bourbon” becoming a strong buzzword, foreign distilleries are using the term in verbal and written marketing. And at least one distiller appears to be labeling its whiskey as bourbon. The 1964 Congressional Resolution made bourbon “a distinctive product of the United States,” giving the spirit geographical protection ratified by other countries.

Black Widow BourbonAustralia’s Bluestill Distillery is actually using “bourbon” on the label. In a September 2, 2011, Facebook posting, Bluestill Distillery said its Black Widow Bourbon: “Australian-made bourbon that seriously rivals those from Kentucky.” I have never tasted this product, seen it in person or viewed the back label, but the front label says the bourbon is a “product of Australia.” I’ve contacted Bluestill Distillery for more information.

Even if Black Widow is sourced whiskey, the bourbon violates America’s definition of bourbon. The label states it’s 37.5% alcohol by volume or 75 proof. U.S. federal standards require bourbon to be bottled at no less than 80 proof.

The Kentucky Distillers Association and Distilled Spirits Council of the United States consider Black Widow Bourbon a violation of the free trade agreement with the US and Australia.  The matter has been reported to the United States Trade Representative’s office.

In a May 18, 2004, letter from Australia’s Minister for Trade Mark Vaile to U.S. Trade Representative Robert B. Zoellick, during the U.S.-Australian Free Trade Agreement discussions, the Australian government agreed to: “not permit the sale of any product as Bourbon Whiskey or Tennessee Whiskey, unless it has been manufactured in the United States according to the laws of the United States….” This letter was included in the notes of the 2005 U.S.-Australian Free Trade Agreement.

There are several other instances in which Australian producers have used bourbon in their marketing. Tiger Snake Sour Mash Whiskey distiller Cameron Syme has said the inspiration was “great Tennessee whiskeys and Kentucky bourbons.” But Syme understands bourbon is a geographic indicator, which is why he pursued “Sour Mash.”

In this YouTube.com interview, Whipper Snapper Distillery’s Alasdair “Al” Malloch describes the whiskey as “bourbon style.” On the website, the company says the company’s distilling history can be traced backed to Colorado and Scotland after World War II. Intrigued, I contacted the startup.

“We have been making bourbon in the US and will make it the same way here, so made as a bourbon-styled whiskey, but US law prevents it from being called Bourbon if it is made outside of the US,” Malloch wrote in an email. “Australia has ratified these laws through the Australian-US Free trade agreement. So, no, we will not be calling it bourbon or labeling it as bourbon.”

Look, I applaud Australia’s distilling culture and am all for its growth. I also love the idea of them pursuing bourbon-style whiskeys. This will give us some fun comparative tastings, but I can’t see the American bourbon industry allowing any loose use of the term “bourbon.”

Bourbon is hotter than it’s ever been. Imitation is the sincerest form of flattery, as they say, but it’s also the quickest way to land in the courtroom. Much like the American Single Malt producers stay away from using “Scotch,” it’s best foreign distillers tread lightly with the term.

 

1964 Congressional Resolution 

……Whereas among the standards of identity which have been established

are those for “Scotch whisky” as a distinctive product of Scotland,

manufactured in Scotland in compliance with the laws of Great

Britain regulating the manufacture of Scotch whisky for consumption

in Great Britain and for “Canadian whisky” as a distinctive

product of Canada manufactured in Canada in compliance with

the laws of the Dominion of Canada regulating the manufacture of

whisky for consumption in Canada and for “cognac” as grape brandy

distilled in the Cognac region of France, which is entitled to be so

designated by the laws and regulations of the French Government;

and

Whereas “Bourbon whiskey” is a distinctive product of the United

States and is unlike other types of alcoholic beverages, whether

foreign or domestic…..

 

Goodbye to an Old Friend; the Story of How Camera Boy became a Bestseller

My first book, Camera Boy: An Army Journalist’s War in Iraq, will be going out of print soon. (Buy a copy now before some asshole charges $400 for a used signed copy of an out-of-print book!) It’s a sad goodbye, but an important one as I continue to move my career to writing whiskey history books. As mentioned in my Memorial Day Post, I still do my best to stay in involved with veterans issues. But my career has taken me to a different place–whiskey, of all worlds–and I’m extremely happy where things are going. I’ll always be a veteran, and Camera Boy will always tell that story of my life.

