JENNY MILCHMAN’s Tips, Trips, and Tribulations: Surviving Public Events + GIVEAWAY

RuinFallsWe’re so happy to have Jenny Milchman with us today. Not only is she the reigning queen of the massive book tour, but her debut novel, COVER OF SNOW, just won the coveted Mary Higgins Clark Award!

Her second novel, RUIN FALLS, was just released to great reviews. In it, Liz Daniels has just set off on a long-awaited vacation, but when the family stops for the night, she wakes to find a terrifying reality. Her children are missing, and the hours tick by without anyone finding a trace of them. In a sudden, gut-wrenching instant, Liz realizes that no stranger invaded their hotel room. Instead, someone she trusted has betrayed her. Now Liz will stop at nothing to get her children back. From her guarded in-laws’ farmhouse to the woods of her hometown, Liz follows the threads of a terrible secret to uncover a hidden world created from dreams and haunted by nightmares.

Jenny’s giving away a copy of either Cover of Snow or Ruin Falls to one lucky winner! (Details at the bottom of this post.) She has tons to saying about public events, so we’ll give her the spotlight. Take it away, Jenny!

(Check out her book tour route here. She’s so inspiring!)

Tips, Trips & Tribulations: Surviving Public Events by Jenny Milchman
On the road. Jenny zooming to her next gig.

On the road. Jenny zooming to her next gig.

I like to think I have some street cred in writing this post. Last year, when my debut novel came out after a thirteen year journey, um, struggle, no, make that battle to publication, I set out with my family on a 35,000 mile book tour, doing over 145 events in about seven months. Now, with my second novel just released, we are on the road again. So, how do we survive?

To answer that, I first have to beg the question. Because for me it isn’t about surviving—it is more like thriving. You see, I love doing public events. And so my first tip is:

  • Figure out as a writer whether you enjoy public events, can tolerate them, or are drained by them faster than a bathtub. Then plan your efforts accordingly. There is no rule that says you have to get out there, and there are other ways to spread word of your book.

On the first book tour, I didn’t think of the 145 times as public events, or any such impersonal word. I thought of them as gatherings with some of my favorite people in the world. And that’s true for all of us probably. We all love readers, or we wouldn’t be writing. So another tip would be:

  • Turn an appearance into a party. Don’t imagine that you’ll be walking into a room full of strangers—until you hit the New York Times bestseller list, you probably won’t be anyway. Instead, see this as a chance for people who care about you and are invested in your success to come out and celebrate with you. A birthday party probably isn’t all that fearsome. This is just a birthday for your book.

Once you’ve decided where on the continuum of extrovert to introvert you lie as a writer, and have planned occasions that feel intimate and personal, it’s time to start setting both yourself and the events up for success. Several tips here:

  • Don’t worry if you walk into a scantily filled room. A small, intimate discussion can be fun in ways that speaking before a big crowd can’t duplicate. Even if no one shows up, you can still make a connection with the bookseller or whomever is hosting you. Some people think that an audience of one is the hardest of all. If that turns out to be the case, the two of you can always migrate down the street for coffee. After buying a few books, of course!
  • To up your odds of drawing a bigger crowd, get to know where your friends on Facebook and Twitter and LinkedIn and other sites live. It takes a fair amount of effort to send personal messages and invites, but some of the most wonderful encounters I had on the road were with virtual friends who went to the trouble of attending an event and, Pinocchio-like, became “real.”
  • Food makes a special event that much more so. If you like to cook, provide some homemade treats. Or simply buy a box of doughnuts or cookies. Your guests will appreciate it, and so will your host.
  • While we’re on the subject, bring a small gift for your host. As much effort as these gatherings are for you, the bookseller, librarian, or book club leader, etc., is doing a lot of work, too.
  • Stay positive no matter how it goes. I’ve had those nights when I sat at a meet-and-greet with a plastic smile on my face, and the only person who stopped by asked what time it was. “Not late enough,” I wanted to reply. But when the bookseller wrote afterwards to say she had read my book, and was hand-selling it to every customer who asked for a thriller, I had a realization: events are about taking the good of this life we get to lead as writers, and paying it forward. Down the line, the joy always seems to circle back.

