Monday, September 14, 2009

More Than a Box o' Books

My book comes out tomorrow.

No. Wait. Let me give that the gravity it deserves. My first novel comes out tomorrow, "BITE MARKS: A Vampire Testament", the one I started 20 years ago and couldn’t quit, no matter how far I got from it, until I came home to Brooklyn in 2001, after ten years in L.A., and finished it. The one it took me seven years to complete and rewrite, the one I love more than almost anything I have ever written.

My firstborn. My baby.

I spent today spinning through things that still need to be done -- getting a haircut for dinner tomorrow night with my agents and editor, three women who have changed my life more than they will ever know, regardless of what happens next. I’m about to run into town to get a new outfit for dinner and store signings, then back to work on a website listed on the back of the book that doesn’t technically exist yet, and waiting for e-mail from the publicist in L.A. who was loving the book last week while reading, to arrange a radio tour to complement what my lovely publicist at the publisher is doing.

From what little I know of childbirth, the whole process has been very much like having a baby, except the due date is definite (unless it changes, as it did a few times, for me and friends), and you get paid to do it. Unless you’re a surrogate, you can’t beat that deal. It has been joyous, painful, exhilarating and scary as Hell. After years of working to finish the book, more years spent rewriting it and learning what writing it really means, I received a box of copies in the mail and have it in my hands, have had to face what had only been abstract up to now, despite spending the checks.

This is really happening.

In October I start doing signings and interviews to promote the book, looking for every way I can to let the world know this book exists, which leads me to the point of this panicked, discursive, late-posted essay. Don’t think your work as a writer is done when you finally manage to get a book deal, no matter how long it takes, no matter how painful. Oh no. You’ve only sold rights to reproduce the book. Your next task is selling multiple copies of that book that will be produced by your kind and generous publisher.

It’s not that they don’t want to sell the copies of your book. Oh, they do, and will sell them to you at remainder prices in a few years if they can’t sell them to anyone else. It’s just that they have a lot of books to sell, by a lot of authors (if you’re at a major name publisher) and you don’t rate any more than anyone else there, unless you’re selling a LOT of books and keeping them in business to find their next bestseller. You have to do something, anything, to let people know your book is out there, and encourage them to buy it.

How? I will let you know when I figure it out. I’m still working on that. All I can say for sure right now is that it’s a new world, filled with possibilities. Reach out. Make relationships, find like minds with blogs and communicate, find local readings in your area and start reading aloud to strangers to see what they think. If they like your work, they’ll buy it or tell you so. If they don’t -- they’ll communicate that as well, by a variety of means. Listen to them. Take into account who they are, and whether it’s what you’re saying or how you’re saying it that’s the problem.

Here’s another one I’ll give you free. Don’t live on your advance. It’s money you get against what the publisher thinks they will sell, and the truth is, you won’t make much more than that unless you go into multiple printings, so keep your day job, keep writing as you have been, and while you put some money into the work -- a new laser printer to save on manuscript copying and to edit pages by hand instead of floating on a screen, a nice dinner out to encourage you to continue -- put some aside for expenses on your book tour, to print promotional postcards, to set up an electronic newsletter for your mailing list, etc. Spend some on publicity outside of what your publisher’s doing, keep whoever you hire in contact with the publisher’s publicist, who’ll get them copies of the book, and work their magic around any additional events coming up.

Think. Think of all the ways you can get the word out in the modern age. Try them all and what doesn’t work, stop and/or adjust. In short, get involved. Don’t be a baby who thinks that now that you’re a “published author” some magic has happened and you get some kind of break. You don’t. You have to keep working, not just on the book, but selling the book. And you know what? That mostly means talking about your book and yourself to people who want to hear about it, so it’s not all that bad now that your friends are all sick of hearing about it. All you have to do is learn to say the same things over and over, sounding fresh every time, to as many people as will listen.

I’ll let you know how it goes, here and on my website, I’m at the start of a new adventure, one that either will leave me where I was -- or elsewhere. I have no idea now which it will be, or where I’ll end up. All I know is that the journey has put me somewhere wonderful I didn’t know I could reach, a state of creative bliss that I hope to maintain for the rest of my life. No matter how many or few copies of my books I sell, that is the one thing that has come out of this they can’t take away, and the thing that’s made it most worthwhile, more just than a box of books.

Praise is nice when it comes, book signing, congratulations and parties warm the heart, but fade away. What’s left is your day-to-day life, and if you can say that it’s a life of creative play you share it with others, I don’t think there’s anything more I could ask of the universe, as long as it earns me enough to eat and keep a roof over my head while I do it. We shall see.

In the meantime, I have a resumé to get out there to find my next day job...

(Visit my website for a link to to get my book!)


Stefanie Worth said...

Congrats, Terence! You've earned a moment to bask beyond the new suit and dinner. No one could have ever told me how wonderful being published feels and yet how truly hard it is. Okay, so they told me, I just didn't believe.

Enjoy your debut. I'm already looking forward to your sophomore effort.

Maria Zannini said...

Congratulations, Terrence!

There's nothing quite like a debut novel. I went to your website to read more. The cover is awesome, as is the review from Publisher's Weekly.

May it be the first of many successes.

Michele Hauf said...

Congrats! Enjoy every moment of it. Take pictures. Shake hands and blabber about your book. Cut out all the reviews and articles and any little mention of the book. And go into bookstores and say "i'm the author, I'd like to sign my book".

Have fun with it!

Liane Spicer said...

Terence, huge congrats! I can feel your excitement, and it brings back the excitement I felt exactly one year ago when I was where you are now, staring in wonder at a box of books and knowing that the journey was, in some ways, just beginning.

Enjoy it all! Take lots of photos and share them with us!

Shauna Roberts said...

Big congratulations! Don't they look beautiful in that box? Have a wonderful release day tomorrow.

Angel Bluestocking said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Angel Bluestocking said...

Many congratulations Terence.
Did you really think of it 20 years ago?
Wow, that's real encouragement to hang in there with a novel if ever I heard it!
What a special time this is for you. Enjoy.

best wishes

Charles Gramlich said...

Congrats! I love the idea of putting the Bite back in the Vampire. I'm getting rather tired of the overly romantic vamps.

KeVin K. said...


And good advice. There's nothing like seeing your name on the binding of a book, but it does not buy groceries.

I recall when I first saw the anthology with my first published story on a display at B&N. I'd seen no advance copies and only knew the month it was due out and so was taken completely by surprise. I let out a falsetto yelp. Then made a big show of looking around as though trying to figure out where that sound had come from before going over to the display. I checked every volume to be sure my story was in it.

Farrah Rochon said...

Congratulations, Terence! Enjoy this time!

KeVin K. said...

T --

Saw Bite Marks on the featured new novels table at B&N this evening.