The Countdown (and the Freak Out) Begins

Happy Halloween, everyone! Today, I’ve decided to share my biggest fear: that my book will come out and no one will read it, and I’ll only have myself to blame because I failed to promote it the way I should. But wait, let me start at the beginning….

When my book sale was first announced, a lot of non-writer people asked me, “When’s your book coming out?” I would inwardly cringe, then perkily respond, “Fall, 2012.”

“What?” they’d cry. “That’s years away.” Their eyes would glaze over, like they were beginning to wonder about my sanity. Was I making this all up, anyway?

Let the countdown begin!

I’d mention some of the things I knew about why the process took so long, from revision to proofreading to cover art to publicity. But in my heart, I’d ask myself, “Yeah, why?”

To this date, I know little about the mysteries of what goes on behind the scenes at my publisher’s office. I keep meaning to make that call and see if I can get them to lay out their Plan of Action. Especially now that my book is only a year out.

Speaking of a year out, with the start of the countdown clock, my excitement level about my book has gone way up. A year is a tangible chunk of time. I no longer inwardly cringe when people ask me about my release date. After months of so little going on that it all seems unreal, the activity is beginning to pick up: my editor has asked for an author photo to show at a sales meeting; we’ve now completed two revisions and some tweaks; she has my acknowledgements page; and, at long last, my book is graduating to the line edit stage. (Oh my gosh, that sentence was complicated to write and I wonder if I got the colon and semicolons right? Anyone?) I also know, vaguely, that some people somewhere are doing some serious pontification on my cover art.

Meanwhile, back at home, I can suddenly hear a low level buzz. Opportunities are starting to come in: I now have a tutoring job for a very talented 12-year-old who writes her own middle-grade books; I’ve taught a week writing workshop for teens; I’ve spoken to SCBWI people about being on a debut panel at a conference next fall; and our School of the Arts has asked me to speak to the high school creative writing class. (Oh my gosh, what is it with me and semicolons today?)

This is just what I wanted and dreamed would happen, but, like always, here comes the neurotic side, saying, “Wait! Your book comes out in a year? That’s almost no time when it comes to pre-release marketing. You have to get going, as in N-O-W! Start visiting Goodreads. Arrange blog tours. Find someone to make a book trailer. Look into getting a publicity person. Set up speaking arrangements at book fairs….” And that’s when I realize how little I know about marketing my own book. To make matters more confusing, I’ve been reading blogs about how word of mouth is pretty much an organic occurrence and that the writer has only a limited ability to generate sales, despite many of us devoting hours daily to our websites or personal blogs or visiting Twitter and Facebook three times a day.

I know I have a huge education ahead of me as I start to count down this final year before release. I have so many questions about what I should or should not bother doing. It seems that our technology explosion has made the world of marketing so much more complex for authors than it was twenty years ago. There is so much you can do in the age of Internet, and I am finding it daunting to wrap my mind around the options. I grew up with the assumption that having a book published meant that writers would only be expected to spend more time in the writing cave, creating new works to keep their audience happy. And while, logically, this still seems like a sound idea, I can’t help but think that’s nowhere good enough anymore. I am beginning to worry that the marketing beast will take over my life, leaving me little time to write the next book.

Can't lose sight of what I love most, even if it means I can't do it all

I am excited. And I am lost. And I am scared. And I am excited. Because now the book feels real, and with that comes the responsibility to do what I can to assure that I’m not a “One Hit Wonder.” On the other hand, the best way to be a “One Hit Wonder” is to stop creating stories that make a difference. The question is, how to find the balance?

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11 Comments

Filed under Book Promotion, Happiness, Social Media, Writing

11 responses to “The Countdown (and the Freak Out) Begins

  1. J. Anderson Coats

    Yeah, balance is hard. In some ways, having the Day Job makes it easier because it puts writing time at a premium, causing me to stand over it like a starving wolf. Someone has to be bleeding from more than two places for me to give up writing time.

    But most of my social media time comes from my coffee and lunch breaks at the Day Job. I can make a quick Facebook post or tweet something without feeling like I’m taking time away from writing.

    But I know if I didn’t have the Day Job, it would be a challenge to set up a mental schedule that would let me feel like I’m giving creation and promotion equal time. I think my schedule would have to be literal. Having a writing computer that’s not hooked up to the internet helps, too.

