Hello, friends, and welcome to March! Where did February go?
I spent most of last month revising Contagion2. This is the most complicated book I've ever written (why do I keep making them more complicated?) and it has been a FEAT to revise. I was hoping to finish in February, but the story needs more time. I know I'll get the book to where it needs to be, but revising is one of those things that, at least for me, is super intimidating until I'm about 75% done. Why? Because the first half of the process is just hacking apart my manuscript. It's not until I start stitch things back together that I can actually see the book taking shape again. THAT'S when all the effort begins to seem worthwhile.
I also started to work on Contagion swag in February. I ordered stickers and began some light promo (like writing a Valentine for the book). Bookmarks are also in the works.
Until then, feast your eyes on the full jacket for Contagion:
Isn't it beautiful? Look at that eerie, mysterious background art. Check out the flap copy. And what's that on the back? Blurbs from authors I admire fiercely! (The back jacket only had room for a shortened version of these ladies' kind words. I'll be sharing their full blurbs on instagram in the coming months.)
Bringing Up Baby (Bowman)
The (currently) littlest Bowman is ready for spring. (Aren't we all?) We had some unseasonably warm weather in February, which allowed us to get outside a bit. The driveway was even clear/dry enough for chalk drawing! But in New England, March is too early for spring, so snow will surely reappear soon. (Alas)
Her book pick for this month is the newly minted Caldecott winner Wolf in the Snow written and illustrated by Matthew Cordell. With barely any words, this is a touching story about a girl who befriends an lost wolf cub as they both try to make their way home during a snowstorm.
Today, I want to talk about how I'm tired. I'm seven months pregnant, mother to a three-year-old, and in the process of revising a novel. Of course I'm tired. Tired is my general state of being these days. I guess what I mean is that I am tired of the hustle.
Writing a book is a challenge in itself, but there is so much to being an author that I wasn't prepared for when I debuted. I don't just write and revise the book. I promote it. Create swag for it. Design teaser graphics. Run preorder campaigns. Do events and travel. I fund 95% of this stuff myself. I'm my own one-person business!
I want to make it clear that all authors hustle. I am not unique in this regard. I'm just starting to get burned out. As I revise Contagion2, my brain is subconsciously thinking about how I need to kick off Contagion promo come May and I just... don't want to do it. Of course, if I do nothing and the sales aren't that great, part of me will always wonder, WHAT IF. What if I'd done more? What if I'd promoted harder, or had more desirable swag, or booked myself more events? What if what if what if.
Still, I'm considering pulling back for Contagion. My baby is due at the end of April and that's exactly when I would kick off promo with most titles; three months to pub. Perhaps it's a good excuse to try sending a book into the world without running myself ragged. I'll let the baby run me ragged instead. 😜
I think a big part of my marketing burnout is the result of being unable to know, concretely, what has worked and what hasn't. An author only has so much personal reach, and how much does any author's efforts actually contribute to the success of a book? And what is "success" anyway? Is it merely seeing the book on shelves? Is it hitting a best-seller list? Is it starred reviews or literary acclaim? Is it merch or fan art or subscription boxes or movie deals or getting sent on tour? Success, in my mind, is your book selling well enough that your publisher makes money on it. This is why I always run preorder campaigns; they are a nice boost to early sales. For an author who has hit a best-seller list multiple times already, they may strive for that same measure of success with each new release, or at least for sale numbers that are on par with their previous books. "Success" is different for everyone in this industry. Success is relative.
There are many levels of success that I've never had. My books are not best-sellers. I've never been on a publisher-funded tour. I don't have any of those fancy book-themed candles with scents inspired by my characters or settings (at least not that I'm aware of), and receiving fan art is super special for me, not something that happens often. BUT MY BOOKS ARE DOING JUST FINE. They really are. I may not have earned out an advance yet, but a few of my books are close, and my publishers are happy, which is all an author can really hope for at the end of the day. (And I know I'm not alone on this ladder rung, accomplishment-wise. Many authors are right here with me, and we're all immensely grateful the successes we do have.)
It's no secret that social media is a highlights reel. We show the highs, and even those moments (to quote a friend) "are spit-shined." But even knowing this, it's so easy to fall into the comparison game, to look at what everyone around you has achieved, what mountains they've climbed that you're still scaling, how many rungs above you they are on the ladder. We can't write for these random measures of success. We can't write just for the highlights. We have to write because we love the story. We have to put that book into the world knowing that its performance will be a combination of luck + timing + publisher backing + yeah, having written a damn good story helps too. But beyond that, its success out of our control.
I'm dedicated and hard-working and passionate. I don't think anyone doubts that I put my all into my books. I'm going to give myself permission to take it easy with Contagion... A simple preorder campaign, a few teaser graphics, and maybe a local event or two (if my post-baby, sleep-deprived body is ready for it). Outside of that, I plan to wave the novel into the world and see what happens. And at the end of the day, if the book doesn't perform as I (and my publisher) hope, I will remember that this is not a reflection of my worth as a person. We authors are not our books' successes or failures. Our books alone are proof that we've accomplished something incredible. Anything else is icing on the cake.
SUCCESS IS RELATIVE.
Remember this, and remind me of it if I'm having an existential crisis come launch.