Finally, please think of me as one of those people interested and invested in your success. Find me on Facebook and Twitter and by email. I’d love to help in any of the above ways … maybe even stand in line so you can sign my copy of your book!

Where do you lie on the extroversion-introversion spectrum? How does this influence your choices about public speaking?

GIVEAWAY! Comment on this post by noon EST on Friday, May 23rd, and you’ll be entered to win a copy of either COVER OF SNOW or RUIN FALLS, your choice! U.S. contestants only, please. Follow The Debutante Ball on Facebook and Twitter for extra entries—just mention that you did so in your comments. We’ll choose and contact the winner on Friday. Good luck!

Jenny.Milchman.WebJenny Milchman‘s journey to publication took thirteen years, after which she and her family set off on what Shelf Awareness called the world’s longest book tour. Jenny’s debut novel, Cover of Snow, was chosen as an Indie Next and Target Pick, won 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. Her second novel, Ruin Falls, just came out and she and her family are back on the road.

Find Jenny at: website | blog | Facebook | Twitter

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Lisa Alber is the author of KILMOON, A COUNTY CLARE MYSTERY (March 2014). Ever distractible, you may find her staring out windows, dog walking, fooling around online, or drinking red wine with her friends. Ireland, books, animals, photography, and blogging at Lisa Alber's Words at Play round out her distractions. Visit her at www.lisaalber.com.

31 thoughts on “JENNY MILCHMAN’s Tips, Trips, and Tribulations: Surviving Public Events + GIVEAWAY

  1. I admire people who are comfortable dealing with public events. I used to teach at a university and loved it and my students, but later found that I was better suited to the relative solitude of my current career in textbook publishing.

  2. I used to be a professional musician, and your comments about small audiences and staying positive were two of our mantras. You can’t make the audience bigger once you’re already on stage, but you can try your best for the audience you have.

    Oh, and that’s a good point about a gift for your host. Whenever Taylor Swift is on a radio show, for example, she sends a handwritten “thank you” note to the host afterwards.

  3. I totally agree about the “birthday for your book” sentiment. That’s how I treated my launch party. I wanted it to be a celebration of all the hard work I’d done… and all the hard work my family put into supporting me and dealing with my crazy writer self all these years.

    • Thirteen years to publication…what an enormous love of writing you must have, and tenacity! Wonderful that you stuck with it and succeeded. It does make me glad I’m a reader and not a writer. Without writers like you, what would we poor readers do?
      Congratulations on your success!

    • Lisa, thank you so much for having me at the Debs! I’ll show you my little gift bag when I get to see you in Portland. I also recommend anything sweet and tasty! Booksellers, like all humans, love getting treats…

  4. My favorite part of your post “…after a thirteen year journey, um, struggle, no, make that battle to publication…” Awesome! And some great tips too, especially for someone like me who’s an online extrovert and real life introvert. Best of luck with your tour! p.s. I did find you on Twitter and FB 😉

    • Thanks, Rhiann! Extrovert, introvert, I think there are ways for us all. Yesterday the author I did a joint event with said she thinks almost all writers are introverts by nature!

  5. I just met Jenny at Malice Domestic (and then again at her Chicago event!)—she is a marvel!

    Not sure I have that kind of energy, but you’re inspiring, Jenny!

  6. Congratulations on your success all due to your perseverance. What a great interview and the books are intriguing.

    • Thank you, Annie! Hank Phillippi Ryan talks about celebrating the “you never know” day. If I had quit even one day earlier, I never would’ve known.

  7. Jenny, good to “see” you again. I’m definitely an introvert, but I love a party – I just need a lot of recuperation after! I’ve got your July 19 visit to Mystery Lovers in Pittsburgh on my calendar, so we’ll finally get to meet face to face! (already follow the Debs on FB and Twitter).

  8. Love the “birthday for your book” idea. And this year my second mystery will come out one day before my actual birthday. Bonus! Jenny, you are a wonder and the current (maybe only) reigning queen of the road tour. You are an unending source of wisdom and inspiration. Happy Trails!

  9. Wow, Jenny, I am SO impressed. You must have amazing energy to put on so many events (I’d love to go to one! Will you be stopping by Austin by any chance?).

    Thanks for the great advice; my first launch event is in about two weeks, and I love the idea of thinking of it as a birthday party for my book!

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