I Don’t Ever Give Up

Patty Griffin’s song I Don’t Ever Give Up was my daily listen a few years back, in the time before I wrote Bittersweet. Do you know that song? Stream it right now! It’s on her brilliant album Children Running Through, which has some of my other favorite songs of hers on it – Burgandy Shoes, No Bad News (a love song to her dog), and Up To The Mountain, to name a few. Stream the whole damn thing while you’re at it! In the meantime, I’ll tell you why I Don’t Ever Give Up became my personal anthem in those days when I truly believed my career was over. Actually, I guess it’s pretty self explanatory if you read the lyrics:

I’m no kid in a kid’s game
Did what I did, I got no one to blame
But I don’t give up, no, I don’t ever give up
It’s all I got, it’s my claim to fame

I’m no fighter but I’m fighting
This whole world seems uninviting
But I don’t give up, no, I don’t ever give up
I fall down sometimes, sometimes I come back flying

Liars are lying, airplanes are flying
Love isn’t here, love isn’t here
But it’s somewhere

You turn to forget me
But something won’t let me
Love isn’t here, love isn’t here
But it’s somewhere

I’m not clean, I’m not washed up
This dream, I don’t ever give up
I don’t ever give up
I don’t ever give up

No, I don’t ever give up
No, I don’t ever give up
No, I don’t ever give up
I don’t ever give up

It was a hard song to listen to some days- some days it made me angry. Sometimes it made me cry. Sometimes I sang along with it at the top of my lungs. Some days I didn’t want to listen to, but I made myself.

And then I made myself write a few words. And I made myself believe in my dream- the dream to write another book, to have someone want to read it, to have someone want to publish it, to have someone want to review it.

And that day has come.

It’s a good thing to know that my stubbornness is sometimes worth celebrating.

Two Weeks Until Publication = All The Feels

Dan and I had lunch together yesterday and it was this kind of amazing firestorm of Ohmygoodnessit’shappening!!! combined with Howarewesupposedtofeel??? crossed with Whathappensnext??? In between, I stole his french fries.

So what do I feel? Well, of course I feel excited. In two weeks the bookstore I walked into today will (hopefully) be selling Bittersweet! But if there’s one thing book publishing has taught me is that there are many other feelings, good and bad, that come along with this whole big old process. I’ve been talking to a few other writers who have books coming out in the next little bit of time, and they’re running the gamut of feelings too, perhaps best summed up in this fantastic Facebook post written by Porochista Khakpour, whose novel, The Last Illusion, is the featured book in today’s OMG! All The Books! Giveaway:

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Here are my feels for today, in no particular order:

- I’m feeling guilty that I haven’t been posting on this site in recent weeks!

- I’m feeling nervous that none of the possibilities that my publicist mentioned in our phone meeting today might come true.

- And then I’m feeling chagrinned, because *one* of those possibilities will probably happen, right? Right???

- I’m feeling a general wash of anxiety when I first wake up every morning. I’ve learned the best solution to that problem is to just get my butt out of bed and start the day, but the anxiety still comes in little waves of ohmygoodness as the day goes on.

- I’m feeling distracted- I can’t really focus on much of anything for a long period of time. So I’ve started lots of small projects in my house, but my husband can attest to the fact that the dishes really aren’t being washed all that regularly. Still, I like to think that all that distraction is making me a fun mom, since I’m much more likely to curl up with a book or suggest we watch some Tom & Jerry or be up for a trip to the ice cream shop.

- I’m feeling moved and honored to see so many people I know and love (and a growing number of people I haven’t met yet) feeling enthusiastic about Bittersweet as we near publication.

- I’m also prone to burst into tears much more often than usual. Like, about anything.

My mantra for these next two weeks: be easy on yourself. A good mantra to adopt for the rest of my life, I suppose, and yours too!

The OMG! All The Books! Giveaway Launches Today!

