There was a time, during my “making the cover” phase of this process, where I actually thought the tough stuff would soon be behind me. The photo shoot, the design and layout decisions for the book–that stuff was hard. Publicity? That’s the fun part, right?.
Wake-up call. Until recently I had a nebulous, vaguely glamorous idea of what publicists actually do, and it usually involved setting up launch parties and interviews and schmoozing people while noshing on canapes and washing it down with Prosecco. Certainly not the slog that I am finding myself in now.
Which is not to say it isn’t fun, but more to say that it’s a lot of work. Work that takes a lot of time, which has only served to remind me that as writers we seem to be stuck forever at the junior high school dance, anxious about approaching others, ever mindful of rejection, even during those times when we should be basking in the glow of an accomplishment. I don’t think anything can top that moment when I found out I had my first book deal: on that day I could linger in the fantasies of my upcoming tour, when I’d read in front of large audiences of adoring fans at Barnes and Noble and the major indie bookstores, even in cities where I knew no one. I could picture myself interviewed by the prestigious lit mags, answering questions with equal parts deep insight and hilarious self-deprecation. I could imagine all the literary prizes I’d be nominated for and begin to memorize that list of dear people to acknowledge in my thank you speech.
Needless to say, that moment was fleeting. I quickly realized that I was on my own, unless I was ready to shell out the big bucks and hire a publicist.(I’m not)
The first thing I got on was relatively easy and fun: creating and ordering swag. I decided to order postcards and bookmarks first, which of course took hours to design mostly because I suck and because the tools on these websites aren’t all that user-friendly, at least to this user. Then I upped the ante (thanks to Living Social, where I got a sweet deal for Vistaprint) and decided to order some other knick-knacks, like magnets and thank-you cards and even a couple of mugs and t-shirts, because clearly people want to think of my book when drinking their coffee or even better advertise for me when on the Stairmaster at the gym.
What was I going to do with 1000 postcards and 2000 bookmarks? (I ordered 1000, but the company made a mistake so now I have 2000) Go to bookstores, of course, promote the book, persuade them to order a few copies. But also leave them at random bars and coffee shops and hand them out to friends who’ll politely accept them and then (probably) silently curse me, because what in the hell are they going to do with 10 postcards of my book? Make a bonfire? I’m thinking I should go around the subway cars and put them on people’s laps like those deaf people did in the eighties with their sign language cards.
After that it was time to think about readings. The question was: where do I even begin? The answer: ask my friends! So I sent out emails to friends all over the country asking for advice about bookstores and reading series and LGBT centers and what-not, and I was overwhelmed with responses. Which was really great of everyone! Then I had to sift through this barrage of information and find the contact info and come up with a pitch for each place. Mainly the pitch would be the same: my bio, my blurbs, synopsis, my author’s note on the book. The rest of the email would be customized to appeal to that particular location and why I would be a good fit for them.
A friend of mine told me that for her book she had someone pretend to be her publicist and call on her behalf. Genius. I haven’t done that yet, but if you have a good voice, you might want to expect a call from me in the near future. I have a feeling bookstores respond better to publicists. We shall see.
Not every bookstore responds. Still waiting to hear back from some, yet only one so far was kind of rude, and just said, “Yeah, no, we’re going to pass on this” (please read in bitchiest high-school cheerleader voice) and quite a few said what amounted to a “maybe,” which is just a more polite way of saying “no.” (Of course I’m not smart enough to understand these maybes so these folks are going to have to be much clearer if they don’t want me.) Many asked me if I knew enough people in their city to come out to a reading, or if I had someone else that I could read with whose book was a “good thematic fit” with mine. (I’m working on it!)
I won’t get into details yet but so far NYC is looking pretty good, with a few events lined up for May and June and a few more in the fall. Other than that, I have tentative but unconfirmed events planned for Atlanta, Miami, San Francisco and Philadelphia, and working on quite a few more places. ALL of these are still in the planning phase so who knows.
The one event I’ll mention now: my book launch party! May 5th at the amazing Gowanus Ballroom. Come one, come all! Lots of entertainment in store for the evening, including the gender-bending rock band The Discosticks, the amazing singer.songwriter Maya Solovey and the fire-dancing skills of Susan Burns. Here are some photos of previous events at the Gowanus Ballroom:
Looking forward to seeing many of you there or at other events! Happy April!