Not too long ago, my writers’ group invited a publicist to come and speak to us about creating and managing our own publicity and marketing campaigns. The first thing she told us we had to do was write down our goals. Did we want to sell one million books? Did we want to garner reviews in five major magazines? Did we want to win literary awards for our writing? Did we want to sell just enough books to secure another book contract? Knowing what you want is the most important part of your plan, she told us, because it will determine where you should allocate the majority of your resources. If you don’t know what you are working for, then you could end up spending gobs of time, energy and money and still feel like a failure. So I’m taking this time to ask myself, ‘What are my goals with this book?’
Every day another review of Substitute Me comes out, both good and not as good. I’ve already seen my Amazon numbers fluctuate from incredible lows to painful highs in a ten-hour period. I’ve been invited to participate in some of the best book festivals in the country and I’ve been rejected unceremoniously from others. Without knowing what my goals are for this book, these external reactions to my work are hard to contextualize. Have I succeeded because Booklist gave me a good review? Am I failure because The Brooklyn Book Festival never called my publicist back? Without the proper mindset, I’d surely take to my bed full of anxiety and dread.
After reading a critique of my work (on Goodreads, so it’s not the end of the world, but still) where someone claimed my book was “readable” but didn’t care for my overuse of adverbs, I knew I needed to have it clear in my own mind what I wanted from this book, or else my bed would appear to be a viable option. So this is what I realized.
My goals for this book are really simple. I just want people to read it.
Even though I’ve written two critically acclaimed nonfiction titles, this book is a new beginning for me. Substitute Me is my first novel. I know it isn’t perfectly crafted, but it’s a great story with some ‘keen social insights,’ as one reviewer put it. I know it is not going to bring me any literary awards, but that is okay. It is only my first novel and I intend to write others, better than this one. Each time better. I will develop a body of work that defines me, not just this one book. So, a rejection from a book festival or no callbacks from a local radio show will not bring my world to a screeching halt. It is to be expected. Likewise, a glowing review and an invitation to be on Oprah (I wish) isn’t going to make me stop trying to improve my craft. At the end of the day, good review or bad review, I’ve achieved success because somebody read my book. And that feels pretty good. Maybe my slogan for my publicity campaign should be, “Just Read It!”
What about you She Writers, what are your goals for your next projects? And do you have a slogan for that?