The Importance of Being Kind and Creative
So you've written a novel; now what? In this series, debut author-to-be Crystal King describes the traditional publication process from start to finish: the lead-up, what to expect along the way, and how building her social media platform has made a difference. In this installment of "On the Path to Publication" Crystal talks about what's next after launch of her debut novel, FEAST OF SORROW.
Month two after launch (maybe it should be B.L. and A.L.?) has had me very busy with readings, literary festivals and best of all, an incredible dream-come-true (for me!) recreation dinner with one of the best Italian chefs in Boston, Michael Pagliarini at Benedetto restaurant.
There are a couple of key things that I've learned about this whole being an author process:
1. What you send out into the world, you'll get back ten fold.
This may sound like something out of Buffy the Vampire Slayer, but it really is true. When you are kind and generous to others, they will go out of their way to help you. For example, I spoke at the Salem Literary Festival last weekend with one of my fellow Grubbies, Louise Miller. The invitation came about because someone else I knew suggested me to them. That person, another author I have helped promote, returned the favor by connecting me with one of the board members for the festival, who recommended me. I was delighted, and grateful for the connection. When I arrived at the festival, I had a thank you book for the person that helped that invite happen. Equally important--support other authors at your readings. I was truly delighted to be reading with Louise and I loved her book, and I told that audience I did...she did the same. People love it when authors are friends with each other. I see it all the time in social when fans get excited about two authors they care about connecting. And when fans are excited they talk more and they buy more.
I've also learned that sometimes things don't go the way you expect. When I arrived at one of my book readings last month, the bookstore thought I was doing a signing, but not a reading. I had many relatives coming, including elderly relatives. There was no where for me to read and nowhere for them to sit. The bookstore didn't blink an eye though, and immediately rushed to make a spot. In the process, a table collapsed and hundreds of books flooded the floor and I was so glad no one was hurt. They wouldn't let me help clean up. It slowed things down for getting the reading going, but when it did, it was fine even though the reading was awkward and very rushed. I still sold a whole bunch of books and my family was still happy. When I left I took a page from the awesome Randy Susan Meyers and bought one of my own books, gave it back to them and told them to give it to one of their best readers. It wasn't great, but the bookstore made it work and I was glad for it. I sold a lot of books and because I made the best of the situation, they kept up the endcap of my books for the rest of the week (my relatives were pleased to report!). In the end, we all still won.
My invite to the Brattleboro Library Festival this fall came at the recommend of another author I know. I suspect that is the same with the Boston Book Festival as well. Same with Writer's Digest conference this summer. I wouldn't have had any of those if I hadn't been helpful or kind to others first. I also know that people tell other people about authors they like to work with. Author Tim Weed is one of those people. Whenever I mention his name, people gush about him..."He's so wonderful, what a great guy, he's so generous, such a fantastic person to work with." I aspire to have those same things said about me. The reverse is never something anyone wants.
I have to show up to the party with a good product, yes, but the rest of it is all in the networking, in the connections. And if there is one thing I've learned about the Boston and NYC literary communities...they are tight. And they take care of their own. As a social media and marketing professional, I am drinking my own kool-aid in this regard. Word of Mouth is the most powerful thing an author has at their disposal. And you want that WOM to be on your side.
2. Don't be afraid to think out of the box.
When I first approached my publisher and suggested doing recreation dinners of the foods of Apicius (I wanted to do several in a couple of the biggest cities), they weren't keen on the idea. They didn't understand how it would sell books--40 books sold with the ticket hardly seemed worth the effort to them. I tried to explain but publishers in general are strapped for time and for people, and if it's not about getting a great book review it's not on the top of their list. I understand but it was disappointing. They were happy to support me in small, but they weren't going to help me in the organizing or promotion of the event.
So I did it myself. I've been dreaming of this dinner for ten years so I had a personal interest. But because of my background, I also knew the bigger opportunity--the press.
I reached out to the restaurant, organized it with them. Then I had my amazing external PR person that I hired, Megan Beatie, work with the Benedetto PR person to tackle press outreach.
The Boston Globe is notoriously difficult for local authors to get into, especially debut authors. There are just so many of us writers in the community and since they eliminated their books section it's been even harder to get any sort of coverage. So it was especially rewarding when my landlord proudly rings my bell to show me the front page of the Food section of the Globe and I could see my cover plastered there and the story about the dinner. I was also mentioned at least two if not three more times in the following days, with my book and the dinner showing up as a must-see event.
There were numerous local outlets that carried news of the dinner. It also included a spot on NECN which has a reach of about 5-6 New England states. Potentially more than a million viewers. AND at the dinner, I had an additional invite to a well-known local radio show.
Essentially, because of this dinner (which was amazing and heavenly and perfect), I had exposure to FEAST OF SORROW to literally millions of people (and so did the restaurant...they made good money and had incredible press).
If you have a crazy idea...explore it. Don't feel like you have to be bound the limitations your publisher might have for promotion.
Things are starting to slow for me in a lot of things...events, sales, etc. I'm somewhat glad for the respite, because now I can buckle down on getting book two finished (I'll talk about that next month!). I still have a several events coming up but they are a bit more spread out. I can't rest too much, though. There is still a lot of life left in my little FEAST OF SORROW!
Crystal King is a 20-year marketing, social media and communications veteran, freelance writer and Pushcart-nominated poet. She is the author of the FEAST OF SORROW, about the ancient Roman gourmand, Apicius. Crystal has taught classes in writing, creativity, and social media at Harvard Extension School, Boston University, Mass College of Art, UMass Boston and GrubStreet writing center. A former co-editor of the online literary arts journal Plum Ruby Review, Crystal received her MA in Critical and Creative Thinking from UMass Boston, where she developed a series of exercises and writing prompts to help fiction writers in media res. Find her on Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, or at her website: crystalking.comSee other articles by Crystal King