At LCC in Denver recently, I had the wonderful fortune of moderating a panel on the creative process titled “Where Ideas Come From.” Imagining the four delightful, witty, smart women on the panel (Donna Anderson, Jane Cleland, Alex Sokoloff and Penny Warner) might have an even greater affinity for the analogy than I, I suggested writing books, mysteries, is a little like being pregnant. The germ of an idea gets planted in a writer’s mind and gestates.
Within six weeks of the conference, I gave birth twice. And now I have post-partum blues.
The first birth was the release of my stand-alone suspense thriller Island Life. I’m not sure I’ll ever get over the thrill of seeing ideas take form in the pages of a published book. Hardcover, trade paperback, mass market, makes no difference. Seeing it sitting on a shelf next to books of authors I read and admire seems to give the ideas within it more validity, more meaning.
In the months before publication, I took off my writer’s hat and put on my marketing cap, doing all the things I could reasonably afford, to spread the word about this new child about to come into the world. I printed up business cards with the book’s stunning cover on one side. I had postcards printed and sent them to bookstores and reviewers. I made sure my publisher sent out ARCs and hired a publicist to send out more.
I designed a web page solely for the book, produced a book video on my own and posted it both on my web page and on all the right sites—YouTube, MySpace, Flickr, CrimeSpace, etc. I engaged in NSBSP (not-so-blatant-self-promotion) on forums like DorothyL and CrimeSpace, careful not to break the BSP rules.
I attended LCC and plan to be at MITG, arranged a launch party at my local bookstore, offered free autographed ARCs on DorothyL and free autographed copies of the real McCoy on authorbuzz.com.
Reviews have been very good. But is it enough? I spent far more than I expect to make on the book in hopes of building exposure, building the portfolio of positive reviews my books continue to garner. I built it, but will they come?
Time will tell. So much in this business is serendipitous. Stephen White, the LCC Guest of Honor this year, said in his interview with Elaine Viets that the reason he became an NYT best-selling author is that the lead title the month his second book came out in paperback wasn’t ready yet. In a meeting to decide which book should take its place, his publisher’s editorial staff decided right before going to lunch to make White’s book the lead title that month. Being lucky is as important as being talented. More so.
All I can do now is continue to look for inexpensive ways to keep promoting it for a month or two until the “new book” window closes. Yesterday, I sent copies to Oprah and Kelly Ripa with sticky notes on the covers that said, “Great beach reading—with a message!” and a press release tucked inside with an unusual hook. You never know …
My second birthing experience happened just the other day when I finished the first manuscript in a new series I’m writing. I spent a few days going through it, fixing a typo here, a rough sentence there. I’m proud of it. I like it. It may have problems, so I’m giving it to a round of first readers for feedback. But I think it’s good enough that I also shipped it off to an agent.
After all the tightening and polishing, after living with these new characters for eighteen months until they told their stories (I write slowly, never could understand how some authors churn out two books a year), I let them go out into the world. Will the book find a publisher? Will it sell? Will it be the breakthrough novel I hope it is?
I don’t know.
All I know is that the only cure for writer’s post-partum blues is a congratulatory glass of champagne before getting back to work on something new.
I write. It’s what I do.