How to Conquer the Book Launch and Keep Your Soul Intact

Sell Your SoulAs the only Deb who has launched (but only for TWO MORE WEEKS because TWO WEEKS FROM TODAY both Aya’s and Heather’s books pub!!!), I’m going to focus a bit more on post-launch and let the others give you soothing words for the pre-launch. First let me say, my headline is a lie. I have no idea how one keeps one’s soul intact. I sold mine to the devil two years ago when we made the agreement that my book would sell to NAL/Penguin. But it sounded good, didn’t it? Anyway, here are all the things I wish I had known before my book’s pub date:

♦ Ignore the sales numbers. Ignore your Amazon rank. Ignore the Goodreads reviews. And then, when you ignore this piece of advice—BECAUSE EVERYONE DOES!—forgive yourself. You know this isn’t good for you. But you’re going to do it, at least for a little while. For me, I spent a good month post-launch Googling myself and trying to discern exactly what my BookScan (BookScan is the Nielson ratings for books and doesn’t capture all sales) vs. sales numbers vs. author rank meant before I realized it was making me insane. So after another month, I stopped. Almost.

♦ Speaking of BookScan, sales numbers, and author rank, come up with something breezy you can say when folks ask you how your sales are doing. Because they will ask. And you will be tempted to respond with, “I sold 65,630 books. So how much money did you make last year?” because that’s really what that sales number is about. Of course that’s not what they mean when they ask; they’re trying to be encouraging and find out if your book is doing well. But what if it’s not? Or, more likely, what if you have NO FRIGGIN’ IDEA. You will either go by BookScan, which only gives you about two-thirds of your actual sales or you’ll have access to your real numbers via some magical publisher portal. However, do you know, barring a six-figure sales number, what is actually a good sales number? I sure don’t. There’s a great article on Electric Lit called “Everything You Wanted to Know About Books Sales (But Were Afraid to Ask), which explains this a lot better than I can. What I do end up saying to people who ask about sales, “I think it’s going well!” or “People are reading it, so I’m happy!” (And no that’s not my sales number. But it could be if you told all your friends to go buy a copy of MODERN GIRLS.)

♦ Hey, did you see that? How I so cleverly slipped a sales pitch in there? Get ready to walk that very fine line of promoting your book without actually promoting it. Huh? We’re supposed to tweet, but mostly not about our book. We’re supposed to encourage sales, but who really wants to hear a sales pitch? We’re supposed to ask for Amazon and Goodreads and Barnes & Noble reviews (because they matter; they really, really matter), but it’s so freakin’ awkward. “Wow, thanks for that great e-mail, Facebook post, compliment! Would you mind putting that in writing on a commerce site?” Try to come up with a nice way to ask. And when you figure it out, let me know, because I’m still not sure how to do it.

♦ Get used to grinning like an idiot. Because you will get e-mails from total strangers complimenting you on your book and it feels AWESOME! You will have a stupid grin on your face for the entire day.

♦ Also get used to saying the same things over and over again. I absolutely adore (like most of America) the musical Hamilton. I like Broadway musicals in general. I’m completely amazed how the actors can come out day after day and give the same performance and yet always sound fresh. A great show will have you thinking that it’s the first time they’ve uttered those words/sang those songs. But it helps that the audience doesn’t know what’s coming (well, except in the case of Hamilton because is there anyone at this point who sees it without having memorized the soundtrack first?). This is important to remember when people ask you questions. You think you’re boring because you’ve said the same thing so many times. But the listeners think you’re interesting, because it’s the first time they’ve heard it. Remembering that makes it easier to speak with confidence.

♦ Do what makes you happy. Writing articles seemed like a no-brainer to me. I’m a writer, after all. But it turns out I don’t like having to work on articles while also trying to write the next book. So while I’m doing some (have to do some), I’ve not pursued more articles. Conversely, I thought public speaking would terrify me. Turns out I love it! So I’m scheduling lots of readings. Book groups are all super fun because you get to chat with folks who have already (supposedly) read the book, which means you don’t have to fear spoilers, and a glass of wine (or three) is generally part of the deal.

♦ Learn to smile blankly and nod when folks say any of the following to you (and they will!): Book publishing is dead. You’d earn more money if you self-published. I found a mistake in your book. Your book was good, but it would have been better if you had X, Y, and Z. I haven’t heard of your book. I haven’t heard of you. Oh, I’m a writer too, at least I would be if I could find the time to write. I have this idea for a story; I’ll tell it to you, you can write it, and we’ll split the profits.

♦ The launch of your first book is thrilling. The most important part of keeping your sanity will be your support group. I was so lucky to have not just my in-real-life family and friends, but the virtual friends I’ve made. My fellow Debs, who are scattered across the country, have talked me down from ledges. You guys out there reading the blog and chatting with me on Facebook and Twitter have made me feel welcome in the world of writers. Find your writing community and nurture those relationships.

Have I left anything out? I’m sure I have, but as part of your writing community, you can always ask me questions, so don’t hesitate. And now, wherever you are on this insane journey of being a writer, raise a glass and enjoy the ride. You only get to be a debut author once. Milk it for all it’s worth!

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Jennifer S. Brown is the author of MODERN GIRLS (NAL/Penguin). The novel, set in 1935 in the Lower East Side of New York, is about a Russian-born Jewish mother and her American-born unmarried daughter. Each discovers that she is expecting, although the pregnancies are unplanned and unwanted, in this story about women’s roles, standards, and choices, set against the backdrop of the impending war. Learn more at www.jennifersbrown.com.

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