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  • It's 3AM. Do You Know Where Your Blurbs Are?
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It's 3AM. Do You Know Where Your Blurbs Are?
Contributor
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
December 2014
Brainstorming
Contributor
Written by
Kamy Wicoff
December 2014
Brainstorming

I woke up this morning at 3AM, and the moment my brain achieved consciousness, I thought, "Blurbs!" and then I thought, "Readings!" and then I thought, "Reviews!" and then I thought, "I'm doing everything wrong and nobody is ever going to read this book and even though it's only December 4th and my book comes out on April 21st I am already totally behind in every possible way so I better get out of bed right now and start writing emails and tweeting and posting things on Facebook oh god did authors have to go through this hell before the internet I mean is this even human trying to be everywhere all the time online all day it's like being pecked to death by thousands of geese and then left by the side of the road weakly bleating in 140 characters begging for help, for blurbs, for reviews, for people to attend your readings, for mercy."

My mind went on like that for about another hour. I worked myself up into a frenzy and all I accomplished was exhausting myself, so today, sitting down to face the tasks I obsessed over last night, I feel less up to it than ever.

I'm in that phase now. The one where the book is done, and the promotion begins. I must confess I dread it, which might seem strange, given the fact that I started a website for women writers that now has more than 25,000 members and I am no stranger to blogging or even to the semi-public life. But blogging here is a pleasure. I'm writing, after all--I'm not asking anybody for anything, or having to organize anything, or having to be rejected by anyone. I have an idea, I write it down, I edit and I revise, I publish. I know what to do and how to do it. This in no way describes what currently fills my days, namely tasks that I am not expert in, the outcome of which I cannot control. I feel exhausted, and at the same time I feel like I am not doing ANYTHING, or, when I do do things, that they are things I could do ad infinitum and never cross off as DONE. I feel like a hummingbird in a sea of tropical flowers, frantically whizzing from one to the next (ooh, I should post that on Facebook! Ooh, I forgot to return that email! Ooh, maybe this journal will review my book!) but, unlike a hummingbird, I don't pollinate anything and I don't even eat. I just flit myself to death. 

I'm fond of telling my son that nobody hates writing more than a (real) writer. But with my head buzzing with things I should be doing but don't really know how to do, and my attention as splintered as shrapnel, I find myself longing for the focused calm of just doing the work. Of sitting down at my computer and setting out to finish a chapter, or fix a scene, and completing the task--eventually. Most strange, perhaps, is that in many ways, in this state of aimless agitation, I feel even more alone than I do when I'm writing. Which brought to mind the brilliant blogposts of my dear friend Nancy K. Miller here on She Writes a few years back, when she was in the dreaded promotional phase with her book What They Saved. (Don't miss her classic post on the sadomasochism of social media--re-reading it just now gave me hope, or at least made me smile.) "Given my grouchy temperament and my Jewish anxiety genes," she wrote, "a shameful confession: despite immense gratitude that I’m finally publishing my memoir, I can’t help feeling I’d rather be home trying to write another book than out there (is there a there there?) trying to sell one. In the end, it’s less lonely."

I hear you Nancy. As loudly and clearly as I hear the sound of my own voice, attempting to be heard above hundreds of thousands of others as it echoes through the canyon walls of internet. "Blurbs? Readings? Reviews?"

Holler if you feel me.

Let's be friends

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Comments
  • Celine Keating

    With my book launching the same day as yours, all I can say, Kamy, is You Nailed It - exactly how I feel.  Thank you for articulating my state of craziness so I, at least, feel less lonely !

  • Ellen, great post!  I'd love to see more on SheWrites by authors who got really creative about sharing their books.  So inspiring that you addressed Jewish groups and wrote articles to targeted audiences....I think sometimes authors get stuck in the "shoulds":  SHOULD post on FB, SHOULD Tweet, SHOULD open an account with every new-fangled social media site, etc.  These efforts only make sense if they are targeted to your potential readers.  For example, my readers aren't my Facebook peeps, they hang out at Democratic Clubs.  So,I'll target those email lists, meetings and web sites.

