I’ve done lot of readings over the years, so it’s no longer the public speaking that scares me so much. (Although my knees always shake before I stand before the microphone; I’ve learned that no one ever died from trembling knees.)
The media blitz for a book you’ve edited, like the Jane’s Stories anthologies I’ve compiled in the past (most with the help of sisters Janesters), is not the same as putting yourself out there as the name writ large on the front of a novel. Yes, there’s been publicity and readings and interviews based on my poetry chapbooks, but, frankly, the audience for poetry is small and most poetry publishers don’t do a full court media press.
All that changes now. My publisher, Twisted Road, is as serious as the proverbial heart attack, and my editor will definitely push me to get out there and gather lots of exposure. And I want to. I want to sell books for this publisher for two reasons. First of all, Twisted Road publishes primarily women’s stories and marginalized voices, and I believe the world needs many more women’s stories, so that we can have a social structure and social policy based on the reality of women’s lives, instead of on some romanticized notion of femininity. Heaven knows, we need those marginalized voices who look at what we’re doing aslant, from the unexamined view. Secondly, very simply, if I sell lots of books, I will have a platform from which I can publish more.
Let me be clear: I don’t expect ever to make a lot of money as an author. That’s almost impossible, unless you write very popular, throw-away fiction, like James Patterson, or you are a world-changing phenomenon like Maya Angelou or Neil Gaiman. We authors make pennies on the book and that mostly goes to pay the hotel rooms, meals, and travel tickets required to get from one book store to another. Small presses do not pay authors’ travel costs as the giant publishers do. And to be published by the giant publishers, you have to get their attention with your previous successes, or else have the luck of Athena.
So why bother? Why do I do it? It’s simple, really: I write to know what I find true about the world in all its dizzy splendor and chaos, so that I can discuss it with you, the reader. Writing a book is starting a letter to the world, as Dickinson did with her poems, and listening for the reply.
So as I go around on this upcoming book tour, I’ll talk with readers about what I find important in Eve’s Garden, and hear their views on the same. It isn’t necessary that the readers all agree with me, just that we enter the same conversation.
Which brings me back to my nervousness. There are things in this book that will be controversial. It deals pretty openly with women and fundamentalist religion, for example, and also with the precariousness of teenage girls trying to become independent and exploring their sexuality. It digs as deeply as I can into what it means to be an outsider––by identity, by race, by sensibility. And about the saving graces that help us navigate all this, especially girl friends, family, a sense of place, and community.
With exposure comes criticism. Inevitably. I’m okay with that. Like Elton John (See below), I can take the criticism, though I hope it’s fair. And even if it’s not, I have thick skin, and will survive as long as someone out there thinks I didn’t waste my time in the writing. Near-universal disapprobation might make me pause, but I’ve been there before (Fighting for civil rights, and the ERA, peace, and reproductive rights in the early years of those issues will make you tough.) The good responses from early readers have convinced me that I will live to write again. Like Winston Churchill, I don’t quit.
There is no way I can do this alone, however. Do you know how much work goes into making a book successful? It’s mind-boggling. My novel isn’t even published yet, but everyday I have tasks that run from calling bookstore event coordinators to try for a reading, to re-doing publicity photos that didn’t come out well the first time, to writing this blog, to reading and approving edits (Still, with the typos!) And so much more. My upstairs carpets may never get cleaned till this publicity sprint is over.
I need your help. If you’re reading this, you’re a friend, or a sister or fellow writer, or someone who cares about some of the same things I do. Or all those things.
My good friends have asked, what do you need? And so, here I will tell you what you can do to help Eve’s Garden and me find our audience and get that conversation rolling. If you can help me with any one or all of these things, please let me know so I can send you kisses. And maybe bake you a cake.
What You Can Do to Help
1. You can start right now. Please leave a comment on this post below. Did you know that agents and publishers use blog post comments to determine an author’s “reach” and thus their ability to draw readers and sell books?
2. Twitter, Facebook, and Pinterest. Sure, tell all your friends you loved the book and recommend they preorder it (before September) or order it from my publisher’s website at https://twistedroadpublications.com/eves-garden/
There’s even more you can do with these social media sites. How about picking several of your favorite lines from the book and quoting them in your tweets and Facebook posts? On, Pinterest, you can create a Pin. and use the quotes to create fun Pins on Pinterest. Anything you can write or post to help your friends see what the book is about, or what you loved about reading it, will help.
3. Amazon reviews. Oh, please, if you have positive things to say about Eve’s Garden, say them here! I know we’re all a little miffed at Amazon right now, but good reviews here can really affect overall sales, so please post that review!
see that little “thumbs up” icon on the Amazon page, right below the title and author? Click it! Please!
Furthermore, did you know that you can vote “up” positive Amazon customer reviews? At the bottom of each review, where it asks, “Was this review helpful to you?” click yes, and it will help move that one higher on the page.
4. Goodreads. Not a Goodreads member? Please consider joining. I think you’ll enjoy reading about books and getting some insight from authors and reviews by other members. I have an author page there where you can leave me a comment. (See # 1 above!) And once you’re a member, you can do so much for your favorite authors. Add the book to your “read” list. Write a review. Rate the book. You can also create lists in (Listopia is another site where you can include the book in a list and “vote up” a book in existing lists. All of these things can increase a book’s visibility for potential readers.
5. Ask your library to stock the book. Even if you’ve already read it. You want everyone in your town to read it, don’t you? Some libraries have an online purchase request form, like the Fort Worth Pulic Library: http://fortworthtexas.gov/forms/default.aspx?ekfrm=59392&. Others will have Patron Request Forms at the checkout. Ask anyone behind the desk how to do it.
And once the book is in stock, please see if your library has a place for online reviews. Many do, like Charlotte Mecklenburg: http://www.cmlibrary.org/readers_club/reviews/revsub.asp
6. Recommend that your library invite me for an author reading or workshop. Librarians are good people to know, and most are happy to receive requests. Please let them know you enjoyed the book and think all your friends would love to meet me in person.
7. Ask your local bookstore to stock the book and to invite me for a reading. Even if you’ve already read it. This is one of the best ways to help, and I am happy to travel anywhere within reason.
8. Blog about the book. If you have a blog, please introduce me to your readers. I’d be glad to write a guest post, or let you interview me for the site. I like to meet new people!
9. Invite me for a living room reading. I really mean it: I love to talk to readers, not only about what I wrote, but about books in general.I’ll even bring the tea!
10. Have a Book Club? Please recommend that they read Eve’s Garden. I’d love to discuss it with them, in person or via Skype.
11. Teaching an English Lit class at college level? Please add Eve’s Garden to your syllabus, under Southern Literature or Women’s Literature or Romani Literature or some other rubric that fits. If you’d like a desk copy, please contact my publisher at email@example.com.
12. Please consider giving Eve’s Garden as a gift. Or leave a copy in your gynecologist’s waiting room. We are having this conversation, one woman, one man, one person at a time.
Of course, all this applies to all your favorite authors. I invite you to help push the conversations you want to see happen, by doing all these things for every author who has spoken to you through her writing.