Do you always wait for the launch day of the year and then miss it?
Sorry for the awkward paraphrase, but my novel Daisy was recently published digitally (print follows in September), and as I write this, my long-awaited digital launch has also passed. Yet, just as Daisy Buchanan coyly makes fun of her own forgetfulness, I’m wondering about my, well, nonchalance.
Yes, I’m very excited about this book, maybe more so than any other book I’ve written. A retelling of The Great Gatsby from Daisy Buchanan’s point of view (book promo, check), it contains feminist themes I care deeply about and that are still relevant 100 years after Daisy walked the pages of the Earth.
I’ve been prancing around the internet talking about it on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram, cringing, as I suspect most authors do, at the BSP (blatant self-promotion) required of writers. Which leads me to a question: does any author really enjoy promoting their own books? I veer between wanting to sing the song of my stories and wanting to sit quietly in my home without saying a peep about them, hoping somehow the world discovers them.
In my (mumble, mumble) years of writing, I’ve done blog tours, radio and newspaper interviews, book signings (one at BookExpo America back in the day), book talks, and readings. I’ve given away free copies to my (dozens of) fans. I’ve asked readers to consider penning fair reviews at Goodreads, Amazon, and Barnes & Noble if they like my books.
As enthusiastic as I might be at the start of this process, at some point I always come to feel, well, what is the point?
We all know that as valuable as those promotional activities are, they’re not what makes a bestseller. Starred reviews don’t always make bestsellers, either. Nor do blurbs from top authors. Nor do many of the tips in “how to market your book” blogs and tomes. It’s buzz, that elusive buzz, that makes the difference, and finding it is as difficult as Gatsby’s quest for the woman behind the green light at the end of the pier.
After looking at that green light for decades now, I’m convinced that influencers talking about a book might be the single best way to increase sales. But influencers seem to gravitate toward books that already have some buzz or some great preorder sales, and rarely do they focus on books published by small presses. Which reminds me—excuse me for a moment—Oprah, Reese, are you listening? I have a book coming out that I think you might like, but it’s published by a small press! (More book promo, check.)
I think authors have two dreams when they start their careers: one is just to get published, and the other is to be bestsellers. But after you’ve bumped around the business for a while, you realize that even if you don’t achieve that latter goal, you just can’t stop writing. You have to tell stories—even if they, like Gatsby, only become bestsellers after you’re gone.
In fact, there’s consolation in looking at bestseller lists over the decades. While you find many books there that are still read today, there are also many titles you’ve never heard of. Fame—in the form of bestseller status—can be fleeting.
Nonetheless, selling a lot of copies of your book usually means more money—or a film deal, which means more money. Excuse me a moment once more—Hollywood producers, I have a novel coming out with a strong female lead! (Book-to-film promo, check.)
I don’t know of any novelist who writes just for the money, though. Maybe they’re out there, but most novelists I know write because they simply must. Something burns inside them to spin a yarn, tell a tale. Even if it means they only sell enough copies to earn back their advance, and they have to spend so much time on promotion that they want to join whatever introvert association will offer them free membership.
So happy launch day to authors sending their novels out today. Enjoy the moment. And then rush off to write those blog and Instagram and Facebook posts and hope for the best.
Libby Sternberg is a novelist. Daisy, out in a digital edition now, will be published in hardcover by Bancroft Press in September.