CRAFT: Happy Birthday Book (And Me) by Morgan Baker

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A year ago, I was turning 65 and sending my debut memoir out into the world at the same time. I had a party, and a book event to plan. I bought a new outfit. Sixty-five looked pretty good when I had accomplished my life-long dream of writing and publishing a book.

Now, another birthday is approaching—I’m turning 66 and my book is turning one-year-old. During the past year, I have learned so much and met so many incredible, generous people—writers, editors and readers—along the way. My world is so much bigger because of my memoir.

In addition to growing what some might call my network, but I prefer to call my friends, I also learned to trust myself. I learned to step outside of my comfort zone, to have more self-confidence, to believe in my writing and my story.That was a good thing, because writing and publishing may be huge accomplishments, but when you publish with a small house, or even a bigger one, you need to believe in your work in order to promote it.

It wasn’t easy for someone who had been told growing up to keep her light under a bushel. But, now it was my job—literally. Time to shine that light.

Start way before you think you should. The promotion ride is long and hilly. Reach out to anybody and everybody who you think might be of help. Don’t second guess how someone will respond. Ask. You’d be surprised. They might just say, “Yes.”

Figure out who your readers are. While writers are great friends and we read each other’s books, our stories are really meant for specific audiences. Mine are dog-lovers and mothers re-identifying themselves when their kids leave home. Find yours.

Pitch over and over again. Celebrate the yeses, and try not to get too disappointed when your pitch isn’t answered or turned down. Don’t take it personally. Just when you feel discouraged, something will pop out—a review, a podcast wants you, the online magazine that took your companion piece. There is no way to predict what might happen.

Make a schedule. (This coming from the most disorganized person ever.) Keep track of who you have pitched and when. If you feel comfortable with podcasts, find those that reflect your themes. If you like writing companion pieces, do that. Plan how much you’ll do each week. Mark when you’ll follow up. And then, ultimately mark what the result is.

Create a media kit. Include a bio and book description that you can use in your pitches, so you don’t have to recreate them each time.

Avoid the envy trap. It has a long reach and can pull you in and snap shut. It’s hard not to look over your shoulder to see what everyone else is doing, but it’s really not productive. Everyone’s book and story is as unique as the writers are. Instead, bask in the writing community and the support you can get there.

Do events with other people. Events are more fun when you banter back and forth with other writers, and your audience (virtual or in-person) could potentially be bigger. I did an event early on with another writer. There were about twenty people, all there for her as it was her neighborhood. But I also connected to some of the audience, and I sold books.

Support other writers. Think of how to help writer friends in your world. Post about them when their books are coming out. Write reviews, do interviews, pre-order their books. Congratulate them. We all deserve that.

Decide on your goal. Is your aim to sell books, to share your message, to help people, to entertain, to inform? It could be all of these, but focus on what’s most important to you. Then, plan on how to accomplish that in a meaningful way.

Keep a list. Your book’s life is longer than the three months you hear about, or even the first year. My book is “ever-green” so I can keep pitching. But there comes a time when the pitching quiets. It’s always easy to say, “You haven’t done enough,” but look at all you’ve accomplished. Maintain an ongoing list of all you’re doing to promote your book. Read it now and then and remind yourself that, while you can’t do everything, each effort adds up.

At the end of my book launch a year ago, a friend asked the last question: “How do you feel now?” I paused and said, “I am really proud of myself.” I looked out and saw friends and family from all parts of my life clapping for me.

To celebrate my memoir’s birthday, I am doing an event with two other mother-writers, which I’m really excited about.

Mostly, I had fun, and you can, too.

It is an amazing feat to write and publish a book. Remember to also congratulate yourself for all the work you’re doing to promote it.


Author Morgan Baker

Morgan Baker

Staff Interviewer

Morgan Baker writes about reinventing yourself, learning how to handle loss, and emerging from depression in her award-winning memoir Emptying the Nest: Getting Better at Good-byes (Ten16 Press). Other work can be found in the Boston Globe Magazine, The New York Times Magazine, The Martha’s Vineyard Times, Dorothy Parker’s Ashes, Grown & Flown, Motherwell and the Brevity Blog, among others. She teaches at Emerson College and is managing editor of The Bucket. She is the mother of two adult daughters and lives with her husband and two Portuguese water dogs in Cambridge, Mass. She is an avid quilter and baker.

 

  1 comment for “CRAFT: Happy Birthday Book (And Me) by Morgan Baker

  1. Wonderful piece on that oh so scary marketing part of writing. Thanks for sharing useful information as well as encouraging writers to reach for the rewards of connecting with new people

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