'Good Sex, Great Prayers': A Journey in Publication (Part 4: Spinning Plates)

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At times, you will find yourself spinning many plates. As an author, that’s part of the job: to write, to publish, to promote, and to keep doing these things consistently. There’s never really a point where you dust your hands off and say, “Looks like my work here is done.” It’s never done. There’s always another sale to make, another story to write, or chapter to edit. Even if you’re lucky enough to catch a “big break,” as they say, your 'trending now' status is temporary, fleeting. You may win a battle here and there, but the war you wage on the publishing industry is endless. The author must fight through his various failings, missteps, and rejections—sure, but the hubris of success poses just as much adversity.

Learn to spin the plates. Always be in constant motion.

The State of the Manuscript

I’ve had to ask my publisher for three extensions so far for Good Sex, Great Prayers. The first couple times it was to the effect of, “I just need another month, I think.” Then the book kept going, and then it kept going some more. I wasn’t waffling. I wasn’t taking the night off when I was supposed to be at my computer. My 1,000 word per day quota was still being hit. The thing just wasn’t ready yet. So by the third extension request, I was more like, “Dude, this thing will be done when it’s done. I can't send this out if I know it's not ready.”

Fortunately, I’m lucky enough to have a more personal relationship with my publisher than most authors do. We’ve done readings together, drank and dined together. We’ve had numerous conversations that have gone beyond the boundaries of the publishing world, venturing into the topic of life and where it’s all headed. He knows my work ethic as an author, yeah, but he also knows how bad I want this project to turn out right on a personal level. If I’m asking for more time, there’s a damn good reason for it. A simple Twitter exchange puts everything in perspective:

We’re on the same page about this: quality outweighs punctuality. Although I’m a firm believer in respecting the deadline, if the project isn’t done, keep working until it is. Better to ask for more time than turn in a sloppy draft to the editing department.

This, of course, begs the question: 'Why isn’t the book finished yet?'

Like anything creative, predicting a timetable is difficult. I can fairly accurately predict how long it takes to brew coffee or put gas in my car. Something like writing a novel, however, is a dynamic process. The story is done when it’s done. That’s not a cop-out; that’s a fact, and something my publisher and I know all too well.

This was the last status update:

Good Sex, Great Prayers will clear 500 pages. Yes, this thing that was originally supposed to be a fun, little Christian-erotica novella has mushroomed into an epic monster. And finally, after three extensions, it’s almost ready. I’ve got a firm outline on what needs to be done/written—now it’s simply a matter of doing it. The manuscript will definitely be in the editor’s hands by April. I know that much. This will also be the period in which the pre-edited version goes out to my pool of beta readers. Once it’s out of my hands, I’ll have about a two-week “break.” “Break,” meaning: I’m not working on the book; I’m working on other things. That’s the nature of the beast: always moving, always spinning another plate.

Promotion vs. Pre-promotion

Promotion is the action which the author takes to yield a sale. Sometimes that’s a Facebook post or a tweet linking to a listing on Amazon. Or the author can go on their website and post an excerpt that will hopefully entice the reader enough to want to guy the entire work. A good review is promotion. An interview is promotion. Of course, the act of promoting can be rather difficult if you have nothing tangible yet.

That’s where the idea of pre-promotion comes in, or “staying relevant,” if you want it in laymen’s terms. The concept is simple: stay on the public’s radar. If you go radio silent for the nine months it takes to write your novel, you’re putting yourself in out of sight, out of mind territory. Keep spinning the plate that keeps you topical. This works on a couple levels.

Core project: that’s going to be your novel—in this case, Good Sex, Great Prayers. I’m a big fan of benchmark updates (as seen above when I hit page 450) and excerpts, either by way of Instagram or Twitter/Facebook.

This not only keeps the project on the audience’s mind, but also helps with branding. That dot cross/vaginal background is the face of the novel. Writing a novel takes a while, so it’s important to “show face,” as they say, from time to time.

Beyond that, there’s some interviews lined up, some reviewers requesting ARCs, and I’ve officially booked my first tour date in St. Louis. You can check that out HERE (and yes, I will be giving away Christian lingerie). Live readings, of course, make for decent promotional footage that can be used on the back end.

Overall push: that’s basically everything outside of your main project.

Finally, after roughly two years of putting it off, I’m having a website built. I’ll be able to blog again, compile all the links to my stories/interviews/etc, post lengthy excerpts, sell merchandise. Although Facebook and Twitter have served me well, they have their limitations. A new site has become a necessity. Another thing I was putting off: new business cards. These are two staples in the promotional arena that every author should have.

Oh, and let’s not forget one of the best promotional tools of all: publication. I’ve got a few things coming up.

My story Ultimate Grand Supreme Super Sexy Baby will be appearing in Spark: A Creative Anthology (vol. II).

My story The Pretentious Police will be appearing in the inaugural issue of Revolt Daily.

Finally, I have one more story that is seeing publication. It's a story that I submitted way back in 2009 and is finally moving forward in the publication process. Unfortunately, I can't give the details on that...yet. A press release regarding that will be going live April 1st. It's going to be big.

All three publications are in print/pay. All three stories are from a collection entitled Vanity that my agent will be pitching later in the year.

That’s all for now. Next step is getting this manuscript done and into editing.

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Comments

Gordon Highland's picture
Gordon Highland from Kansas City is reading Secondhand Souls by Christopher Moore March 28, 2013 - 5:48pm

The pre-promotion is what so often cringes my gut from authors. Obviously, as you've stated, there are ways to do that without being annoying, tweets of micro-passages and stuff, maybe some tangential thematic-related teasers (you could post up some of your research sources or others' essays on the topic, photo sets, etc.), and if there are key milestones along the way like cover artwork to be shared, release dates, I'm all for that kind of stuff. But general progress updates and page counts while drafting are what really roll my eyes. I mean, really, who gives a fuck, ya know? I just don't think the public demand is there for minor authors, so such presumptions turn me off as a potential reader. When it comes to trying to create anticipation, just share things that have actual entertainment value, and tie those to your WIP.

See you in STL!

ReneeAPickup's picture
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ReneeAPickup from Southern California is reading A truckload of books March 29, 2013 - 8:47pm

I feel so warm and fuzzy seeing my baby from a strange three way up there (Books and Booze) and Revolt Daily, where I'm writing a column up there, too. Can't wait for STL!

SammyB's picture
SammyB from Las Vegas is reading currently too many to list April 7, 2013 - 8:44pm

I am super excited for this book. I've loved watching the process.