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  2. L.B. Schulman

    Wow, what a novel idea (!) to have a computer without Internet….and it sounds terrifying at the same time. So, J., are you saying that you will not be promoting your book that much because writing time is at a premium? And does that make you feel nervous? I am curious how others look at this. I’d like to stop thinking about all the things I should be doing.

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      I’m definitely promoting the book, but I decided long ago what forms of promotion I was going to focus on and what I was going to let slide. And I mean it’s an actual, physical list.

      I want to leverage my strengths and time and resources so I can maintain a visible online presence as well as make myself available to my community. What I *don’t* want is to overextend myself and feel exhausted and surly. Yeah, I want the book to do well, but I want to enjoy this year too, and I won’t if I’m constantly second-guessing myself.

      Since I can do a lot of promotion stuff between the cracks of the Day Job, I’ve managed to hive off writing time as its own discrete and inviolate unit. Which I need to have for all kinds of reasons, but mostly because writing makes me happy more days than it doesn’t.

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  3. It’s hard to know what is best to spend time on, isn’t it? It seems like every time I commit myself to the idea of doing one type of promotion, I hear that that type of promotion doesn’t really work. Then I hear its something we all should be doing. So much conflicting information out there. So I’ve decided my bottom line is on what I feel is enjoyable or that I am good at. I’m not going to pass up anything that lands in my lap, but I also am not going to knock myself out doing things I hate doing when there is no clear indication those things work any better than the things I enjoy doing.

    Then I read what you wrote LB, and it worries me. I find myself falling victim to that comparison thing–oh no! She’s already taught a workshop, I’m behind schedule already! Ugh.

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  4. L.B. Schulman

    What you do makes perfect sense to me, Jeannie. I never thought of it that way. If we do what we like, then we don’t feel resentful of it. And there is a lot of cool “promotion” type activities, such as school visits, which I am really looking forward to. But don’t bother comparing yourself to me. I know all about your various talents, and you will come out smelling like the rose. Me? Well, let’s not go there…..

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  5. Natalie Dias Lorenzi

    Last weekend I went to an SCBWI event, and one writer said that when she writes, she sits at her desk, and when she does marketing things, she sits in another spot. J., I like your idea of doing promo-type things during breaks at work. As a teacher, though, I can’t do that because sites like Facebook and Twitter are blocked. :-/

    I do like the idea of writing down ideas, and one of the speakers at the conference talked about that. I did brainstorm a to-do list, and my next step will be to map it out time-wise.

    Thanks for getting the gears going again on this, L.B.!

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    • J. Anderson Coats

      I sit in different spots, too. My writing computer is downstairs at the dining-room table, my social media/promotion/internet-enabled computer is upstairs in the guest room. It really does make a nice psychological break between one activity and another.

      It stinks that the social media sites are blocked for you at work. But I guess you could always work on blog posts or sketch out presentations or contact bloggers for interviews. That’s what I’d do, anyway! I’m bad at using my lunch break for eating lunch.

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  6. Cynthia Levinson

    This post is so relevant to me RIGHT NOW. I want to be working on my WIP but I keep getting whip-lashed by promos for the book-to-be. Like yours, LB, mine are exciting–an article in Hunger Mountain, a blog, four (count them: four) separate presentations at three national teacher conventions. And, the book won’t be out for another four months. Who knows what else might develop in that time? But, the presentations are very time-consuming, especially since each is on a different topic. I’ve spent much of the last several days just trying to figure out how to design, make, and carry on the plane an 8′ by 4′ poster for one of them. The work-in-progress is more like an idea-in-progress.

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  7. I’m right there in the freak-out stage with you, Lisa. My original pub season was Spring 2013, which seemed agonizingly distant in the post-apocalyptic future, but allowed me to plan for a leisurely editing and promo-planning schedule (assuming the Apocalypse doesn’t occur). All of that turned on its head when my pub date was moved up to Fall 2012. On the one hand, I’m thrilled to be able to say my book will be out “next year.” On the other hand, I’m scrambling to do all that I think needs to be done. For now, I’m going with the strategy expressed by a few of your other commenters, i.e., sticking with what feels fun, worthwhile and manageable. Seriously, it’s the only way to keep your sanity.

    Best of luck with your own pre-pub year!

    Jeanne

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  8. L.B. Schulman

    Wow, Jeanne, that’s a great compliment to bumped up. It means your book is so awesome, it didn’t require much work! 🙂 Maybe we should put our head together about ideas so we aren’t wasting time individually freaking when we could be team freaking.

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  9. Pingback: I Have a Confession to Make… | EMU's Debuts

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