Despite this being a kind of crazy week—my birthday, Halloween, catching a cold—it was surprisingly productive. As I did last week, I’ll start by reporting in on my goals so you can see how I did.
Writing Goals from Last Week:
- Devote a minimum of 6 hours on my WIP – YES
- Go through exercises from the last two classes of The Book in You for my WIP – YES
- Create a detailed, week-by-week schedule for my author site leading up to my Doable launch – YES
- Complete 2 more book-related freebies for my author site / book launch – YES
- Play with developing some ground rules for my social media usage, specifically what I’m allowed to do daily and when – Ummm…. well… NO
Despite my clear avoidance of appropriately managing my social media life, I feel like this was a very productive week, and I’m glad I upped the ante on my WIP to devote two more hours on it than I did last week. Perhaps all the talk about NaNoWriMo and knowing that writers everywhere are cranking out a novel this month has inspired me to make serious headway on my project. Either way, I’m feeling more invested, which is a good start.
Before I go into detail on what worked and what didn’t, here’s what my Writing Tracking Log looked like for the week (CLICK ON THE IMAGE TO ENLARGE IT):
I had two main focuses this week: prepping for my Doable launch in January and further committing to the WIP. I thought I’d share a little bit more about my strategy for both, at least as it stands right now.
Doable is the first nonfiction book for teens I’ve had published since my book Chill, which came out in 2008. In fact, both Chill and In Their Shoes (2007) launched without the benefit of social media. My publisher, Simon Pulse, did a fair amount of press for In Their Shoes (less for Chill), but this mostly involved pitching the usual print media suspects. We ended up with some nice little blurbs in Elle Girl, Ladies Home Journal, and a few other magazines, and I did some interviews and guest posts with a handful of book review blogs, but that’s about it. The rest of my outreach was via email, often personal emails to friends, colleagues, and organizations that work in the teen girl advocacy space.
While In Their Shoes did quite well, thanks in part to being picked up by Scholastic Book Club, Chill did only “okay.” After seeing the Chill disappear from the shelves at B&N just weeks after publication, I spoke with a buyer there who explained the store’s policy: if X number of books aren’t sold in the first 4 weeks of publication, the store returns the product to the publisher. After all, they’ve got to keep that valuable shelf space open for vampire and dystopian YA novels, right?
I felt so defeated. As I told my husband that night, “I spent the past two years working on this book, I know the content can make a difference in the lives of teen girls, I have a great publisher, and I still can’t manage to keep my book in the bookstore so therefore no one is going to know about my book!” (Picture me banging my head against the wall here.) “What’s the point? I’m not writing these books for me!”
That was 6 years ago. And this is now. And I plan to do things much differently this time around, because I’m well aware of how little publishers do to promote most of the books on their list, and I don’t want mine to fall through the cracks. This time I have done my best to optimize my web presence to support my book Doable (and the re-issues of In Their Shoes and Chill that will happen around the same time). This time I’ve got social media on my side, and I’m going to experiment my butt off and try different ways to connect with my audience and let them know about my book, which is aimed at helping teen girls and young women achieve whatever they set out to do.
Because I’m an idea girl, I have a ton of them when it comes to things I “could” do to generate buzz about Doable and the re-releases of the other books. But the reality is, it’s just me, one person, sitting in my office in Amsterdam, balancing homeschooling and coaching clients. A full-on publicity campaign for my Doable launch isn’t, well, completely doable. Let’s just say I’ve got some serious lists of things I could do, want to do, have to do, and wish I could do. These lists battle for my attention at all times, and last week I realized I needed to do something about it.
I set aside several hours on Thursday to come up with a launch plan, and I can honestly say it was the most productive work time I had all week. I got clear on a bunch of things, both regarding my thinking about this launch and what my plan should be:
- I love all of my books, but I realize there is such as a thing as launch promotion fatigue. This week I decided definitively that my new baby, Doable, deserves to be in the spotlight all by itself for a while (the others have had their time!). Realizing this made putting together my schedule much more straightforward.