    Kamy, glad my ramblings may have inspired your next post!  I love that SheWrites is a place for authors to vent feelings, but I'd love to be exposed to new ideas, too.  Ellen and I outlined some really out-of-the-box ideas for promoting our books.  I'm sure other SheWriters have ideas to share, too!

  • Leslie Johansen Nack

    Thank you so much for writing this. Promoting my book is outside my comfort zone - all phases of it. I wouldn't have a Facebook, Twitter account, Instagram or Google+ if I didn't have this book. I have gone back to therapy and need people to support me in my life so I don't fall and crumble.  I can see how I'm going to push the limits of my comfort zone for the next ten months until my book comes out in October 2015.  Thanks for writing this and making me laugh a little about it. 

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Kelly Hayes-Raitt, I agree!  Promoting a book means expressing in words who you are, what you think, how you feel, what you imagine -- and sharing all that with other people.  To me, that's exactly what writing a book is all about:  speaking up, having your say, joining in the conversation, being heard.   

    My post, Hate Book Promotion?  Three ways to make it work for you, lays out how I've come to take joy in book promotion:  

     

    Start before you publish.  Long before I found a publisher, I sought out opportunities to be heard about my journey into Jewish Lithuania.  I gave talks at synagogues, libraries, and Jewish cultural centers.  I wrote articles for newspapers and magazines.  These opportunities were energizing and inspiring.  They gave me a chance to test out the best ways to communicate what I had to say – which helped me write a better book.

     

    Target your “super fans.”  In the run-up to publication, I made a list of the people I most wanted to read the book.  My list included not only people I knew (family, friends, mentors, people who’d read drafts) but also people I didn’t know -- writers and thinkers I admired, scholars, tolerance leaders, and public officials.  The first book promotion task I gave myself was to inform these people about the book.  Reaching out in this way felt as important as writing the book in the first place.

     

    Embrace the challenge.  My book promotion plan requires me to communicate my “message” in lots of different ways.  I have to -- or as I see it, I get to -- write articles, op-ed pieces, guest blogs, website copy, press releases, e-mail blasts, Facebook messages, and tweets.  I have to -- that is, I get to -- craft book talks and conference presentations, give interviews, and succinctly describe the book to people I run into. All of which involves solving problems, finding the right words, expressing myself to the best of my ability. 

     

    Just like…writing a book.

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    Ellen, thank you so much for reminding me of your excellent post! And Kelly, I hear you. I was expressing how I feel when I am in the doldrums, but by the same token I have often spoken (I love public speaking too) about what an exciting and thrilling time this is for writers because of all the tools available now for individuals to get their work out into the world. Yes it can feel overwhelming, and it's hard to compete with so many voices. But at the same time the old regime made it next to impossible for people without powerful connections or powerful publishers behind them to be heard. You may have inspired my next post. :)

  • At the risk of incurring the wrath of Kamy and everyone who commented on her post, I need to rant back:  Kwitcherbitchin! and revel in gratitude at the abundant and creative opportunities you have at your fingertips to share your work with the world.  Not too long ago in evolutionary terms, our stories were heard only by those who joined us around the fire.  Now, our stories can be translated into dozens of languages, serialized and written about in hundreds of periodicals, posted on thousands of blogs and read by millions of people – most of whom we’ll never meet.  This is the most exciting time ever to be writing and sharing our stories!

    Here’s my attitude about “promotion”:

    Writing is a privilege.  Most of us SheWriters live in a society that allows us to be creative.  We’re not enslaved or impoverished or imprisoned.  We have the financial and educational means to figure out how to express ourselves and the political freedom to do so.  And we have the financial, educational, and political freedom to share our work to make this world a better place – what a privilege!