I’m so happy that Emma Straub’s novel The Vacationers is kicking off the OMG! All The Books! Giveaway today. The rest of the week we’ll be giving away Maggie Shipstead’s Astonish Me, Ted Thompson’s The Land of Steady Habits, Jean Kwok’s Mambo in Chinatown, and Caeli Wolfson Widger’s Real Happy Family. We’ll be giving away 24 books in daily giveaways through May 8th. And then one lucky grand prize winner will win all 24 books! To enter the giveaway, click here. And please feel free to spread the word!

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The OMG! All The Books! Giveaway- Resources and Benefits

Julia, Dan and I were all surprised by how quickly this ballooned from text message to full-blown event, probably because none of us on our own would ever have been able to pull this off on our own. So how did our efforts complement each other?

-As founding director of Sackett Street Writer’s Workshop and general friend-to- writers-about-town, Julia has a ton of personal connections that she has honed not through “networking,” but through genuine friendships and support of her friends’ work. But although she knew a lot of people whose books were coming out in the next few months, she was swamped with work and knew she’d have no time to put together a big giveaway like this on her own.

-Meanwhile, I’d been feeling restless and was looking for that one final push idea, a way to keep my hands busy and spread the word about Bittersweet to people who wouldn’t otherwise hear about it. I had the desire to reach out, but since I’d been in hermit mode in terms of the New York writing scene until about a year ago, I really don’t know very many writers. And I was starting to feel that my regular forms of getting the word out- Twitter, Facebook, my newsletter, were stale. I wanted to try something new but I had no idea what it was until Julia mentioned how many friends with books she had coming out (and I realized I had a handful of friends in the same position).

-Finally, Dan and I have been working together for the past year, but lately we’d started to notice a lull in the tasks he and I could come up with together. He’d helped me build FriendStories. He’d helped my redesign MirandaBW.com. He’d helped me figure out a workflow for my social media presence, and although he serves as a constant source of encouragement and a resource of fabulous ideas, I could tell he was eager for something more to do. And then, lo and behold—we gave him something to do! The logistics of this giveaway—from the legal side of things, to the workflow, to the day-to-day organization—is something that neither Julia nor I would have ever had any interest in/knowledge about; frankly, it would have kept us from organizing such a thing. Meanwhile, Dan actually thinks all that is FUN (can you believe it?).

Unexpected Benefits

When were first discussed this giveaway, I knew there would be ways it would benefit me. I knew that:

-       I was getting a chance to be introduced to many authors whose work I greatly admire, and, because Julia was the one making the introduction, her “vouching” for me would bring me many steps closer than I’d ever been before.

-       In extending the invitation to promote these new friends’ books, I would be able to gain their respect and show them, through my generosity, that we could be friends down the road.

-       We would be driving traffic to my website, which would mean that people who were coming to this giveaway through other avenues would end up knowing about me and Bittersweet.

-       In banding together a group of so many authors and hosting this giveaway on my blog, I hoped we’d be making enough of a news story in and of itself that we would extend our reach beyond even our personal networks.

But there have been other benefits too:

-       The chance to drive traffic to my fellow authors’ websites.

-       The enthusiasm of many of the other authors’ publicity and marketing departments, and their pledges that they will help us spread the word too.

I’m sure other good fortune will come thanks to the forward momentum this project seems to have already gained. I’ll keep you posted!

The OMG! All The Books! Giveaway – Pinning Down The Details

Defining the Giveaway

Two or three days after we’d first hatched the giveaway plan, we had a much firmer grip on the logistics:

1)   Dan found an image of a Columbia House tape/record club that perfectly captured that nerdy/friendly vibe we loved, and we decided to replace the tapes in the image with books.

2)   We decided to host the giveaway on my website, MirandaBW.com. This would mean that Dan and I would be able to keep a firm handle on the logistics, and also, since he and I would be working on the day-to-day, nitty gritty part of this giveaway, that I’d be getting “paid back” for all that work with a (hopefully) sharp increase of traffic to my website, and the chance to introduce myself to lots of folks who’ve never heard of me or Bittersweet before.

