Monday, October 8, 2012

Huh. Apparently, I Know More People Than I Thought I Did (and other lessons I'm learning as I make an address list to promote my book)

I'm all about following directions, which is why I spent most of the past weekend putting together a list of every single person I have ever known in my entire life.

I got this advice from an awesome inspirational/writing how-to book called Making a Literary Life by Carolyn See. This is a book that I return to again and again because it's chock full of good ideas, ranging from how to plot, to the nuts and bolts of revision, to what kinds of clothes you should pack when you meet with your agent in NYC for the first time. I could probably write ten blog posts touting the stuff I stole from Carolyn See. She's got nifty tricks for creating characters (it has to do with throwing people you love and hate into an elevator and breaking the elevator down). And I follow her advice to the letter on how to take a crappy first draft into not so crappy second draft territory. Also I know that her suggestion to write thank you notes for rejections saved me from wallowing in despair on more than one occasion.

If you're a new writer starting out, or someone who's slogging along in the When Is This Ever Going to Happen segment of this fun journey, check this book out pronto. If nothing else, it will make you laugh (through your despair).

So anyway, See's got an entire section of her book devoted to what to do once you get your book deal. "Don't be vengeful," is one of her sage bits of advice. Write notes to all the people you know, even the ones you sorta don't like:

"You can send out copies to your most bitter enemies (in fact, it's a lot of fun to do that)," she says. "But be sure to keep your notes as clear as consomme'. Your note may say in invisible ink, I hope you're sorry now, you slut! But the regular ink should say: I wanted you to have a copy of this. I hope you like it as much as I do. It reminds me of a better time, when we had so much fun." 

But before you write any notes, you're going to have to build an address list. Here's who you should put on it, according to See:

"People who should know about your book. They include your old professors and schoolmates, your carpet cleaner, the guy who fixed your roof. Before you say, Oh, I couldn't ask them, think for a minute. If these people aren't going to buy your book, then who on earth is going to buy it?"

Okay. I believe you, Carolyn See. First step: I wheedled my husband, the excel spreadsheet wizard, into setting me up with a spreadsheet--with columns for name, address, email and all these cool ways to sort them--and I got down to work, beginning with everyone I send Christmas cards to. Ah, my lovely, supportive relatives and close friends, you are ON my list, people, just so you know.

Will they buy my book when it comes out? Um, maybe? Out of pure curiosity, if nothing else? It's a young adult novel. My great aunt might not understand it, but wouldn't she want to have a copy anyway? To show to people at her condo complex? I hope so.

The relatives and close friends were the easy part. What about the friends I've lost touch with? The people I knew in various cities where we lived over the years? Teachers I taught with and students I taught? My sorority sisters? My bunco group? My former PTA friends? My kids' viola teacher?

Nervous gulp. And then, I am adding them to my list.

Ditto, the lady who does my hair, the person I talked to in the dentist's waiting room, and the woman I just met the other night at a dinner party. Why the heck not, is my new motto.

My plan is to print up postcards with my book cover on it (don't actually have the book cover yet. It is still in the works, but when I get the go ahead...) and mail those out to all of the lucky people on my longer-than-I-thought-it-would-be list.Hey! Just a friendly reminder! That weirdo shy girl you went to high school with has a new book in case you want a birthday idea for the teen reader in your life.

Maybe they will run out and buy the book! (I am talking about WHEN the book actually comes out. I am such an eager beaver I am making this list a year in advance of the book release.)
Maybe they will chuck my postcard in the recycle bin!

I am totally okay with it either way. Really. And I guess I should end this post by saying if I haven't hit you up yet for your address and you want your name added to my list, let me know and I will get right on it.

As an added incentive, if you act now, I will send you a free bookmark...


  1. How about your mother's friends?

  2. Sure, Mom! Start collecting names!

  3. sorority sisters are on the list, i hope. All all the members of PEDS from senior year. (I still have my scissors somewhere). Heck why not the whole class of 1989 (1988, 1990) from Rhodes? : )

  4. JB, you are at the TOP of my list. No worries. And I like your idea of the classes at Rhodes. But why stop at the years we were there? Why not hit every student ever? I'm also thinking of people who live in states I once drove through and countries I thought about visiting...

  5. Put me on the list, please. I'm the one with the son who turns 14 on the release date (not 14 like I said before - wrong year). I'll send you my address in a Facebook message.

    I'm also checking out Caroline See as I slog away. Thanks for the tip.

    1. Karrie, I remember! Yes. Will definitely put you on my list. (I just sent a friend request on FB. Hope that was you... We can trade info there) And good luck with your writing. Carolyn See is hilarious but also really helpful. And have you read Stephen King's On Writing? (whether you like his books or not, his ideas on craft are very helpful too).

    2. Yes, I did read Stephen King. I especially liked his audio version of the book with his own voice reading it. It's the only book of his I've ever been able to read because his others frighten me too much;)
      Thanks for the luck!

  6. That should read not *13* like I said before. Sigh.

  7. Just started Carolyn See - thanks for the tip. The 1000 words frightens me. I've been at 350 for a while. But there must be some truth to that number. I see it everywhere, so I'll muster my courage;)

    1. Karrie, I think you have to figure out the right word count goal for you. Stephen King does 2000 (which I think is insane) but I settled on 1250 when I first started keeping track of words, which is roughly five pages. What I found happened was that I'd get to like 3 and a half pages and be stuck and want to quit, but I'd push through, and that would end up being the key to everything--and enough to give me something to work with the next day. Of course, I've read about writers who write one page a day and that works for them. End of the year you have a novel.

  8. Thanks, Jody. I'll figure it out. I guess I'll only know how much I can do if I give it a try. And I agree - 2000 is insane. I loved his book but thought 2000 was a bit much.