    (I’m not Pollyannaish about this:  In order to write my journalistic memoir about Iraqi refugees, I rent out my home to strangers and housesit elsewhere.  My lifestyle has pros and cons, but I never forget that I’m privileged with opportunity and choice.)

    Writing is a gift.  Writing, like love, is meaningful only when it’s shared.  If I’m not willing to happily! enthusiastically! share my characters with the world, then I should let them go so they can find a writer who will.   I’ve been given the gift to listen to and articulate people’s most heartbreaking stories;  it’s selfish not to share this gift.

    Writing is a responsibility – to myself, to my “characters” (who, in my case, are the refugees who trust me with their stories), and to the world.  Just as I wouldn’t lock my baby daughter in a room for her lifetime for only me to enjoy, I don’t resist sharing my book. 

    My unsolicited advice:  Do only promotion that fills your soul.  Me, tweet?  Never.  I “do” Facebook in spurts a few times/year.  And I blog only when I’m on the road and reporting.

    But I love, love, love public speaking and – although I haven’t finished my book, although I don’t have an agent, although I haven’t researched publishers – I have held dozens of book readings and signed up more than 1,000 people to my special list of “friends and family” who will receive a pre-publication discount.  (Wanna join them?  Sign up – it’s free! – at www.LivingLargeInLimbo.com.)  I’ve addressed college classes, community groups, Democratic clubs, anywhere I think potential readers might congregate. 

     

    More advice:  Promotion isn’t a “phase;” it starts the moment you start your first sentence.  Just as you wouldn’t wait until your baby is ready to enter college to teacher her how to influence the world, your book “promotion” is an ongoing, living, breathing effort.  Writers talk about “birthing” their books, when they really should be talking about “parenting” them!

    Chapters of my (unfinished, unrepresented, unpublished) book appear in nine anthologies and several literary journals.  I have a couple influencers’ blurbs on my web site.  When I’m stuck on my writing, I switch to entering contests, pitching magazines, updating my book proposal, exploring other ways to “promote” my book.  For example, I recently launched a petition on moveon.org on how the US can stop ISIS’ encroachment in Iraq through peaceful means that garnered 5,400 signatures.  I now have 5,400 potential readers of my book I can communicate with – and no Tweets were harmed!

     

    Final advice:  Enlist help.  I have hundreds of people who are supportive of and excited about my book.  They can’t help me write it, but they sure can (and do!) help me share it.  They reach into their rolodexes for contacts, they send out emails to build audiences, they promote my work and lifestyle on their radio shows, podcasts or blogs, they brainstorm ideas.  One SheWriter’s sister has formed a “fan club” to “assign” a monthly promotional activity:  write an Amazon review, share a Facebook post, retweet, etc.

     

    I know this is wieldy for a comment, but I get so dragged down by the “I hate promotion” posts that pop up here every few months that I had to get this off my chest.  Instead of a monthly commiseration call, as one commenter suggested, why not a regular blog column of creative, fun, enthusiasm-driven ways to promote our work?  Sort of “Promotion SOS” with a positive spin?

    Kelly Hayes-Raitt

    www.LivingLargeInLimbo.com

    Mosey on over to my web site and sign in for your free gift -- an mp3 of me reading my book's first chapter about a beggar in Iraq!

     

     

  • Helen Rena

    I LOVED the "weakly bleating in 140 characters" bit. Now I know what to call what I do on Tweeter. :)

  • Nicky Wheeler-Nicholson

    Thanks for posting Kamy. With your experience and support you'll find your stride in this crazy marathon. Where is it we're all headed anyway? I love Anne Lamott's bird by bird and I remind myself all the time when I feel frantic at all I haven't done. Congratulations on finishing your book! That's the big deal right there.

  • Hollye Dexter

    HOLLA!

  • Ellen Cassedy

    Kamy, if promoting your book seems daunting, take a look at my post -- on SheWrites:

    Hate Book Promotion?  Three ways to make it work for you

    You can do it!

