A Brand New Novel
Josephine Baker, the early-20th-century African-American dancer, comic, and singer–hugely famous in Paris. Did you know that she was also a spy for the French Resistance during WWII?
I have a novel to write — a complex, challenging tale, my most ambitious project yet. Under contract with Simon & Schuster, I have a deadline to meet. So what the heck am I doing on Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads?
Publicizing FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS, is what.
Six weeks after my novel’s debut, I still spend hours every day spreading the word about new reviews — three bedazzling ones this week from Romantic Historical Fiction Lovers, Layered Pages, and Fresh Fiction — and dreaming up new ways to expand its presence online and in the media. And I’m wondering, these days, how much is enough.
“Why don’t you just stop publicizing your new book, and let it be whatever it’s going to be?” my 18-year-old daughter asked. “Write your new one, Mom. That’s how you get readers — by writing books.”
But, oh, she doesn’t understand. This is my baby we’re talking about, my creation — and also my career.
Yes, THE JEWEL OF MEDINA helped to make my name as an author. An international best-seller, it did quite well in the States in hardback. But then my publisher, Beaufort Books, decided not to bring it out in paperback. Then they brought the sequel, THE SWORD OF MEDINA, out in hardback-only, too. This was about the worst thing my publisher could have done for my career, aside from not publishing these books at all (Ballantine, the original publisher, backed out of our two-book deal just before THE JEWEL OF MEDINA’s pub date after being warned that they might cause terrorist attacks).
Because of this unexpected, and disappointing, turn of events, readers can’t go into most bookstores and see my first two books for sale. The shelf life of hardback books is finite. I think A’isha’s story ought to be read — which is, after all, why I wrote the book — so I feel sad about that. The effect, however, is more than emotional. My books never having had a paperback launch, never having been on bookstores’ “new in paperback” tables, and not being available on bookstore shelves has essentially rendered them invisible in the U.S. market. Forgotten.
So, with FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS, I must start again. It’s almost like being a debut novelist — but I’m not. I’m building my readership one review at a time, one Tweet at a time, one Facebook post or Goodreads friend at a time. I do it in part because I love connecting with readers, but also because I believe in my books.
And yet — when do I get off this publicity merry-go-round? How much marketing is too much? Is it ever OK to let my books be what they are, and to trust that word of mouth will spread the word about them?
After all, Heloise’s story clamors to be told. Immersed in her world, I don’t want to be anywhere else — but there’s a Goodreads discussion going on around FOUR SISTERS, ALL QUEENS, and I have a blog interview waiting to be answered. Don’t cry for me — I love all the attention my book is getting — and yet, I ask you: When is enough enough? If I turn my attention to other matters, will my book become invisible, as the first two seem to be? How does anyone know when to stop publicizing? Or, given the infinite online possibilities today, is stopping ever OK?