3)   We decided to start the giveaway on Monday, April 7th, which would give us plenty of time to put together what we needed to, as well as mean the giveaway would culminate in featuring Julia and my books just before the grand prize giveaway would be announced—thereby hopefully increasing exposure for both Cutting Teeth and Bittersweet soon before our mutual publication date (May 13th).

4)   We decided that in order to get maximum exposure for each author, we needed to give away one book a day (which would give us a timeframe for the giveaway—it’ll be as many days long as we have authors), but we also wanted the giveaway to feel big and juicy, so we’d also feature a “grand prize winner,’ which meant that at the end of the whole thing, some lucky reader would win ALL THE BOOKS (which, I’ll admit, set me into a mouthwatering fit of envy). The individual giveaway would mean the writers involved would be super motivated to share the giveaway across their social media platforms on their given day. And the promise of a huge giveaway at the end of things would hopefully be dramatic enough that it would gain its own following.

5)   We needed to come up with a name for the giveaway. We ditched more generic handles (“Spring 2014 Buzz Books,” for example) in the interest of something personal (and friendly). At first Dan and I loved “Ermahgard! All The Books!” (casual, and dorky, like us!), but when Julia didn’t know about the “Ermahgard” meme, we rejected that more insidery tone for something that expressed the same enthusiasm: “OMG! All The Books!” Dan did some Twitter research and discovered that #omgbooks was being underutilized, so we’ve started using that hashtag, since Twitter will be a popular place for writers and readers to be sharing about this giveaway.

Reaching out to Authors

Once we had established more of the logistics, I crafted an outreach email to the 29 writers we wanted to approach. This email was friendly, and extended an invitation to people Julia and I love and respect, offering them a chance to let us help them spread the words about their books. What were we asking of the writers in exchange for being part of this giveaway?

1)   Two signed first editions whenever their book came out. They took a pledge to send those books to the two people who will win their books: the individual winner, and the grand prize winner. Because these are all people we know personally, we felt comfortable giving up control over sending out the books ourselves; also, it saved us a lot of money to ask them or their publishers to pay for their own postage!

2)   To fill out a short information sheet that we would use to create the individual giveaway post for each author. This sheet includes basic information (website, bio, author photo, book jacket, favorite social media feeds, etc) as well as nine open-ended questions (of which we asked them to pick four or five) that means we can post a mini Q&A with original content for each author on their individual giveaway day, which (we hope) will further drive traffic to the site because of its unique, shareable content. We also asked them to come up with an “easter egg” question, the question we will ask giveaway entrants about each featured book, which they’ll have to then go to the personal website of the given author in order to answer, and enter that day’s giveaway (which will automatically enter them into the grand prize too).

3)   The promise to spread the news of this giveaway far and wide—across their social media platforms, on their websites, in their newsletters, and with their marketing team and publicists at their publishers (who will hopefully, in turn, spread the word too). With over two dozen of us participating in this giveaway, there’s the chance for a many more people to hear about our books than most of us would be able to spread the word to on our own.

Next Steps 

Last week, we were thrilled to hear yesses back from 23 folks (including ourselves, and we’re still waiting to hear from a few others)! I think a large part of why so many people said yes was because of Julia’s natural warmth and her personal connections to many of the people we reached out to (I also had a personal relationship to a few of the folks we were asking, but if I’m being honest, the friendships that Julia has developed within the literary community were vital to getting this idea off the ground).

Since then, we have sent out the information sheet I described above to all the writers who’ve said yes, and I’m receiving them back hourly—such wonderful insights into the minds and work of so many writers I admire!

We’re hearing so much positivity from in-house publicists and marketing folks; they love this idea and are eager to spread the word. Already folks from Crown, RandomHouse, St. Martin’s, Penguin and more have said they’ll be happy to share the news of this giveaway with their social media followings.

