Thursday, March 21, 2013

The Serenity Prayer for Book Launches

I've been thinking about book launches lately because, well, I just had one, and a few friends of mine are getting ready for their own (I'll be inviting a couple of them to have a conversation here so be on the lookout - Barbara Taylor Sissel's going to be here next week and Robert Lewis next month).

Book launches are crazy making. They're the culmination of so much work - for me, inevitably, I can't even remember the first hazy notion that started the whole thing; so many revision rounds and adrenaline fueled jags and days of frustration have passed that I feel like I've gone around the globe a few times. Add to that all the editorial steps, the tasks in which one participates only peripherally, in traditional publishing anyway, but which still dot the landscape leading up to launch day: copy edits and cover discussions and marketing plans and publicity work. Time takes on a surreal quality: the longest I ever waited for a book to come out was two and a half years.

The hardest part for me is the promotion. I lack the "put-yourself-out-there"zest that some of my colleagues seem born with. (Please note that this isn't a criticism, even a veiled one; I envy people who can share their enthusiasm for their own work with gusto.) My promotion plan is to stammer, blush, shuffle, and do what Dana tells me.

You know I'm a huge fan of the serenity prayer, right? Anyone who's spent any time with me has probably been subjected to a twelve-step aphorism or two, but of all of them the SP is the big mama, the go-to for tough days (and easy days and every day). To refresh your memory:

God, grant me the serenity to accept the things I cannot change,
The courage to change the things I can,
And wisdom to know the difference.

Well, it works for book launches too, something I've been reminding myself about in the weeks since GARDEN OF STONES came out. 

What are the things we cannot change?

  • sales
  • reviews
  • distribution 
  • the amount of promotion being done by our publishers and marketing teams
  • the opinions of our family and friends
  • how well everyone else is doing

What are the things we can?

  • an appropriate amount of social media participation
  • giving more than we receive (and if you don't think I and everyone else notices how often you lend a helping hand - if you doubt that your generosity will come back to repay you many times over - then I'll see you at your new job at Wendy's)
  • figuring out what you're good at and enjoy and doing more of it
  • figuring out what hurts you and doing less of it 
  • willingness (a big mindfulness thing I've been working on; in short, it means doing things with your whole heart and without creating obstacles for yourself)
  • appropriate communication with your publishing team (they are not your babysitters/therapists)
  • gratitude - practice it every day

...and the wisdom to know the difference? Well, friends, I can't help you there. In my own case, it seems to come from making piles and piles of mistakes, getting up and dusting myself off every time, and getting older. Not much of a recipe, huh?

And the answer's going to be different for all of us. This post is going on a bit long so I'll save examples for another day, but there are some wonderful, joyous voices out there who are a pleasure to listen to as they share their enthusiasm for their books. And there are some incredibly talented writers who are even worse at this stuff than me. 

Here are a few of my successes this time around.  In the things I cannot change department:

  • Not checking amazon numbers much - the honest truth is about twice a week. I would prefer to lie to you and say I never check but that's too hard even for me!
  • Never checking Bookscan 
  • Spending zero time searching for other outlets where my book might be on sale
  • Ignoring Goodreads reviews - I've looked at them maybe twice (and okay, yeah, I do send the 1-star ones to my friends sometimes; we have a magic practice where we take away their power for each other, usually with gales of laughter and pointing out the grammar mistakes, such as "this book suck's")
  • Leaving my agent/editor in peace, knowing that if there is something I need to know about sales, they'll tell me

The things I can:

  • Listen hard to Dana, my publicist, as well as the rest of the team and figure out where I can improve
  • Turning in all requests - blogs, speaking engagements etc. - on time
  • Kicking as much ass as possible at my events
  • Keeping my relationships thriving 
  • Staying present in social media
  • Remembering every kindness that has been done for me and trying to pay it down the line

...oh, and the number one thing you and I can do to keep ourselves sane as our little book ventures out into the world: keep writing. Seize your next project with your teeth and shake it like a wet dog. Remember why we're here - for the words. Read a brilliant book and compliment the author; compliment yourself for a nice sentence now and then. Don't let a day go by when you were a promotor instead of an author, even if you just scrawl a few sentences in a notebook before you go to bed in a hotel in a strange city. 

Okay, best luck to all you launchers out there! 

1 comment:

Barbara Sissel said...

I am late to read this, Sophie, but I think it's good because tomorrow is my wonderful book launch day and I needed to read exactly this. In fact, I'm printing a copy. There's so much here that I need to remember. Thank you for sharing what you've learned and thank you more than I can say for reaching a hand out to me. I'm so glad we're friends!