At my “Intention” and “Tremor” Parties last week (two literary events to launch the Intention Tremor Virtual Book Tour 2021), I brought up the role of literary citizens as key to supporting writers with new books out during the pandemic.
I think it’s important to follow my own advice. So I’m starting a new feature at this blog that will highlight the wonderful literary citizens in my life.
What does that even look like?
The pandemic monkey wrench
Honestly, we should be supporting each other even when there’s not a pandemic. It’s hard to sell a new book, especially a debut book, even when conditions are right.
But let’s face it: the pandemic throws in new monkey wrenches:
- Limitations on virtual readings by bookstores (especially if you’re a debut author).
- The absence of private live readings (where many books are sold quite literally out of the trunk of one’s car).
- No live conferences, book fairs, art festivals, open mics, or other locations to sign and promote books.
What we have instead are virtual options. In some ways, these can make it easier to reach readers.
My Intention Tremor launches were attended by more people from across the country than would have been possible otherwise. I simply do not have the resources to travel across the country to promote a book.
For the uninitiated, it’s only the rock-star commercial celebrity authors who get the PR support and money to go on a national book tour. They comprise a thin percentage of all authors. The rest of us have zero budget, no access to a publicist, no team in New York City paid to do “all the things” like build and maintain websites, create active social media followings, generate promotional graphics, write press releases, and arrange the events. Nope. We get to not only wear the author hat, but all the other hats as well, like this guy here.
In other ways, the virtual book tour is extremely tedious and taxing.
- It requires mastering multiple new kinds of digital tools, with learning curves that can mystify even the more technical among us.
- It means building online sales portals and putting your trust in apps like Stripe to collect payments (just who is handling actual cash right now? I haven’t touched green paper money in months).
- It demands extensive social media presence, itself a huge time suck even when you have the right tools and strategies in place.
Ultimately, though, I’m discovering what I’ve suspected all along: For all this effort, good old-fashioned word of mouth is still the very best way to connect your book with the reader who needs to read it.
Enter the literary citizen
This is where the good literary citizen is a godsend. These people seriously need to wear capes!
The best of the best:
- swoop in with offers to help however they can (and actually follow through).
- buy your books because they believe in creative karma.
- share selfies of themselves holding your book when it arrives in the mail.
- actually read your books and comment on them, often in the form of positive reviews in GoodReads or Amazon.
- mention your book any time someone says they’re looking for something fresh to read.
I’ve always had some amazing literary citizens in my circles, but they’re especially valuable to me now as I try to get the word out about Intention Tremor.
- A couple have already hooked up Intention Tremor with reviewers.
- Others are scheduling interviews featuring me in their upcoming events.
- There’s a podcast guest spot coming soon and at least three featured readings on the way.
- Two fantastic literary citizens stepped in to host my launch parties.
- Many others are hooking me up with “their people,” who are hooking me up with “their people,” and so on…
- I’m uncovering all kinds of positive comments on social media from people I don’t even know who are sharing, retweeting, and liking my work.
It’s awe-inspiring to see what happens when you ask for help, or when you are offered the services, support, and resources of others who’ve been in the same position.
I can’t help but catch my breath watching this new virtual network—peopled by so many literary citizens—weave a glistening new digital web across social media and beyond. It’s a quiet, brilliant miracle, really.
It’s called the #WritingCommunity for a reason…
Right now, hundreds of authors with new books out in late 2019, 2020, and 2021 truly need our support.
I sit with them, stunned by how the pandemic has changed the process. We’ve each brought new babies into the world—creations we’ve labored over, sometimes for years, hoping that our words will be read—yet there are no big reveal parties for us in a pandemic.
Not only that, but the isolation of a pandemic further plants us inside that same remote and anonymous space we already face every day behind the computer screen or journal cover.
Writing is an isolated practice, for good reason. Publishing and reading out books shouldn’t be. Pandemic or not, our work still deserves connection, acknowledgment, and celebration.
The next time you discover a writer you know has announced a new book, don’t wait for them to ask you for help. Trust me, they are already up to their eyeballs in new tasks!
The pre-pandemic book publicity playbook is completely useless to them now. I feel like I’m literally reinventing that wheel for Intention Tremor, and imagine they must feel the same way. Overwhelmed and tested.
Collaboration and support from our peers may be the only way we all succeed.
If you truly love their work, offer them your support, however that might look. This kindness will not only raise them up, but your pandemic-wilted spirit will get a much-needed boost as well. It’s called the #WritingCommunity for a reason… let’s make it work for us, #TogetherApart, in virtual collaboration.
My husband is a musician also feeling the pain of being unable to play live jazz with his friends. He hopes to build a stage in our new back yard this summer. We’ve already connected the space with electrical so we can eventually wire it for sound and lighting.
I dream of weekly backyard barbecues when it’s safe to do so again, with live music, open mics, and opportunities to read as often as possible. My book is a fundraiser, so it would be important to have as many of these live events as possible. Fortunately, Intention Tremor is “evergreen” and shouldn’t fall out of relevance for some time.
If we can get the vaccine rollout hopping, maybe this dream could come true by late summer 2021, but I’m facing the reality that it might not happen until 2022—18 months after my publishing date. In the bookselling world, this is too much lag time for sales. But I’ll do what I can, and so will my pandemic writing peers.
(I wonder… will bookstores cut debut authors like me some slack and make room in their schedules for us even if our titles are a year or more past the original publishing dates? One can only hope.)
Whatever happens, you can bet I won’t take for granted this quintessential part of the book launch experience. Like a wedding or the birth of a new baby during a pandemic, this special first for me will just have to be virtual even if I’d always dreamed of—and deserve—a live celebration.
But with good literary citizens among my writing friends, this loss of anticipated formalities and cherished rituals is a bit less painful when you know that, even with a virtual tour, your books are still being sold, read, and shared.
After all, isn’t that the ultimate goal?
Want to buy a signed copy of Intention Tremor? You’ll be helping the Accelerated Cure Project help MS researchers reclaim time, funds, and resources lost to the pandemic. Click here for more information.
[…] discussion about literary citizenship at a time when promoting new books is extremely difficult also made me feel heard and less […]