Camera Boy was also my validation for going to war and losing much of my twenties to some moments I still can’t remember (Do I want to remember them?). And the journey to getting Camera Boy published in the first place is one of my all-time favorite stories to tell other writers. The essay below was the July 2012 cover story for ASJA Monthly. I hope it helps another writer pursue his or her dream.

Camera Boy: Overcoming an English Teacher, PTSD and a Saturated Market

By Fred Minnick

            Filled with fragments, run-on sentences, misspelled words, and dreadful grammar, my high school essays showed imagination with little structure or proper training. But I was the Jones High School correspondent for the local newspaper and thought I wrote more like Ernest Hemingway than Fred the country boy. My prized hog stories appeared front page of the Oklahoma County News, boosting my 15-year-old ego. My first really tough editor, though, didn’t understand my Hemingway-like fame.

       ASJA Cover Camera Boy     My English teacher held my essay in her cold hands. “Fred, you should become a welder, not a writer,” she said. “This isn’t for you.”

            I was not devastated or defeated. I was pissed. I broke important news about Josh Effinger’s Spotted Poland China winning breed champion at the county fair. What did she know about such important journalism works? From that point on, whether I discovered a talent for reading minds or quadratic equations, I channeled every academic fiber to become one of you: a writer making words look good on paper.

            This drive gave me the resilience to learn from my professors’ critiques, zero hesitation to interview world leaders, and the confidence to write about any subject I desired. Yet this fire turned to smoldering ash when I was shipped to Iraq in 2004. Bullets, bombs, and bad guys have a funny way of doing that to a fella.

            I was an Army journalist and my mission was to tell the Army’s story, but I received more combat photography duties than anything else. Instead of mostly photographing and writing about school openings, I photographed the infantry and Special Forces in action. My camera captured man at his worst: fresh dead bodies, car bomb craters filled with charred body parts, a Mosque’s beheading chambers, and the remains of errant American missiles that destroyed civilian property. The things I saw, and the things I did, not only took my innocence—they ruined my resolve.

            My Iraq trauma can be boiled down to one moment—a Russian-made RPG flying toward me. The person pulling the trigger intended to take my life just as we intended to take his. This was war, a form of hell nobody wants to experience   .           More than 90 percent of the time, the RPG rocket explodes upon impact and kills any living being within 32 feet. I stood there, 10 feet from the RPG’s landing spot, nothing to shield me from the potential blast. I was as good as dead. My life flashed before my eyes. My main thought was about my alma mater, Oklahoma State. I wondered if it would ever win a football championship. Seriously. That’s my last thought?

            The rocket hit concrete, bounced over my head and did not explode. Although the firefight continued, the next thing I remember is riding back to the base with people still shooting at us. I can’t remember those ensuing moments; a psychiatrist says the brain remembers when it needs to remember. Whatever happened next, I lived.

            That was one of many close calls, but probably the closest. After I returned home, this particular day, June 24, 2004, haunted me and almost destroyed my hopes for a new life. Diagnosed with Post Traumatic Stress Disorder (PTSD), I chose to fight and not allow myself to become another homeless veteran. I did the only thing I knew how: I wrote about it.

            Turns out that writing about pain is called exposure therapy and it’s prescribed in cognitive processing sessions. My words poured out of me unlike anything I had written before. I cried in the middle of sentences, remembering fallen friends, and I laughed out loud, remembering military humor. And throughout all of the writing, I had bouts of sickness, reliving June 24, the near death moment that defined Iraq and words on my laptop screen.

     camera-boy-cover      When I completed the 80,000-word manuscript, I tried to sell Camera Boy.

But, like many writers, I did not have a clue about the next step. Now I look back and laugh at those conversations and wonder how I actually got through to New York’s best agents. (I actually called agents and told them about the book!)

            After reading my initial draft, all agents rejected it within days.

