Happy 1st Birthday, PROVIDENCE!
Happy birthday, Providence! Today is the book’s official birthday and it has been a heck of a year. Here are a few of the highlights:
February 11th, more than a month before the book’s official debut, my author copies arrived. The sensation of holding the book, rapping your knuckles against the hard cover, hearing the spine crack open as you finger through the pages – your name, your dedication, your story – is nothing short of bliss.
March 18th was the book’s debut into the world. I belong to Uncommon YA, so the authors in the group helped my book launch with lots of fanfare. I was both touched and excited by the support. I chose not to do a book launch party. I don’t particularly like being the center of attention and I was very uncomfortable inviting friends and family to come to an event where, if we are being totally honest, they will be expected to purchase a copy of my book. Instead, my kids organized a celebratory lunch for me at a favorite restaurant with a couple of close friends. I enjoyed that a whole lot more than I think I would have enjoyed a launch party.
In the next few months, there were journal and newspaper reviews, blog reviews, and Goodreads comments for me to adjust to reading. Some were great, some were okay, a few were negative, and a couple were mean spirited. I learned to read them all with a grain of salt.
There were also some book signings and small festivals. Some of them were fun and exciting and some were torturous. I’ve learned if I don’t see any advertising for an event before it happens, odds are no one else has either. Well organized, properly advertised events bring lots of people into a store. One of my best moments at a book store signing was meeting a young woman who made her boyfriend drive about three hours to the event so she could buy a signed copy. She had read about the event in a newspaper article.
The stand out event for me was the Morristown Book Festival. PROVIDENCE was chosen as its first One Community One Book selection. This provided lots of advertising for the book by people who did it much better than I could have done. Suddenly I was seeing my book cover on posters, train station billboards, and fliers. There were newspaper articles and online posts galore. There was even a picture of PROVIDENCE in NJ Monthly magazine! Book clubs were reading the book (I got to meet several of them), students were reading it, and the Morris County public library system owns 50-60 copies across its branches.
I also was invited to speak at some schools. I think this is my favorite part of the experience. In particular, I enjoyed visiting the Morris Plains Borough School in NJ and Riverdale High School in Fort Myers, FL. In Morris Plains, the entire eighth grade had read the book before I visited and the students had tons of great questions. At Riverdale, the students created visual projects based on my book and the books of the other authors visiting. The enthusiasm of the students, staff, teachers, and administration was awe-inspiring. I read so many articles about why school employees feel they can’t accomplish certain things, it was wonderful to visit a place where the attitude is ‘yes we can!’
The year has flown by, yet it seems like I’ve been doing this forever. I wake up every morning and remember how lucky I am to be living my dream.
PS: Something I wish I knew then that I know now: You have about a year to eighteen months to promote a book after publication. After that most festivals are looking for the more newly published books. What I didn’t know is that you have to apply to the established festivals many months to a year or more ahead of time. My advice: if you have a book coming out next year, start researching events you would like to be a part of now and apply as soon as applications open.