Life is a Highway
So, why the ugly unflattering selfie, complete with wayward thumb, instead of my usual author photo/ posed pic? Well, it has to do with where I've been this past month...and the fact that I finally learned how to take a selfie! Of course, I also only just got a cell phone of my own, so...there's that.
OK, let's start with two things. One, my son is super into cars. Like, plans-to-be-an-automotive-engineer into them. And two, he pretty much refuses to sing (except one pretty little ditty from fourth grade that I sometimes force him to hum/whisper in my ear because it's just so darn cute). So what's the one song he did sing, unasked and with gusto? The unofficial anthem of the Pixar hit "Cars", which was a cover of the Tom Cochrane song. Over and over again at nap time, tunelessly, but with such joy in his heart, I'll never forget it.
I mention this because the lyrics are so right on, for we writers, readers, and students of life.
Sometimes you bend and sometimes you stand
Sometimes you turn your back to the wind.
There's been a lot of bending for me over the last year or so as I lost my editor, found a new publisher, and got to fall in literary love all over again. At times, when I doubted this outcome, I had to settle for just staying upright, and on my feet.
Then last month found me on literal highways as said publisher sent me on a pre-pub tour, bringing the cutest swag bags to bookstores, and getting to appear at two of the independent booksellers annual fairs, NAIBA and Heartland Fall Festival. New York to Chicago and back. For an author who always set up her own tours, it is a pretty heady experience to have my publisher doing so much months before the book comes out. And they also seem to know what to do—what works and what doesn't.
On one of my traveling days, I got off the highway and into an awesome hotel where my publisher had booked me a room, right on Lake Erie. I walked along the lakefront and took this lighthouse photo with my new phone. Who knew these things were so useful? Everybody but me, I guess.
Roselee Blooston is the founder of one of the first writers groups I ever took part in. Roselee's life took a sharp and unexpected turn—and below is the book, and the year of promoting, that resulted.
It’s been quite a year. Since last August, I’ve met and read to prospective readers at over two-dozen events and counting.
This in-person tour was a do-it-myself operation. My small university press produced a beautifully designed book, but couldn’t offer much marketing support. Many new authors—even those with larger publishers—are in the same situation.
With that in mind, here are tips to help you plan your own tour:
- Start on home turf. There’s nothing better than a book launch at your favorite neighborhood bookstore. Mine was at Watchung Booksellers in Montclair, New Jersey, where I had attended many signings (including Jenny’s), while fantasizing about my own. Your family, friends, and neighbors will rally, buy books—a win-win for you and the store!
- Expand to wherever you have a network and use it: target familiar bookstores, libraries, festivals, and book clubs. Colleges love having authors speak to students, and will offer an honorarium. Friends might throw you a book party. Mine did. Just ask!
- Publicize every event in print, online, and social media, on local radio and TV, on podcasts, on Facebook and Amazon book pages, and on your website. Post photos afterwards to maximize buzz.
- Target subject-related organizations. I have multiple events for a national widow organization in the coming year.
- Stay within driving distance from home—or not. Since this tour is probably on your own dime, it makes sense to avoid overnights, unless…you can combine a visit to family with one to their local bookstore. I did and it was well worth it. So cash in your miles. The book is your baby; you spent years raising it. Now give that child the send-off it deserves.
Final note: There will be setbacks—places you were counting on that won’t respond. Persist. There are plenty of venues eager to support debut authors. Good luck and enjoy the adventure!
Hooray for Hollywood
Writers have dreams, right? As we dip our toes into the cold sea of this industry, we have downright illusions, and delusions of grandeur. I did anyway. Did I ever tell you that when I started out looking for an agent—back in the days BEFORE EMAIL—I FedEx-ed my query letters? Yea, because they absolutely positively had to be there overnight. We could've sent the kids to college on what I spent FedEx-ing actual paper manuscripts. At least furnished their dorm rooms.
Anyhoo, in addition to the yachts we'll be buying, and the jets that will fly us all over the world, another writerly dream is seeing our work come to life on the screen. I was super happy for my friend, fellow author, and countrywoman (well, we hale from the same NJ town), Pamela Satran, whose novel Younger, was recently made into this clever and delightful TV series by hit maker Darren Star (Beverly Hills 90201, anyone? The anthem of my college years?) I highly recommend you watch it. Younger has a great deal to say about what it's like to be a member of our fast-changing, hard-to-recognize world. And it says it with humor.
As for me, I hadn't had luck when it came to film or TV—even though reviewers have called my books visual and cinematic, and readers often tell me they can see the movie in their heads—until, at ThrillerFest last summer, one friendly, mostly chance encounter with a writer I admire, led to something. Maybe. I can't say more just yet, but I am hoping to be able to in one of my first newsletters of 2018.
Happy 7th annual Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day tomorrow!
The holiday began in 2010 with help from members of the listserv DorothyL, and is now celebrated by over 800 bookstores in all 50 states and on 5 continents. (Antarctica, here we come!) I'll be at my local bookstore tomorrow with my kids. Which bookstore will you visit?
Over & Out
My fourth book, Wicked River, will be published exactly five months from today. You'll be able to catch some of the inside details of what happens between now and then in a series on The Thrill Begins called "Deal Diary" and in a new Patreon video slated for January called "123: Marketing Your Novel (What Works and What's a Waste)".
And of course, right here in this newsletter.
I'm going to keep the newsletter a little less book-centric though. Because what I most love doing here, what means the most to me as the horizon of another year appears, is getting to talk, really talk, with all of you. Your emails, Tweets, and notes after this letter goes out—some of which lead to phone calls, or even actual sit down get togethers—mean so much to me, and truly enliven my month.
Love from the Hills of Wedeskyull,