Carole’s recent post about letting go of control got me thinking about my own tendencies. My debut picture book, Step Right Up: How Doc and Jim Taught the World About Kindness is scheduled for an April 2016 release, barring another delay. Fingers crossed. It’s been a long road since the editor first expressed interest in 2011. Now that the release is six months away, I’m in both reflective mode, and pre-release planning mode.
So much has changed for me since 2011, and certainly since I began playing with the story in 2008. I’ve grown and evolved as a writer. A lot! Since this book went under contract, I’ve written four books for Capstone, sold En Garde! Abraham Lincoln’s Dueling Words to Peachtree (that release has been moved to 2018) and, in August, sold King of the Tightrope: When the Great Blondin Ruled Niagara, also to Peachtree (2017 release). I’m honored to have been awarded the SCBWI book launch award for Step Right Up, and a Work-in-Progress Grant from SCBWI for my as-yet-unsold picture book biography, Tomboy: The Daring Life of Blanche Stuart Scott. My cup runneth over. It is unlikely it that I will ever see this abundance of good fortune again. And all before my debut trade book releases. I am inhaling the sweetness of it all because, for now, my words are insulated from the world.
As writers, the only thing we can control is the words on the page. Up to now, all positive feedback related to my books has come from my agent, editors, publishers, and other select publishing professionals. Even the inevitable rejections along the way have been contained within the industry. I am acutely aware that, in six months, when Step Right Up appears on book shelves, my words and I will be exposed to the court of public opinion. Yikes! I will have no control over reviews, awards, sales numbers, the reaction of young readers. None. Nada. Zilch! What if people hate my book? What if they call me names? What if my research is questioned, or someone criticizes…something? What if, what if, what if?
There is only one way I can think of to prepare myself emotionally for public responses to Step Right Up: to remind myself that I wrote the book for me, or for the ten-year-old girl I was. And for the children today who share my sensibilities: my love of animals, my curiosity and wonder, and my deep desire for a kinder world. A part of my heart went into this book. When review copies are finally sent out, I will tattoo this reminder onto my psyche in hopes that barbs won’t sting too badly, and that any (hopeful) accolades will stay in perspective. None of us should worry about what isn’t within our control. But we do. I do.
The other side of preparing for my book’s release is thinking ahead to marketing and promotional ideas. Fellow EMU Debuter Laurie Thompson once shared her fantastic spreadsheet detailing her marketing plan for How to be a Changemaker. I can’t find it now, but it was truly impressive. Sadly, I’m not as tech-minded, and I am the queen of shortcuts. For the past few years, this composition book has served as my drop-file repository of marketing ideas.
You can tell that it was never intended for public viewing, hence the organized chaos of it. I approached it the way I approach my change jar, where I empty the contents of my wallet when it gets too heavy. I have categorized sections of the composition book by reviewers, swag, website development, book trailers, book fairs and conferences, lists of people who should be notified about my book, swag, social media tips, launch party ideas, nonprofits relating to my subject, school visits, awards, notes from publicists, and random flyers, directories, and miscellaneous information that might spark a promotional idea. Whew! Unlike the change jar, I can’t put a quantitative value on my ideas. There are lots of guesses involved when planning a promotional effort. What works? What doesn’t?
Ultimately, in these months before my book releases into the world, there is quiet amid the anticipation. Amid the planning. Amid the adrenaline rush. Before My book becomes the world’s book, I am secretly coveting the unblemished euphoria of having created, while weaving a piece of my heart into the text. That’s what all writers do, when they write for themselves, right?
Donna Janell Bowman is a Texas author with so many stories and so many curiosities in her head, they sometimes spill out in the form of books for young readers. You can learn more about her at her temporary website http://www.donnajanellbowman.com, which is currently being redesigned.