- Thanks to feedback from my book marketing guru Tim Grahl, I’ve shifted my thinking regarding the launch and what it looks like. Typically a book launch is all about capitalizing on the month surrounding a book launch. The old school thinking is that there is a limited time that you can promote a book and then it’s over. Publishers certainly only focus on book launches for a set period of time and then they move on to the next list. It’s also true that the only true brick and mortar bookstore still in the game, B&N, will return books to the seller if they don’t move a certain number within the first month or so of release, so there is pressure to get some buzz and book sales right away. However, I’m now shifting to look at this book and my efforts to spread the word as being a long-term project. I LOVE this book and believe in it and what it can do to support teen girls. I want Doable (and my other books) to be evergreen and have a LONG shelf-life. So…I am releasing the mindset that it all has to happen NOW or it’s too late. That is easier said than done for me, but I’m going to work on it. Thinking this way helps because it takes some of the pressure off of this initial launch—I don’t have to try and execute all my promotional ideas in the next 8 weeks. (Breathing a sigh of relief over here.) Next week I’ll share details about how exactly I plan to promote the book release.
- I’ve now got a week-by-week plan of everything I want to do between now and launch. All I have to do each Sunday night is look at my list, note what I need to accomplish in the coming week, and then execute it. Having this schedule/plan is a lifesaver!
Because I spent a lot more time on my WIP this week, I’m feeling more immersed in the project, which makes it easier for me to reconnect with it whenever I’ve got dedicated time set aside. Here’s what I’ve been focusing on:
- Exploring related books. I’m someone who has to really understand the landscape for any new project—be aware of what books exist that are similar to my book, know how they are structured and approach the subject matter, etc. This helps me get clearer on what I want to do, and more importantly, be able to articulate how my book is different from existing titles. This last piece is critical for the pitching process once I have a manuscript and proposal. I’m reading several popular “competitive titles” this week, including Pamela Druckerman’s Bringing up Bebe and Amy Chua’s Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mother, not necessarily because my book would be written in the same vein, but because I want to understand better what made these books work so well.
- Fleshing out the chronological timeline. Since last spring, I’ve been slowly filling out a month-by-month chronology of our journey with Asher in Scrivener. I have so much raw material that together tells the story—emails, blog posts, Skype chats, Facebook dates, letters from teachers (see below), correspondence with therapists, and much more. I feel strongly that before I sit down to write, I’ve got to collect and organize all of this raw material. I may not use even half of it, but each item has the capability of sparking a thought or idea that I may want to ultimately include in the book.
- Setting a target date for an outline. Last week, a Facebook relationship “went live” when I got to meet the lovely Debra Smouse, a life coach and writer who is undertaking her own book. Over lunch, we challenged each other to a deadline of December 6—Debra to have completed 10 chapters of her manuscript, and me to have a working outline so I can begin writing. Since we all know I’m an accountability whore, I have a feeling this date should work well for me…
While I’m not yet “writing” the book in the truest sense of the word, I consider this all to be a lot of forward momentum. I’m always telling my clients that writing a book is much more than sitting down at the keyboard. In fact, when you’re writing a book, it’s pretty much happening all the time—while you’re sleeping, exercising, cooking, whatever. Once you’re in, you’re in.
Writing Goals for the Coming Week:
- Devote a minimum of 6 hours on my WIP, specifically uploading more curated content into Scrivener. My goal is to have all of this material in so I can print out the chronology and bring with me on my upcoming solo writing retreat on November 20.
- Follow my week-by-week schedule for my author site leading up to my Doable launch.
- Complete 2 more book-related freebies for my author site / book launch (and not anything additional…keep those boundaries and set those limits!)
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Notes from Asher’s preschool from two wonderful and understanding teachers:
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I hope you enjoyed this installment of Writer Unplugged! If you aren’t already on my email list, I encourage you to sign up below so you don’t miss any of the series!