Monday, January 6, 2014

Confessions of a First-Time Author

Coming March 11:
The opposite of what I expected
This month I enter the final stretch before my novel, The Opposite of Everything, is published on March 11.  I’d be dishonest saying I wasn’t nervous going into it.
I’m holding my book launch on March 20 at Northshire Bookstore in Saratoga. Another launch event at Powerhouse on Eighth, a Brooklyn bookstore, on March 27. On April 10, I’m booked in an hour-long event at Saratoga Springs Public Library. In May I’m hosting a panel at a writer’s conference in Boston, and another book event at the Golden Notebook in Woodstock, N.Y. There are others. Click here for more info.
Thinking about the zillion details – getting the word out, planning and hosting the events – keeps me up at night. Fact is, I’ve never gone on a book tour, let alone organized my own. I don’t consider myself a highly organized person. I’m not naturally drawn to public speaking, which is partly why I became a writer. I’m a bit of a technophobe, afraid to press the wrong button, and every day I must use the Internet to spread the word.
I’m stepping way outside my comfort zone.
I reassure myself I’ve overcome many challenges thrown so far my way. It took me thirteen years to write my novel, a comedic fictional twist on my real-life journey through cancer, divorce, treatment and renewal. It took several hundred rejections by literary agents and publishers. I rewrote the darn thing several dozen times, guided by fellow writers and teachers at Bennington College, where I earned my MFA.
Then the real challenge came last spring, when I finally found a publisher that accepted my novel. Signing the contract, I was forced to shed my naïve notions about the journey to the bookshelf. Successful authors, I once believed, focused on what they did best. They rearranged words on the page. And once their first novel was accepted for publication, they’d pop open the champagne, do a couple of book signings, and work full-bore on their second novel.
That was in my younger and more idealistic days. Since my novel was acquired, I’ve barely touched my second. Instead I’ve plunged into social media, a requirement for first-time authors like me. My online presence used to consist of a barebones Facebook page. My incoming Facebook invites went straight into the spam folder, and one of those invites was from my wife. So I gritted my teeth and googled “book promotion plan,” cobbling one together. I reached out for help from people who knew a lot more than me. Today, I spend oceans of time blogging for the Times Union and harnessing Facebook and Twitter. I participate in Goodreads. I update my author Web site. I solicit reviews, sending emails to bloggers, Amazon reviewers, and traditional media reviewers to see if they want an advance review copy when it comes out later this month.
Though I’m still afraid to push the wrong button, I’m less afraid than before. I keep coming back to writing – reminding myself that’s why I’m doing all this stuff. One thing that overwhelms me is the idea of presenting my novel at book events to a crowd. So I’m crafting a “stump speech” – something to use again and again for presentations at book events, with minor tweaks – that weaves in my journey as a writer and how that influenced my novel. The thing that got me here in the first place – my writing – will also save me. When I talk publicly I will be writing in the air. I remind myself I’ve not strayed too far from that which I know.
I’m here toward the end of a long chapter in my journey because this is where life has led me. My first poem was in kindergarten: Days pass, nights too, every day, there’s something new. In one form or another in my life, I have danced on stage naked and lived to tell about it. Research and preparation and good will and networking are my allies. I know too that talking about my fears helps. For that I thank my blog readers. Thanks for listening. Each of your comments, and visits, keeps me going. I hope I’ll see many of you at my launch events. The satisfaction of meeting you would make me realize that this whole trip has been worth it. I’ll be giving details of the events in coming weeks in this blog and through other social media. And you’re all invited.
You can do it, I tell myself. I repeat this to myself a lot.
To blow off steam I fantasize about hiring someone to impersonate me. Who’s a smoother, more confident version of myself. But then I realize my launch budget could never afford it. Instead, perhaps I’ll impersonate myself. Sort of how I hired a character to play me in my novel. A more hapless, zanier version of myself. Someone who’s crazy enough to get up in front of a crowd and dance naked on stage.
One day, for sure, I’ll finish my second novel. It will be easier to sell because of my first. By then I’ll have paved a rocky path through social media to the bookshelf, whether virtual or bricks-and-mortar. Between now and then, I’ll try not to grit my teeth too much. And hopefully sell a lot of books.
David Kalish is the author of the novel, The Opposite of Everythingwhich will be published in March

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