  • Rossandra White

    Big emotional drama publishing my memoir, am I really going to hang myself out to dry? Okay, so I did (in April) but I didn't know the hell that awaited with promotion before, during, and after. And now with my second book poised on the brink of publication the mountain came down on me in the form of a crapped out back and shingles. I think it's the stress of the promotion nightmare awaiting me.

  • Betsy Teutsch

    It does seem so unjust that, after accomplishing the remarkable feat of WRITING A BOOK, you then need to do all this other stuff. A few of my blurbs came from emails sent by people I'd asked to read my book - proofreaders and experts in their fields, who had upbeat, appreciative observations which I turned into blurbs. I am sure you have a lot of enthusiastic readers - maybe some lovely blurbs are already in your possession. People read blurbs for cred, but also to just get a sense of what the book is about. 

  • Kelly Kittel

    So, Blurb Drama, I could write an essay. I sent 12 requests and ultimately received 5 blurbs, only 4 of which fit on my cover, awkward! But one prospective blurber said yes then no as she was afraid I'd be sued, another said yes as long as she didn't share my cover with another author I won't name, another blurb got lost in cyberspace so luckily I asked one more pain-in-the-ass time, and one of my most ardent supporters blurbed my book and died before my pub date. Phew.

  • Judy Reeves

    Thanks for posting this, Kamy. So good to know so many others experience the same madness at this point in the process. Now to read Nancy K. Miller's classic post for more reassurance. I need all I can get!

  • Kamy Wicoff Brainstorming

    This really helps -- it is always good to hear you aren't alone, but when I'm in the weeds with all this "please review please blurb somebody please pay attention" stuff it feels all the more important. Shary, maybe should start a group...I'm going to give that some thought!

  • Jill Smolowe

    I sympathize, amiga.

  • Shary

    Feel you BIG time, Kami! What a perfect post!! How you captured the agony of this stage so eloquently. And, being pecked to death and flitted to death...so much [email protected]! :-)

    I have a suggestion for a new She Writes Community offering...

    A Promotion Phase Support Group...an hour call 1 x month (or 2x) just to keep us from pecking ourselves to death. 

    I'm serious :-)

  • Meg Bortin

    You're right -- the whole promotion thing is such a drag that it makes you wonder why you'd ever write another book. And yet here I sit, embarking on a new one. Which is utterly fun. I was a dismal failure as a promoter for the last one, which I self-published, and am determined to get an agent this time, and a publisher who will help with promotion, or else drop the project. Which is also totally a drag. Since when did everyone have to do everything? 

  • Sande Boritz Berger

    Was it Anne Lamott that said: "bird by bird"   you'll get there...and it will all fall into place!

  • Kelly Kittel

    Get it, got it, totally understand. So much to do, so seemingly little time. Jump onto my SW blog for "What I've Learned in the past 8 months" parts one AND two. Maybe they will help? Maybe not! Suerte!

  • Nina Angela McKissock

    So true. I feel as though I'm packed, have tickets in hand, organized my home...but have no idea where I'm going! There are too many options for everything. The biggest challenge for me is who to trust in this process. SheWrites is the most transparent of the partner publishing sites, so I chose them. I keep telling myself that I'll know what to do by the second book. But it's fiction and could be

    a whole new ballgame!

  • Patricia Robertson

    You've got a great platform already, Kami! There's only so much you can do, after that there are so many factors that are out of our control. Just do your best and let go of the rest!

  • Catherine Hiller

    Kami, I'm in that space almost exactly, with my book Just Say Yes: A Marijuana Memoir, coming out April 20.  No question: my least favorite form of writing is self-promotion. Yet this is the time I must be brazen, seeking the same things you're seeking: blurbs, reviews, exposure, interviews: the best possible chance for the book! Oh to be writing another one instead!