Sunday, October 21, 2012

The Unenthusiasm for my book runneth under

One of the first people to buy my print book "19 Years 10 Months 24 Days" after I got my first shipment was my mom-in-law. She texted me that she could stop at the library when I was at work there and buy it quick. I said, sounds good. The next day, mom-in-law comes in. "Hi," I say, "How are you?" "Great," she says. "I'm here to buy your book!" "Oh!" I say, "I totally forgot it!"

When I was a Freshmen in college, I'd always imagined this epic elation I would feel about having a book out. I'd tell everybody and it would be so amazing and wonderful and I'd skip through fields of Literary Poppies.

And now I just forget about it when I actually have someone willing to give me real money for my book?

I did get her a copy, but the completely un-Authorly Behavior on my part continued.

A day or two later I set up a facebook event for my book signing and invited some people. At work at the grocery the next day one of my co-workers asked me, "Oh hey, whose book is that you're promoting?" So, I told her it was mine. No one at work knew I'd published my book. They were all surprised and excited, but I felt kind of weird about the attention. I'd brought some book cards and book signing invites to put in the break room, but I ended up not leaving them there.

Then yesterday a friend came through my grocery line and was all, "Tell me about your book!" I told him about it, YA Underground Railroad time-travel. I then said to look for my next book, a zombie book, I planned to publish in a few months. He kind of laughed and said I didn't seem very excited about this book if I was already trying to promote the second one.

Even before all this has happened, and when my book became available, my first move was to write this blog post, "Don't buy my book, unless you want to."

So, what's the deal? Am I really that ashamed of my book that I'm not posting a million status updates about it or plastering posters all over town?

For the most part it's because I've been too busy with my pen name Matilda's first book that I plan to publish in February/March. Now that I know how this whole publishing thing works the way I want it to for my goals, it's on and I've been working non-stop on this other book. I'm in a whole different mindset. But, there is more to it than just that.

I wrote 19 Years to learn how to write a novel. I published it to learn how to publish. I think there are some painfully obvious literary devices I learned in school in it (parallel characters, I got those), the history is a tad romanticized (though I tried to be historically accurate), and the beginning relies heavily on my own experiences (it isn't until the main character Sophie starts jumping back in time that the tone turns from memoir-ish to fiction).

I knew all these things and I published it anyway because I still think it's a good story and one that is well put together. Things like structure and character development were important to me in the book and I spent time with these things. But honestly, I didn't go into publishing the book really expecting to promote it right away or for it to even have better sales than the other books I have lined up. I know the regular patrons at the library are interested in local history so a book about the Underground Railroad in Nebraska works for them, and I've gotten a nice reception there. However, the majority of my friends and peer authors are more in the blood/action/guts/horror/kick-ass protag category. So, I'm not spending much time promoting my super-PC time travel book to them. You can't market to everyone.

Now, if someone in the blood/action camp wants to look into 19 Years, that's great. I'm not saying that I think all readers are trapped into the box of genre and can't enjoy a book they wouldn't typically read. I'm just not spending much time promoting it to them. And right now, I'm groovy with that, even if I've sold less than 30 books.

My plan is to write a majority of my books under Matilda Loveshack (and yes, I will write about why I chose that name), mainly because they all fit into a horror/supernatural category with naughty words. Under my AJ name I plan to write more non-fiction, and explore writing about disability and maybe try to get some of the articles on literary criticism I've written into academic type journals. But I will keep the naughty words down when I write under AJ. Lastly I have some romance/erotica storylines that I plan to begin a third pen name for.

All this may seem very complicated and annoying. And on paper (or screen), it kind of is. For all my plotlines I have put together "project folders" − a folder containing a rough outline, some written scenes and potential character profiles stuck together with the working title taped to the front. AJ has two, Matilda has seven and my romance name has three. And each has some short stories I've assigned them to publish for free as short story ebooks.

My goal is to have books in many "genres" out so when I go to events (flea markets more likely, let's not lie) I can have all my pen names out and readers that want romance, or historical fiction, or zombies can have their picks. Then as I build, I will promote in line with what the pen name is all about rather than individual books. Of course I'll always have to promote individual books, but I see them more as building blocks right now, and my energy is going into constructing the books as they will work together under the pen name.

Will my grand plan work out like the fortress I have in mind or be more like an unstable, lopsided sandcastle? Who knows. But I do know it works for me, and the pen names have given me focus with my work, and a sense of purpose and organization.

19 Years means a lot to me. When I'm feeling down or lost or trapped I pull out the first handwritten draft in the huge three-ring binder that has snippets I wrote in high school. And it makes me feel better. It is worth something to me. Writing and publishing the book is a huge first step and one that I'm very proud of. But no, I don't carry my business card/book card in my pocket to hand out to whoever might come through my grocery line. I may be a little reserved when explaining my YA Underground Railroad story to certain people. It doesn't mean I think it's bad and I'm not confident or that I don't want to "make it" as an author. I just see the book as having its own place. All my books will have their own place, and I will do them the best by knowing where that place is.

But seriously, stay tuned for the zombie book. It is made of awesome.

Post Script: I wrote this then had to run to work at the grocery. I hadn't been there five minutes when someone brought up my book and a couple people wanted more info. Luckily I had exhibited some Authorly Behavior and stuck a few of my book rack cards in my glove box so I had some to give out. I even acted (gasp!) excited. It kind of woke me up to the importance of at least having my business card on me, or the book, should the topic arise. There is hope for me yet!

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