There’s still a lot to do: finalize the design of the giveaway image; design and draft the individual giveaway pages; continue to reach out and be resources to the writers we’ve asked to participate; design and send out a guide for the writers participating (which will include the giveaway image, sample tweets, information about their individual giveaway, and more); figure out a workflow for me and for Dan on the logistical end of things; not to mention run the thing daily once April 7th rolls around!

I’ll post more tomorrow about the takeaways I’ve had so far while working on this giveaway, and keep you updated next week on further developments.

The OMG! All The Books! Giveaway- First Steps

I’d forgotten how strange it feels to be two months out from publication. I can only liken the experience to sailing toward the home shore at a steady clip, and then, when your destination is in sight, the wind suddenly failing, causing your vessel to become completely becalmed. You know you’re going to get there—you can see home—but it feels as though you never will. It seems as though you’ll just be sitting still, in the middle of a vast body of water, for the rest of your life.

Over the last couple of weeks I’ve felt becalmed. And feeling becalmed, to me, who promised to do everything I possibly could to get the word out about Bittersweet, has been incredibly uncomfortable. Plenty of good is happening for my book, and I have an amazing team at Crown who is steadily and surely getting the good word out, but I’ve never done well with my own idle hands.

And so, a couple weeks ago, when I was texting with my new (and already very good) friend Julia Fierro (whose absorbing novel, Cutting Teeth, comes out the same day as mine, which cements a close bond), and I suggested we might consider putting together a book giveaway for our two books, and she casually mentioned that she is good friends with “a lot” of people whose books are coming out this spring/summer, but that she had no time to organize a big giveaway, and I realized that I am becalmed and I feel like I’ve got nothing but time at the moment, and that Dan Blank is an expert in all things online and that he would probably enjoy organizing the logistics of a huge book giveaway as much as both Julia and I would loathe it, that maybe I had found myself a way to start to paddle toward shore.

(Also, as Dan recently said, I’ve been consciously trying to have my recent outreach projects feel both fun and generous. This idea seemed perfectly positioned at that crossroads.)

The ideas and details fell into place much more quickly than I could have anticipated:

-Between the two of us, Julia and I came up with a list of 29 friends whose books are pubbing between now and August. We researched their titles and pubdates, and agreed to reach out to them once we had settled more about what the giveaway would entail.

-As predicted, Dan was thrilled. He got all excited about legal language and how we’d handle the workflow, and as my eyes glazed over I thanked the heavens that I had the good sense to work with him this year because oh my goodness never in a million years would I be able to handle that very necessary logistical end of things were I doing this on my own.

-Because these writers are Julia’s or my close friends, we immediately knew we wanted the tone of the giveaway to be playful, or friendly, from the image we’d use, to the name of the giveaway, to how we’d feature each author. When we looked at publisher-run giveaways, we found many of them lacked that “personal” connection, a connection that often increases my interest readerly in a book. We wanted to welcome potential readers of any or all of our books into this friendly group, so they’d feel a part of something. I’ve learned this year that when using social media, one of the best strategies one can employ is to make people feel they are a part of something. Generosity begets generosity.

Once we had these three basic cornerstones in place, we knew we had not just an idea on our hands, but a unique, tangible experience that we could be offering. Definitely a better feeling than being becalmed. More on the process of putting together the book giveaway tomorrow!

Proof That Social Media Works (Thanks, John Truby!)

I want to admit something. It’s about why I’ve been quieter than usual the last few weeks.

Lately, as I’ve gotten closer to publication, I’ve started to feel, well, less and less enthusiastic about social media. I went into this year knowing that I wanted to do everything I possibly could to get the word about Bittersweet into the world, and so I jumped into social media feet first. For the most part, putting myself “out there” has been a very rewarding experience- a great way to connect with potential readers; with writers, who are fueled by the work I’m doing on this website around the marketing process; with the writers who’ve contributed to FriendStories (and the readers who’ve loved reading the FriendStories). It’s also been a great way to keep myself occupied in the long year between selling Bittersweet and its publication.

