This is part of the Bittersweet Book Launch case study, where Dan Blank and Miranda Beverly-Whittemore share the yearlong process of launching her novel. You can view all posts here.
by Miranda Beverly-Whittemore
Ever since I started writing Bittersweet, each woman I’ve told about it (or who has read it) has, almost to a person, wanted to tell me a story about a best friendship she experienced in her own girlhood. This doesn’t come from nowhere; Bittersweet centers around the friendship between Mabel Dagmar, a nobody from Oregon, and her college roommate Ev Winslow, daughter of a wealthy East Coast family. Mabel and Ev’s relationship is full of the ups and downs of girl attachments with which, I’ve come to learn, many women identify.
The outpouring of stories about friendship these women gave me, unprompted, connected with something Dan said back in Building Your Author Platform—the idea that when you’re trying to sell your book, you can’t just hold it up and say “buy my book;” you have to provide a platform that connects to questions within your book, generously offer that platform to your potential readership, and trust that by following that line of inquiry or interest, those people will find their way to your book. If you find the element your desired readers are passionate about, and let them explore that passion by hosting and encouraging their thoughts, opinions and experience, you’ll connect to them on a much deeper level (John Green and Gretchen Rubin are both perfect examples of this theory in play).
The idea of providing my potential readership a platform to share their friend stories was so simple and obvious that it almost slipped through my fingers. It took Molly Stern, the publisher of Crown, telling me about one of her girlhood friendships for me to realize I should recognize this gift women connecting with my book wanted to give me. A blog seems an obvious platform for such a project, but I fretted that would be too much work, and that perhaps the project was too off-topic if I am strictly trying to bring readers to Bittersweet. Certainly, Mabel and Ev’s friendship isn’t only what Bittersweet is about, and at first I worried that connecting to the friendship aspect of the story would limit what my readership might expect the novel to be about. Even now, I recognize that it will be part of the challenge of this project to build a concrete bridge from Friendstories.com to Bittersweet, so that all the work I’ll be putting into Friend Stories will have a direct input upon my writing life.