From agent Mickey Choate: “Thank you for your query letter of November 20, regarding Camera Boy.  The market is so saturated with memoirs from the war in Iraq that many of them are having trouble standing out and selling.  I’ll have to take a pass.  Thanks for thinking of me.”

            For the first time in my 26 years, criticism, like my English teacher’s words, cut through my veil of confidence and hit bone. The same toughness that allowed me to deal with the red ink marks on my pages and kept me alive in Iraq was gone. When an agent questioned a verb or an anecdote or gave me the “saturated market” excuse, I wallowed in pity, thinking people were attacking my role as a soldier. These painful rejections made me realize that Camera Boy was more important than my sports copy at The Daily Oklahoman because my attitude has always been edits make the story stronger. But I needed validation for my time in Iraq and a Camera Boy edit felt like an insult to my service with the underlying belief that I gave so much to my country; didn’t anybody want to read about it?

            I hired manuscript editor Lary Bloom to make the book more marketable. We trimmed copy and included more details about my job as a photographer. After spending more than 60 hours on the revision, a big time New York agent, Peter Miller, took on Camera Boy.

            But all book editors said it wasn’t political enough or anti-media enough. The saturated Iraq book market rewarded those with slants against President Bush or negative views about the media.

            Nobody wanted my story.

            This craving for validation only added to my PTSD problems. I went to bed each night wondering why nobody wanted the story I had dedicated to my fallen friends.

            As is typical with large literary agents, Peter did not want to sell it to smaller firms that would pay on net royalties. My goal was just to get the book sold, and he gave me the okay to try to sell it on my own. Without an agent, I pitched for six months until I couldn’t take another rejection.

           Then my friend, Sgt. Ryan Jopek, was killed in Iraq on my birthday in 2006. Much like my English teacher’s negative comments drove me to become a writer, to preserve my friend’s name, I would do everything it took to sell Camera Boy. I began undergoing intense therapy to stop the war from controlling my life and to ease the validation needs I had toward Camera Boy. I didn’t need a book editor’s approval; I gave my country everything I had, and that was that.

            But Ryan’s death strengthened my resolve. If it took 30 years, I would sell Camera Boy. At the time, I was a full-time freelancer writing for VFW Magazine, National Guard Magazine and MSN, building my client base to sweeten my platform. I sent 12 queries a week to smaller independent presses. Some publishers requested proposals; others wanted the whole manuscript.

            One editor at Lyon’s Press loved the memoir, then picked up a different Iraq book that became a bestseller.

            I trudged on, receiving interest from editors only to hear the traditional “market is just saturated” response. I continued editing the book and fellow soldiers read it. I added colorful anecdotes and deleted sections that clunked up the copy. As editors pondered, I was making it tighter, better. I even added a powerful epilogue that included Ryan’s death.

            In the summer of 2007, I gave Peter Miller a call wondering if he would give it one more try. Being naïve about publishing, I figured a new chapter might entice a publisher to take a second look. Instead Peter recommended I write another book for two-deal package.

            I wrote my college memoir, a book of debauchery, drugs, and booze tentatively titled Frat Boy, which Peter shopped with Camera Boy. I was somewhat glad the publishers not only said no, but hell no; Frat Boy was rushed and filled with stories I did not want to be remembered by.

            I continued therapy. Cognitive processing techniques helped free me from haunting Iraq memories. My confidence, my work ethic, and my tenacity were slowly returning. That belief in myself led to more work.

            By January 2008, I started bidding on corporate book jobs even though the only book credit I had was two blog posts published in The Blog of War: Front Line of Dispatches of Iraq & Afghanistan (Simon & Schuster, 2006), but I proudly listed on my résumé that I was the author of Camera Boy: An Army Journalist’s War in Iraq. Potential clients respected the fact I was still shopping the book and considered me for corporate books. In May 2008, I signed my first book contract, the biography for Certified Angus Beef.

            Afterward, I added this to my Camera Boy pitches and proposal, giving potential Camera Boy editors confidence that I was a serious writer. From the moment I signed Certified Angus Beef, I sent queries every publisher that had ever printed a military book. This time they took longer to review my book, a good sign I hoped, and the rejections contained more details than just the “not right for us” verbiage.       

