Launching a novel is not like launching a rocket or a boyfriend or a hard-packed snowball. All of these are fast events with thrilling/devastating moments, particularly at impact. Launching a novel is more like canning the entire harvest of your garden and fruit trees, with a friend’s berries and extra zucchini thrown in, during a truly hot late summer. In Mississippi.
“Guest House” doesn’t fit the blockbuster launch pattern. I am a debut novelist. Mine is a small independent publisher. My novel does not occupy a category other than literary women’s fiction. So the task, as a friend in publishing told me, was to launch the novel over a period of months capitalizing on each small gain until recognition grew in the hearts and minds of many. She actually said “nine months.” Her words had an almost magical effect on me. My approach shifted from angst to a calm, curious patience. I have begun cultivating readers one review at a time. My first review came from my soon-to-be life partner. Then a dear friend. And then real magic: a review from someone I have never met.
I’d hosted a pre-release book giveaway on my website. Anyone promising to read, review and forward my book to a friend within one week received a review copy. This resulted in wonderful reviews on all the online booksellers and, thanks to a GoodReads giveaway as well, a U.S. map stuck with twenty-seven pins—tracking where “Guest House” has traveled thus far. You can see the map on my website. New pins go in as “Guest House” gains new readers. I welcome news of states not yet pinned!
Paying it forward really has worked wonders. In about six weeks, one reader loaned my novel out to four of her friends, two of whom wrote passionate online reviews. Now she’s given “Guest House” to her book club president. She is her own PR firm and lending library.
Being a little shy, I worked up the nerve to approach two of my favorite (nationally renowned) online bloggers. Both agreed to read “Guest House.” Of course they are two of the busiest people on the planet, but if/when their reviews break, “Guest House” will gain hundreds of new acquaintances. And here I am on Minding Spot, telling you all about pickles.
I really do love canning. Peaches are different than salsa is different than bread and butter pickles. The reviews coming in--my harvest--say such different things about “Guest House.” One woman sees “the resiliency of children who have the misfortune of being born to bad parents.” One man realizes “gardening clears the mind.” One reviewer calls me part comedienne and part Zen master. And how do you thank the reviewer who favorably compares your novel to a Booker Prize winner?
Just keep writing.
Guest blog first appeared on Wendy's Minding Spot.
Pickle photo thanks to Dreamstime.