THE WICKED AND THE JUST came out two weeks ago tomorrow. I was planning to post about how I went about promoting it, what exactly I did, what worked and what didn’t. . .
. . . until I realized I didn’t really know what worked and what didn’t. Sure, I did a bunch of interviews and guest posts. I held a giveaway (which ends tomorrow, if you’re interested). I went on a blog tour and my fabulous agency siblings threw me a weeklong party.
But I have no way of quantifying outcomes. I can’t know which of the specific promotional things I did resulted (or will result) in people buying the book. I won’t have any concrete sales numbers for months, and things like Amazon rank are an arbitrary measure that only tells you one thing, and not the thing I’m interested in.
What I found most interesting about the promotion I did for W/J was how it changed my sense of control over the whole debut process.
I have a wonderful publicist at Harcourt. She is diligent, tireless, and a joy to work with, but 98% of what she does on my behalf happens in a black box. Publishers tend to hold these cards close to the vest and I’m okay with that. I fed her information about what I was doing, but it went into the black box and I have no idea what became of it.
Internal decisions about W/J like catalog placement, ARC distribution, outreach, sales backing – those got made at such a stratospheric level that I had (and still have) only an intellectual understanding of those outcomes. There was no way I could do anything about those.
But what I could do was buy 500 postcards, write messages by hand, and mail them to every public library and indie bookstore in my state. What I could do was band together with other local kidlit writers and arrange book tours. What I could do was get on Twitter and just chat with bloggers, librarians and readers about anything from cats to kids to the weather.
There’s already a lot of letting go during the debut process. Promotion is one way a writer can get back some sense of control, that you’re actually steering this little boat and not drifting with the tide.* That sense of authority builds confidence, and confidence will let you relax a little. And when you relax, even a little, it’ll be that much easier to enjoy the whole crazymaking ride.
* This is not to say you should go overboard and do too much. Just enough to wrestle back control of the tiller. I will now retire this metaphor, as it’s getting tiresome.