People outside the book biz often have a notion that once the book comes out, your big work is done, but for most of us who write or publish — whether you’re published by a teeny tiny press that puts out one book every three years, or by a mega-publishers that puts out one book every three hours — the reality is unrecognizable from the reputation.
For the last three months, to help get The Divorce Girl out into the world, I’ve sent out hundreds of emails and called dozens and dozens of phone numbers, as had my publisher at Ice Cube Press, to set up readings, blog tour stops, reviews and the like. Sometimes people respond. Sometimes they don’t. Often, success takes multiple attempts and catching someone at the perfect conjunction of venus and the moon, political poll reports in the paper juxtaposed with jazz music in the background, and the humidity dropping three percentage points within the hour. Or just a lot of work.
At the same time, this lot of work can devour every iota of time, energy and common sense, and there have been days when I look up from the computer, put down my phone that’s almost out of juice, and stare outside, thinking, “Where the heck am I?” A moment later, it comes to me, “Planet earth. Oh, yeah, I remember this.”
A typical day in the life of promoting a book might include:
- Four emails before breakfast to possible venues for readings in a city I’ll only drive to (on my own dime) if more than zero people would turn out for a reading and I can bundle this trip with another that I’m still waiting to hear final date information on.
- A warm phone call from a friend with a daughter in Lincoln, Nebraska about a phone from another friend setting up a reading.
- Sipping coffee while researching synagogues, art centers and libraries in Tulsa, Oklahoma.
- Two messages sent to leads on Facebook.
- Six phone messages left at various places that might be interested in hosting a reading, or at least that I think could possibly and maybe be interested.
- A phone call returned from a place I figured didn’t want me after weeks of no response, and now, O Happy Day, they do!
- An inordinate amount of time, while eating a banana, trying to find who to contact at a big library, only to discover there is only one phone number with three options (all about checking out or returning books, or library hours) and no information on who plans events.
- Is it time for lunch yet? No, but the dogs want out.
- Over two hours writing a proposal for a writing workshop while trying to figure out the workshop’s “outcomes.”
- Writing to my publisher to see what he’s found out about places he’s researching while the cat keeps walking across my keyboard.
- My cat and me checking what my kids have posted on Facebook lately. Letting dogs back in.
- Puzzling over my calendar at regular intervals, and returning frequently to mapquest (I like the classic.mapquest.com) to figure distances. Is it feasible to drive from Des Moines, IA to Salina, KS one morning in time to give a workshop and talk without getting wiped out? I’m afraid not, so onto Plan B, C, D and eventually Plan S.
- Letting the dogs out.
- Hearing back from my publisher who is still waiting on W, X, Y & Z while I wait on F, G H and I.
- Checking Facebook to see what my peeps are up to. Oh, look, a kitten!
- Letting the dog back in. Oh my god, it’s 100 degrees already.
- Composing two other emails about potential readings while my dog pants loudly at my side.
- Researching a new site for a blog tour stop by reading through the blog’s book reviews, “About Me” page and review policy, then composing an email to the blogger only to discover now I can’t find his/her/their email address.
- Lunch! Did I forget lunch? It’s 2:30 p.m., and I’m going to die if I don’t eat now, so it’s off to the kitchen, only to discover Daniel ate the leftover stir-fry and finished off the tortillas. I end up toasting the last piece of bread (after finding out the dog ate most of the loaf) with peanut butter and jelly. I find half a cup of coffee and almond milk from breakfast that I forgot to finish too.
- Letting the dogs out.
- Answering two emails, getting various responses to other emails that so-and-so is on vacation and won’t be back until mid-August, and reaching out to yet another potential venue.
- Letting the dogs back in.
- Making inquiries for a reading in January. Winter. What will that be like?
- Finding a cartoon on Facebook about how dogs and cats play spin-the-bottle: the cat thinks furiously as she spins, “Not the dog, not the dog.” I find this so funny that I laugh until I cry.
- Opening the front door, wondering why I feel like I’m in front of a blast furnace, and looking at the thermometer: 106.
- Getting in the car, driving to town, signing a box of my books at The Raven, then wandering through the grocery store with no idea what foods I need to replenish until I see them on the shelves.
By the end of the day, when Ken comes home and asks what I did today, all I can say is, “I found this great cartoon about dogs, cats and spin-the-bottle.” I can’t remember much else by this point, only that whatever I did, I’ll do some of it again tomorrow.