My pub date is in 5 days! Final count down, people… this is it. And since I’ve been posting a lot about how “super busy” I’ve been lately, without giving any real concrete details, I thought I would take a few minutes and outline everything I’ve done in the lead up to my book launch, going all the way back to the beginning.
The Blog: I started the blog back in grad school, a decade ago. It didn’t take off at first because it was more like a journal, but then I started blogging about the lessons I was learning as a writer (missteps along with triumphs) and it started to feel useful. That’s when more people started tuning in.
About five years ago I set up a MailChimp account and programmed it to pull posts directly from my site for a weekly blog post digest.
About six months ago I gave my website, blog, and newsletter template a design overhaul to match the marketing of the book. I got an official author photo and updated my profile image on EVERYTHING to that image .
Social Media: I ditched Facebook because they were charging me to boost posts that nobody ever saw anyway. Instead I focused on Twitter (where I share links to blog posts) and Instagram (where I share more personal photos). I engage on these two platforms daily and have, over the years, built up a pretty good following.
Research: Whenever I read a book I loved I would study the acknowledgements to find the name of their agent and then look them both up online (the author and the agent). I would follow them on Twitter, read their blogs, all of it.
I knew from the get-go that I wanted to go the traditional publishing route, so I started attending every panel, conference, reading I could (at first, with two small kids, it was hard, but it’s gotten easier as they’ve gotten older).
People would often offer help I wasn’t ready for (agents willing to read a query letter, book bloggers willing to do a review, etc.) I kept their cards and wrote on them to remind myself what they had offered so I could circle back to them. I’ve learned that it’s really nice to be able to say: “we met at the (fill in the blank) Writer’s Conference and you said I could contact you about (fill in the blank).”
These kinds of connections helped me to get support for the book launch in the form of blurbs, press, reviews, all of it.
I also made notes when I saw what other authors did well. For instance, if you’ve never been to an author event with Lisa See, you are missing out. She is so good in front of a crowd. She’s super engaged with readers (Skyping to join book groups) and shares all of her research online. She’s a great self-promoter, without being gimmicky. It’s something I really admire.
Volunteering is a great way to see behind the curtain of the places you want to be as an author.
Literary Journals: Before I ever submitted a short story, I worked on the staff of my grad program’s literary journal. I learned so much about what matters to the people on the receiving end of submission. Priceless.
Pasadena Literary Alliance: I volunteered my webs design and social media skills to help the PLA with a redesign a while back, and they invited me to be part of a new group they were forming called Open Book. They host author events and I got to sit in on the discussions about who they wanted to host and how they vetted those people even before approaching them (for instance – authors with videos online of themselves being interviewed always got more consideration because we could see how they were in front of a crowd).
LitWeekLA: My weekly newsletter about literary events in Los Angeles has allowed me to promote thousands of writers and support local bookstores. It has also taught me about good book titles, and cover art, and what kinds of events people are doing where. It has also given me a platform to promote my own readings now that the time has come. It’s a labor of love, for sure, but totally worth it.
After the Book Launch
All of these efforts took place over the last decade, as I worked on the novel, and it feels like it’s all finally coming together around the book launch to create some momentum around my writing career. The challenge now is to keep it all going.
Because it’s proving really challenging to keep carving out time to write, while doing all this other stuff. I’m really trying for an hour a day, but it only really happens about three times a week. Still, I guess 3 hours a week is better than none.
If you haven’t yet, you can order your copy of “142 Ostriches” online, or come on out to one of my author events and get a copy in person. Here’s hoping our paths cross in the next few weeks, before I nestle back into my writer’s hole and don’t come out for another few years.