By Alex Segura
Great pre-pub buzz.
Strong pre-orders on this one.
You hear these things sometimes. Maybe I do more than most, working as a publicist by day. As an author, these phrases are like the pot of gold at the end of the rainbow. Especially after months or years spent toiling away at a novel. Finally! Someone read it! Someone even likes it!
It’s a validation, in a way, of the hard work you put in. If your publisher is on their game, it’s also a testament to them and their ability to get the word out and make sure the right people have copies of your book. Of course, the story comes first. If your book doesn’t work or isn’t the best it can be, these things don’t happen. But let’s assume we all know what we’re doing and you’ve written a good book. The early reviews are strong. The blurbs are in. The launch party went great. You’re riding high.
All good, right?
Well, let’s fast forward to a few months after release. The shine is off the apple. A handful of “pub days” have sped by. Your book isn’t the new kid in school. The review cycle has wound down and your emails to your people no longer sound like that of an excited kid on Christmas - “Look at this great review!” - but more akin to an ex hoping to rekindle a one-sided affair…”Hey, how’s it going…?”
It’s a question that’s plagued authors for a good long while: how do you keep interest alive after your book’s come out? I don’t claim to have any answers, aside from my own experience on the other side of the fence, promoting books myself. I will say, it’s become even harder now that we’re in a 24-hour news cycle and riddled with distractions galore. Why think about a book that came out in February when it’s June and Rooney Mara and Jake Gyllenhaal took a walk together in NYC? Everyone’s talking about that OJ documentary - who cares about your book?
There’s no definite answer, but there are a few options. The easiest one, and the one that speaks to our skill sets as writers is simple: write the next one. There’s only so much you, the author, can control in terms of the “greater conversation.” The initial promotional lap is exhausting, brain-melting and feels like a job unto itself. I don’t know about you, but I got very little writing done while promoting my second Pete Fernandez book, Down the Darkest Street. Actually, that’s not true - I did a lot of writing. But it wasn’t actual novel work. There were guest blogs, interviews, reviews, promotional tweets and Facebook posts...you get it. It’s all part of the game, right? But to my point: there will come a time where that well dries up. The train has passed you by and your only real choice is to pick up your tools and get to work on the next one. It’s frightening (“I don’t want to give up on my book!”) but also liberating - this is what we want to be doing, the writing. Even for someone well versed in the PR game like me, the publicity rounds can be a little soul-draining. It’s nice to hop back in the saddle and just tell stories.
The other thing you can do, which I’ve touched on before, is to talk about books. Specifically, not your books. Talk about the novel you’re reading. Talk about the author you’re enjoying. Spread the word. Karma is a vague, subjective thing - but it works for me. It’s nice to get out of my own headspace and just praise the book I’m enjoying or looking forward to. It’s not as direct as, say, pleading for Amazon reviews - but it sure tastes better.
This is where I press play on Elton John’s “The Circle of Life” and ask you, fellow writer, to share what you do in this situation. How do you handle the post-launch blues?