            By the fall of 2008, I had a slick website, credits in more than 50 magazines and a better understanding of the book business. That November I followed up on a query from 10 months prior thatI had sent to Hellgate Press, a small military history publisher. The editor took a second look at my query, requested a proposal, then the full manuscript. He said he’d publish Camera Boy if I made some changes, recommendations that only helped the book.

            When it sold in January 2009 to Hellgate, I no longer needed America’s approval. I just wanted to keep my many friends’ memories alive. I planned to work my butt off until every copy was sold.

            The press run was miniscule compared to Random House’s backlisted titles, but I promoted Camera Boy as if it were to be the next New York Times bestseller. I signed and sold more than 300 books during my five state book tour, landed 42 local and regional press opportunities, and gave speeches to schools and at military events. With every speech, I remembered my fallen friends T., Mitts, Ryan, and my Iraqi friend Samir.

            I ignored the negative reviews, which usually came from Army public affairs soldiers who didn’t like how I painted the Army, and I cherished the positive ones. When Camera Boy earned the 19,000th spot on Amazon in December 2009, I felt as if it had just sold a million copies.

            Camera Boy was special, my first book in a hopefully long writing career. By 2011, I was accepted into ASJA and was busy publishing articles in top tier magazines, while my Certified Angus Beef book became a must read for every cattle rancher in the country. My promising food, wine and spirits journalism career pulled my attention away from Camera Boy. I figured the book would sell until none were left in print and live on through Kindle and Nook. I was fine with that.

            But I never gave up on promoting it and continued to put myself out there for media interviews. I monitored HARO requests for opportunities that related to Iraq or a soldier’s struggles upon returning home. Publicist friends forwarded me ProfNet requests. I sent copies to colleagues I met on press trips. At some point I became known as the wine and whiskey writer who wrote a book about Iraq. Winemakers came to interviews with my book in hand wanting a signature, and wine writers were reviewing of my book on Amazon and their blogs. My active Twitter account of 45,000 followers and the Camera Boy Facebook page continued publishing the book’s Amazon URL. I’d plug Camera Boy in the magazine contributor sections when I could.

            These efforts, well after the book’s prime marketing time, led to an interview in Forbes.com, a front page article about my book in Brazil’s most widely read website, g1.globo.com, and a strange cult-like following in the wine world. The book even earned a mention in the prestigious Harvard’s Nieman Foundation’s Nieman Reports (Winter 2011). Suddenly, the career I built outside of Camera Boy helped it to receive the attention I thought it always deserved. I was no longer sending press releases or trying to get time on NPR, but I continued to talk about Camera Boy to anybody who would listen.

            Two and a half years after publication on May 2, 2012, Camera Boy became the Amazon Kindle book of the day. Within four days, it sold more than nearly triple the eBooks of my initial print run. The next week Camera Boy earned the No. 10 spot on the Wall Street Journal Best-Selling eBooks. Neither my publisher nor I have the slightest clue how Camera Boy was selected for the Amazon Daily Deal, but the title took off and has been selling ever since.

            As I drove home from the doctor’s office, where I learned about making the list, tears rolled down my face. I, Fred Minnick, the country boy who should be a welder, whose book wasn’t appropriate in a saturated market was a best-selling author.

            I never gave up on Camera Boy. Not when the rejections piled up. Not when the editors said to write an anti-Bush section. Not when one editor said my book was as good as sold until an Iraq dog book hit his desk. And not when bookstores refused to carry it because they never heard of Hellgate.

            In this profession, we receive more no’s than yes’s. In battling PTSD, I learned to treat writing as a business, which loosened my need for validation. Yet I used every rejection as motivation, just as my high school English teacher’s words helped me select a career.

            I allowed myself to learn from industry veterans and to not let myself take rejections personal even for a project as close to my heart as Camera Boy. There’s only so much we writers can control in this business. We can choose to let agents’ and editors’ comments bring us down. Or we can let them spur us on. I chose the latter.

            My career will no doubt receive more nasty rejections and more bad reviews.

And I don’t know if I’ll ever make it back on any best-seller list.

            But I’m sure going to try.