Happily Ever After: What Happens Once Your Book Comes Out
My second novel just came out at the end of April, so I’ve now done this thing twice. Had a book release, that is. And one thing I can tell you doesn’t happen is that it doesn’t get any easier. If anything, I am more wracked with nerves upon the release of my follow-up than I was with my debut.
It took me thirteen years to get published, and the journey was fraught with near-misses and bitter disappointments. My debut novel was actually the eighth one I had written, sold by the third agent I worked with, after a series of fifteen almost-offers when interested editors were turned down by their editorial boards.
This uber long road meant that my family became a part of the struggle. When my “first” novel finally sold, it felt like a joint victory—and then a joint quest for me to stay in the game. After all, the only thing harder than getting published in the first place is building a lasting career as an author.
So my husband and I did the next logical thing. We rented out our house, traded in two cars for an SUV that could handle Denver in February, and withdrew the kids from first and third grades in order to “car-school” them. We then set out on what Shelf Awareness called the world’s longest book tour: 7 months and 35,000 miles across 45 states.
OK, maybe it wasn’t all that logical.
But thanks to booksellers, librarians, book club leaders, and most of all, readers, the world’s longest book tour did introduce my work to people who might otherwise not have seen it. And the “Let It Snow” tour was also fun and magical enough that with a second novel in the hopper, we decided to set out all over again.
Mine could resemble a Cinderella story in some ways. Long, lonely journey gives way to the sight of a beautiful, artfully produced novel on the shelves of equally beautiful bookstores. Nights spent talking to a room of one or one hundred about my favorite topic in the world—books. Cramming bites of muffin into my mouth as I moved from event to event.
But as all story lovers schooled by Disney know, fairy tales don’t end at the happily-ever-after. They begin there. What happens after your book comes out?
- You celebrate. I’ve been hearing from more and more authors that they herald the release of a new book with an e-announcement as opposed to a full-out launch party. But I am rather old-school and believe that the release of a book is worthy of a party. If you frequent a local bookstore, they will almost always be happy to host you. If you’re self-published and wish to find a different kind of venue, get creative. Wine bars, coffee houses, and even museums are all places where I’ve attended events that let an author share the joy of his or her big moment.
- You worry. I would advise you not to obsessively check your Amazon ranking, your publisher’s portal—it will almost certainly not be up-to-date anyway—or even your reviews. An author friend of mine shared the term self-Google…don’t do this either. My thinking on this is pretty straightforward. Anything really good you will hear about. Someone will send you the news that your book hit #9 on the Kindle charts, made the NEIBA bestseller list—or the NYT. Other than that, you’re looking at small, incremental changes—5 stars that make you smile here, 1 star that doesn’t there—and you have better things to do. Like…
- You get the word out. There is a rule of marketing called Six Impressions. That’s how many times someone has to see a name or a product or a title before it really begins to stick. So don’t lovingly craft a blog piece, then go look for an uptick in sales. Instead, think of what you’re doing as impression-building. The more guest posts, appearances in local media, face-to-face events, and online presence you build, the more chances there will be for someone to say, “Hey, I just heard about that book…” But, relatedly…
- You realize it’s not all about selling books. Don’t do what authors in the past were advised to do by media consultants, which is mention your book every chance you get—by its full and complete title—or blast your friends and even your enemies with every review you’ve received. Instead, comment meaningfully on people’s status updates. Get to know them and their lives. Whether you sell a book or you don’t, your life will be richer. Which brings me to what really happens after your book comes out.
Having a book out means that you’re now that most wonderful of creatures—an author. Stephen King says that a book unread is like a circle never closed. I would add that a book is a conversation between writer and reader. So get out there and converse. And then go start writing your next book.
Jenny Milchman’s journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she hit the road for seven months with her family on what Shelf Awareness called “the world’s longest book tour.” Her debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, reviewed in the New York Times and San Francisco Journal of Books, given the Mary Higgins Clark award, and is nominated for a Barry. Jenny is also the founder of Take Your Child to a Bookstore Day and chair of International Thriller Writers’ Debut Authors Program. Jenny’s second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road.