Tuesday, December 30, 2008

Things I Learned This Year About Getting a Book Published

2008 will always stand out for me as the year my first book, Fouling Out, was published. The editing and final decisions that involved me were completed in 2007. Still, it was fascinating to experience the unveiling of a new book. I did not know what to expect and treated the process as a learning experience. That said, here are the most important things I learned:

1) A publisher is not a pseudo-agent. The fact that someone holds a position related to marketing does not mean an author can sit back and let the publicity stumble upon him.

2) A publication date is only an estimate. People kept asking me when the book was coming out and all I could say was, "Spring 2008." Then, through some online ego-surfing, I discovered that Target and Amazon had projected a March 1 release date. It turns out they jumped the gun. Fouling Out hit shelves during the first week of April.

3) Ask for help when throwing a book launch. I pride myself in being independent and I find it difficult to ask anyone for help since I do not want to be a burden. On the day of my launch, I put in a regular day at work and gave myself a little over an hour to get from work to the launch site to set up. I would not have managed without my cousin and a family friend who surprised me by showing up. They quickly took control of the food and the setup while I greeted early arrivals. (Imagine, early arrivals. I'd wondered if anyone would show up at all!)

4) A launch can be big news in a small town. An article made the front page of Community Arts section of the local paper, complete with a color photo of me at the launch. Too bad small newspapers don't have the budget to airbrush photos like they do in Vanity Fair.

5) There seems to be no rhyme or reason as to which libraries will carry your book. Fouling Out is on the shelves in Salisbury, Australia and there are seventeen copies within the Brooklyn library system. (If the Canucks do not go far in the playoffs, I'll cheer for the Rangers. Heck, they've got Naslund anyway!) There's a copy in Ypsilanti, Michigan and four in Gwinnett County, Georgia. Regina carries seven and Calgary surfaced early on with five copies. Quite a while later, the first copies appeared in Vancouver and there are still no copies in Richmond, B.C. despite the fact that the entire novel is set there. That's my biggest disappointment. I think it's extra special for readers to get their hands on a novel that takes place in their hometown.

6) Podcasting is a way to generate a little press and, perhaps, a little buzz. I had the pleasure of being interviewed by Mark and Andrea of Just One More Book while on a visit to Ottawa. (Just One More Book is my website find of the year. This industrious couple posts 3-4 podcasts a week, promoting children's books for people of all ages.) I also had a live phone interview which aired as a podcast on Book Bites for Kids, based in Kansas. Before getting my book published, I knew as much about podcasts as I know about Olympic rifle shooting. My greenness is wearing off (at least with respect to the podcasting).

7) Blog away to promote your book and to chronicle your current writing. I am really not sure if anyone reads my posts (comment anyone?), but blogging presents a periodic distraction when the creative writing isn't flowing (or when vacuuming doesn't seem that exciting).

8) Don't quit your day job (unless you win the lottery or come into wealth by some other means). "He must be rich," one student at my school commented. By my calculations, I have earned a couple of pennies per hour in writing and editing my first book. I think I treated myself and bought a new t-shirt.

9) Celebrity fades fast. I had my fifteen--no, five--minutes of fame and now it's back to being special only in the eyes of my dogs. (Thank you, Lincoln and Hoover! You were there before all the fame.)

10) I am still on the outside looking in. A month after Fouling Out hit stores, I took a group of students to the Red Cedar Book Awards ceremony. I saw eager readers line up for autographs from the nominated authors. I heard the enthusiastic applause as accomplished writers like Richard Scrimger and Irene Watt paraded into the gymnasium for the award presentations. I was just as excited to see and hear these authors. In August, I attended the Festival of the Written Arts on the Sunshine Coast and spotted greats like Elizabeth Hay and Michael Ondaatje. I listened to a humble, yet charismatic new writer, David Chariandy, talk about his delightful Soucouyant and rushed to buy a copy for signing (even though I'd read a library copy). To be feted like these amazing author remains but a dream. When you work away for months--okay, years--on a book, it's rewarding to witness genuine appreciation. I've had a small taste. I am driven to continue writing. Maybe bigger things are ahead of me.


Anonymous said...

Hi Gregory,

I found your blog because you mentioned our author, David Chariandy. I liked what you had to say about how an author has to get out there and help out with promoting as it is a big part of publishing these days. Especially the social networking. I was on the Red Cedar board for a few years so I know the excitement the kids have for their authors! I also have a house on the Sunshine Coast (Halfmoon Bay) but couldn't get up there because of the snow! sniff sniff
Good luck with the writing and I look forward to hearing more about you and your books in the future!

Janice Beley
Marketing Director
Arsenal Pulp Press


Hi Janice,
I am learning as I go with respect to book promotion. The process fascinates me although I can't help but feel that I am stumbling about when there must be clearer, more direct paths to follow. Regardless, I shall remember the journey.

The snow is finally melting in most places on the Sunshine Coast. Since I am the principal at Halfmoon Bay School, I can tell you that the roads are much better in that area. I hope you get a chance to enjoy this lovely area again soon!

As for David Chariandy, I anxiously await his next novel!