On a good day, all these extra places I can “be” is an easy pleasure. I flit between Twitter and Facebook, post here on the booklaunch blog, email potential FriendStories authors, and keep my creative work afloat. But I’ve been finding that easy flit harder and harder to balance with the creative work I want and need to be doing.

Also, there’s something strange about an avid online life- it is nigh impossible to turn off. There’s always the chance to do more, always the reminder of missed opportunities. And although it’s a quick way to connect- someone across the country can Tweet at you with the news that they loved your book (a reader you’d never have heard from otherwise)- but for all that connection, there’s often the feeling that you’re just kind of yelling into the void. Months have gone by on this blog when not one single person comments.

Also, there’s something profoundly strange about my writer self- the deepest, tenderest part of me that unfurls into a book. That part of me is profoundly private. She kind of needs a dark room with no one in it in order to step out in all her glory. And it’s hard to trick her to come out with all these other connections being made.

Anyway. Anyway.

Proof came this week that although maybe I need to be thinking more carefully about where I’m connecting and when, I really shouldn’t be giving up altogether.

photo 2-11Remember those posts I wrote about how I use John Truby’s screenwriting bible, The Anatomy of Story, to help me outline a novel? Well, every day I wrote one, I tweeted about it, and included his Twitter handle, @JohnTruby. Lo and behold, yesterday I get an email from someone from John Truby’s office. Turns out he loves how I’m using his book (“It’s exactly what I intended when I wrote it. It’s also very gratifying to see someone who is obviously a serious novelist get so much benefit from the book.”). Turns out he’d like to feature some excerpts from my posts, and mention Bittersweet, in his e-blast that goes out to 15,000 writers at the end of the month!

So that’s pretty cool.

(Excuse me while I go tweet about this post).

A Rave from Booklist!!!

“Out of place at her elite East Coast college, Mabel Dagmar falls into an unlikely friendship with her blueblooded roommate, Genevra “Ev” Winslow, and is invited to spend the summer at Ev’s family estate in Vermont. Jumping at the chance to escape her working-class family in Oregon, Mabel enters the world of madras shorts and cocktails on the veranda. The enchantment of a lakeside retreat, steeped in tradition, sweeps Mabel (who now goes by May) off her feet, as does Ev’s older brother, Galway. But May has secrets, as do the Winslows, and as May unravels the family’s litany of misdeeds, she puts herself in serious danger. Beverly-Whittemore’s novel is suspenseful and intriguing, filled with characters who both fit the blue-blood mold and break the stereotypes we all associate with the upper class. Her short chapters, with their cliff-hanger endings, will keep readers turning pages late into the night.” – March 15, 2014

I love that this review mentions that Bittersweet breaks “the stereotypes we all associate with the upper class.” I thought it did that, but it’s so refreshing that it wasn’t just inside my head! And of course I love the implication that it’s a page-turner. I always wanted it to be that. Yay!

Bookplates!

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We’re less than two months out, people! And all these little pieces are falling into place. I know I’ve published before, but sometimes it feels like an eon ago- the world has changed so much since 2007, in broad ways (how the internet has changed what a writer can do to promote her book!) and small (bookplates!).

My marketing superstar, Jessica, suggested that Crown could make me some bookplates. And I was thrilled! But then I realized I kind of didn’t understand how bookplates work. See, back in 2007, bookplates weren’t a “thing.” I guess they’re a thing now. Here’s what she explained:

photo 3-14“You can offer them in your e-newsletter. You can tell folks to pre-order the book, and that you’ll send them a signed bookplate to put in it.” She gave me a few other good examples of how we’d use them- and I realized how cool it is that people many more readers can now have access to a signed book than they could the last time I was published.

Also, I signed them during family movie night, when Fraulein Maria was getting married. That was pretty great too.

Silent and Busy

Argh! I’ve reached chicken-with-head-cut-off mode! Trying to stay focused and calm in the realization that my book publishes two months from tomorrow! In the meantime, I’ve been working on some exciting cool ideas which I can’t wait to share with you! Can you tell I’m busy from all my exclamation points?!