So long, farewell, auf wiedersehen, good night.
I hate to go and leave this pretty sight.*
-Oscar Hammerstein and Richard Rogers
Dearest Emu’s and beyond…
When Adi “Appleblossom Catbiscuits” Rule contacted me about joining Emu’s Debuts shortly after I had my first book contract as an EMLA client (Sigh. Faint. Swoon.), I was thrilled (Yay! A new tribe of writers) and overwhelmed (What? A whole new listserv? A whole new onslaught of communication? On top of revisions and copy edits and promotion and, and, and…Oy!). Yeah… at times, it was a lot (Singing opera to my computer?!?!) but joining you mob of birds was one of the best things I ever did.
Now it’s time to leave.
Damnit. I don’t want to leave. I didn’t think I would have to except well, really, after your debut has debuted, you have stepped into a new reality. Simply, you are no longer preparing for the debut, you are promoting that book and writing the next one. It’s time to go.
Before I do, a couple of thoughts:
I went to lunch with a friend of mine recently. He was recounting how much the music business has changed. “It used to be that labels would sign artists with the idea that those artists develop their craft over time and the labels would be there to support them. Now artists are signed and if their product isn’t a hit, well, you know the story.”
I could see the similarities with our business. Many editors have become agents because they want to be in the business of helping a writer grow their career. Publishing is changing and no one really knows how or where it will go. It’s crazy making but it’s going to be okay. Writers, like musicians, have a community. We stick together. We help each other. We cheer and support and tell one another it’s going to be okay. Because it will. No matter what happens. This crazy world will always want storytellers. Whether we publish traditionally or paint on walls or self publish or drip blood from our veins. The world wants stories because stories lift us out of our lives. They make us laugh and cry and think and sigh. They make our lives better.
So everyday, think about your community: other writers, readers, editors, agents and do what you can to weave us together. Gratitude, praise, cheering, thoughtful comments. (That’s how I will stay connected to you birds now.) It all matters. Because no matter how fast this world moves or how much the sands of publishing shift beneath us, we are storytellers, weavers of words and worlds and we are responsible for how our community grows.
Which leads me to my next bit of wisdom. It’s not really mine. It comes from my agent Erin Murphy. A year ago, I was totally stressing about promotion: How do I do it? Should I hire someone to help me? What do I do first, second, third? She said: “Write the next book.” What? But. But. But. Aren’t I supposed to…?
Write the next book. If your readers like your book, they will want to read the next one. Your publisher wants you to write the next book because it will sell the first one. You need to write the next book and the one after that because that’s who you are now: an author. A published storyteller. A world builder. Write the next book and the one after that so you can keep growing.
What about promotion you wonder? Well, it’s definitely a job you have now because you have this book and you do want to do things to get it in the hands of readers and generate interest. But it’s a balancing act. Here’s what I do: I respond to everything that comes in. Awards. Speaking engagements. School visits. But I’m careful about how much I have to go out and generate. You don’t want to spend a whole lot of time, energy and resources (i.e. your writing capital) promoting. For instance, If you’ve been invited to a book festival in a city, great. Go. Then spend some energy putting together a school visit in that city. Make it make sense. But if the promotion is taking too much time away from writing, then you are out of balance.
Yeah, so that’s it. I’ve cleared off my desk. I’m out the debut door. But I’m right down the hallway. In a room with a whole bunch of other authors. I’m saving you a spot.
*A word about song lyrics. Trying to get the rights to use them in your novels is soul-sucking process. Avoid it at all cost: http://annerallen.blogspot.com/2013/03/so-you-want-to-use-song-lyrics-in-your.html