It's 40 days until Calling Me Home releases, in case you're not counting the weeks, days, and minutes like I am.
It's an exciting time, and a slightly terrifying time, if you want to know the truth. I have a lot to do yet. I need to make detailed plans for my February 12 launch event and party--including deciding what sections/how much of Calling Me Home to read aloud and what to say and who to thank. Not to mention what to wear. Blog posts, essays, and interviews are already starting to stack up on my ongoing task list. I need to finalize travel plans for out-of-town events in February and March. I'm preparing to go off to the Pulpwood Queens Annual Girlfriend Weekend in Jefferson, Texas, again--if I can get my act together in time. (Fortunately, I have a flexible arrangement and can decide last minute, more or less.)
And that's just scratching the surface.
Many friends and family members have asked me this:
What can I do to help?
I often offer a blank stare in response. In spite of all the things I need to do, I'm not versed enough in this job yet to delegate very well.
However, as I think about it, there are some very easy answers to this question. It would take a long time to rattle these off to everyone in person, so I thought I'd made a list to refer to here instead. Some might be slightly tongue-in-cheek. Consider yourself warned. Without further ado ...
Ten ways to help a soon-to-be published debut author, in no particular order of importance, unless otherwise noted, in a somewhat rambling, semi-narrative format:
1. Preorder the book.
Okay, this one is really important. Preorder numbers give a big indication to booksellers and the publisher of how the book is going to do. Preorders can even affect the size of the print run. (Various buy links are here, on my website.)
2. Buy a copy of the book at book signing events you attend, if at all possible.
Most venues will not allow you to bring a previously purchased book in to be signed by the author anyway. They don't make any money if they don't sell any books. I will be completely happy to sign any copies of my book you purchase in almost any location, but will unfailingly honor a bookstore's policy while they are hosting me.
3. If you can afford to, do both.
Both types of purchases are extremely important to the immediate success of a newly released book. Both contribute to the possibilities that a book might end up on various bestseller lists upon debut or at any time during its shelf life.
4. If you need to choose one or the other, use good sense and follow your heart.
I will NEVER JUDGE YOU for prioritizing your expenses the way you need to. I have struggled financially at times in my life. I get it.
5. If you can't afford to do either, check it out at the library. If your library is preordering it, put your name on the hold list.
I will ALWAYS LOVE YOU for checking out the book at a library if you can't afford it. I love libraries. (Did you know I have a master's degree in library science?) Libraries are book buyers, too, and if my book is in demand, they are going to buy it.
6. Forgive me if I get a glazed look in my eyes while we are talking about anything not related to my book for the next couple of months.
Would you believe I even dream about it? Do you have any idea how hard it is to think about or concentrate on anything else right now?
7. Remind me if I have promised to do something for you or with you or as your guest involving the book and I haven't mentioned it lately.
It's highly possible I forgot. But even if I forgot, if I said I wanted to do it when we first talked about it, I really do! Please nag me. That even goes for my husband and kids. I am afraid I will simply drop the ball on some of the things we've talked about, and I would hate that for both of us. Please be my brain for a little while.
8. If you've received an advance copy, read it, and enjoyed the book, or if you read it upon release, it would help me very much if you would leave a review in any of the places folks go to learn about books.
Goodreads is already open for reviews of Calling Me Home. Please don't feel shy about sharing your honest opinion, even if it's not one hundred percent positive. If you are shy about leaving a review, a simple rating there is helpful, too. As soon as the book is released, Amazon, Barnes & Noble, iBookstore, and other online booksellers will be open to the public for reviews. The more reviews there are, the more visible the book becomes to folks browsing for books online, as the sites are programmed to display books more and more to browsing customers as they become more and more popular. A review on your blog, your social networking sites, or any other place is also a huge help.
9. Closely related to that, and this one's a biggie:
Any mention of my book anywhere is the way to spread the word.
It's said that word-of-mouth, grassroots marketing is the VERY BEST WAY to make a book a hit--if the book is good and appeals to people. Think about it. Why did you read the last book you read? I'm going to guess if you didn't pick it up browsing at a bookstore or library, someone told you about it, or you saw someone reading it and asked about it, or you heard about it in some other way. It didn't just land in your lap, right? Don't keep the books you love a secret. There's plenty of copies to go around. :)
If you liked Calling Me Home, will you please tell people about it?
"But, Julie," you ask, "Where should I talk about it? How?"
I'm so glad you asked.
Do you have a Facebook account? Do you tweet? Are you a member of a book club? Do you get together with other moms for play group? Do you sit on the sidelines with other parents at soccer or basketball games? Do you go out to dinner with friends? Do you have coffee with your coworkers? Do you talk to your librarian when you stop by the counter to pick up holds or check out books? These are just a few of the places where people talk about books and where you might mention reading Calling Me Home. The possibilities are endless.
10. Finally, this one is pretty daring. I dare you to READ IN PUBLIC.
As I mentioned in the last suggestion, many books people read, they read because they saw someone else reading it. On an airplane, in a park, on a coffee break ... anywhere. People start to recognize the colors and design of a cover--especially when they start seeing it everywhere. It becomes an icon for the story, which is why a memorable cover--the RIGHT cover--can be so very important.
Okay. I'm going to round this up to eleven.
Lately, photos have been popping up here and there on my Facebook page, on blogs, etc. The one near the bottom of this post is one of the first I saw. My husband took it. It's me! I kind of look like I'm wearing mom jeans (though I promise I was not and you would know this if you could see all the way down to my ankles and up to my waist). It's kind of fuzzy. It was taken with a cell phone.
But it was one of the most fun and funny and surreal things that has ever happened to me.
Imagine walking into a bookstore with your family, then stopping dead in your tracks to see something like this. First we stopped. Then we giggled. Then, when I was finished passing out, my husband sent me over to the sign for a photo session.
Since then, other folks who live nearby have posted photos on their Facebook walls standing next to the same sign. My daughter's friends have even texted her photos of themselves standing next to it. They are much more adorable than I am.
Not only does this stroke my ego and make me feel rather giddy and get butterflies in my stomach, but friends, I'm here to tell you--PEOPLE LOVE PICTURES. I posted a simple photo of my house lit up for the holidays and covered with rare Texas snow last week, and I got more views and "likes" than any other status I've posted on Facebook except for the photos I posted of my book covers. (See? Photos!)
What I'm saying is this:
Photos draw more attention than just about anything.
Please don't be shy or embarrassed to snap a shot of yourself reading the book or standing next to a sign like this, or when it comes out, a shot of the book in a bookstore or on your nightstand or bookshelf, or a shot of yourself holding up a review or newspaper feature, or really anything related to the book. Then post it on Facebook or Twitter or Tumblr or wherever you post your photos. Tag me if you can. I'll eat it up, I promise. And even better, someone new might learn about the book.