Good Sex, Great Prayers: A Journey in Publication (Part 7: Release Party, Reviews, and a Fond Farewell)
One time I asked Barnes & Noble if I could do a live reading at one of their locations. They told me no. They told me that they don’t host events for self-published authors and that I should try someplace else. This was back in 2009, before the J.A. Konraths and Amanda Hockings of the world proved that there was money to be made in self-publishing and shattered the stigma. It was before my first book got picked up by a “real” publisher and I was still figuring things out. This was when I learned that just because you’re an author, that doesn’t mean everything you do has to be in a bookstore. For my debut novel (which was heavily nightlife themed), I had my release party in a nightclub. People showed up, books sold, and the event gave me a certain degree of notoriety with that particular demographic. From an outsider’s perspective, this looked like a slick little PR move, but again…this was all because a major bookstore chain told me to fuck off. That one rejection helped me find one of my core strengths as an author: I’m a damn good party planner.
For Good Sex, Great Prayers I did roughly the same thing as I did five years ago. The difference is I’m more efficient now. My first party cost me well over $1,000 because I had no friends in the nightlife industry. Now I do, and they’re happy to help me out. Rather than go on about the party itself, I’ll talk about the three main reasons a release party isn’t a completely self-indulgent spectacle meant to serve the author’s ego. I had a fucking blast—don’t get me wrong—but there’s a definite strategy at work here.
1.) Social reparations: Books take time and sacrifice to write. During that period, you will inevitably tell your friends you’re unable to hang out in order to keep working. It sucks, but it’s part of the job. The release party isn’t just a celebration of your work but an opportunity to reconnect with all the people you had to put on hold for the sake of the project.
2.) Networking: Forget that “please check me out on Amazon” bullshit you see all the time on Twitter and Facebook. This is old school networking. Like shaking hands and actually talking to people networking. Blow the dust off those business cards and hand ‘em out. Some people say you can’t be an author without an online presence. I’m calling bullshit on that one. Life and literature doesn’t happen on computers. I say if you can’t have a few drinks with potential readers, you’re cheating yourself.
3.) Move product: There’s selling books and there’s selling books. Call me old-fashioned, but seeing my Amazon ranking make a favorable hop after a sale is nothing compared to making the transaction live and in person. And there’s really nothing easier than selling signed books. Think about it: how rare is it that you are able to buy a book right from the author and watch them sign it for you? You can’t buy that experience online, and people know that.
Knowing how to plan an event can definitely come in handy for an author. You can read more about that HERE.
Reviews & Blurbs:
I wish I could tell you that getting lots of positive reviews and glowing blurbs from fellow authors equates to sales, but that’s not how it works. The fact of the matter is we live in a world of extremes. In laymen’s terms, you always hear about the two ends of the spectrum: the meltdown and the “too good to be true” book.
The meltdown is something like Jacqueline Howett, who lost her shit over a review so bad it became mainstream news. Seriously, this chick threw a tantrum and the media ate it right up. You can read all about it HERE. That’s just one example though. Anytime an author has a meltdown, whether they be known or unknown, the media takes the route of tabloid journalism and blows it way the hell out of proportion because they know it’ll yield clicks. On the other hand, you have something like The Goldfinch, which is being so highly touted that people are now hating it for the sake of hating it. When something gets too popular, there will naturally be a faction of people who rise against it. I believe Jennifer Lawrence is dealing with this now.
Anyway…in between those two extremes you have a book like mine. All the reviews for GSGP have been favorable so far. I have a respectable assemblage of author blurbs. You can see all of that HERE. In theory, these things should help. The issue is that I’m not part of the freak show; there’s no controversy surrounding me and the Westboro Baptist Church isn’t chanting outside my door. All I did was write a solid book for a mid-sized publisher that has an almost non-existent PR department. It sounds negative, I know…but I’m in the same spot as literally thousands of other authors. I’ve done nothing to set myself apart from the pack. In this industry, simply writing a good book and having people like it isn’t enough. You either need a PR department on steroids or you have to pull some bullshit stunt to bait the media. One I don’t have and the other I won’t do. All I can do is keep writing and promoting and pray the literary gods smile upon me.
The first installment of this column was published August 8th, 2012. So for 22 months I’ve not only been writing a novel, but writing about writing a novel and all the other shit that goes with it. I’ve accomplished something, and I’ve got chronicle to coincide with it…and what I’ve realized is I’m never going to quench that thirst. This thing will never sell as many copies as I want it to, no amount of coverage will be good enough. Writing the book took a year, but I’ll spend the next ten trying to get more people to notice it or attempting to get a film deal. Whatever level it gets to, I’ll never be happy with it. That’s just the kind of guy I am.
I do hope this column was helpful, insightful, entertaining. I hope it was a nice reprieve from the myriad of Buzzfeed lists and Thought Catalogue articles dispensing trite life advice. And I hope that you buy Good Sex, Great Prayers because it’s something different. It’s an off-the-beaten-path bitchslap of a novel. Go read the reviews and see how many of them say “this isn’t what I was expecting.” Being unpredictable in this industry is a hard thing to do, but it looks like I’m doing it. In a world where we’re inundated with unnecessary sequels, reboots, and reality TV, I present to you something truly original. Something fresh. So pick up this book and tell me what you think, tell your friends what you think. Rate, review, all that shit. An author is only as strong as their audience, and I want you guys to be a part of that.
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