Show Me the Money (or not)
"I just want to have a book published before I die."
"I have a book contract! I don't care if only my mom reads it, that's good enough for me!"
"So...everybody! I wrote a book! It's for sale! If you want to buy it...."
"Hey! Over here! Here's a book! That I wrote! Buy it!"
I'm sort of kidding. But it's easy to let Book Enthusiasm take over. I'll travel all over to sign the book! soon becomes...where can I afford to travel? which then becomes, I can't really afford to travel. You have to be strategic. My publisher asked if I would come to AWP 2016, which is a huge, enormous, expensive conference. At my expense. Then he said that it probably would only be worth it if I had an extensive network of other writers whom I could persaude to come to my signing. You certainly won't recoup your costs in book sales, he said. Um, no. A friend of a friend asked me if I would ghost write his book for him. While it is an intriguing book, he has no publisher yet, and at this point I can't afford to only get 50% of what he might get from royalties if he ever does publish it. (And I don't want to be a ghost either) I am getting plenty of offers to write articles for other people's websites. For free. Um, no.
It's not just about the money, but when you spend approximately five years of your life crafting something, it's like any work of art. I think deep down we all want to have made a difference, leave something behind that says, I was here. That's what my book means to me. I can't get all caught up in the fact that I wrote it for less than minumum wage, because I wanted to write it. I needed to write it. Alaska was such a divided place for me--heartbreak and happiness, and while the novel is in no way autobiographical, it sums up much of what I felt about the place. It's not about the money, although I have to be honest and say I would love for it to make some. It's about being seen. About being known. About mattering.
So I am treading carefully through the world of marketing. Friends who have published books have gone all out on this. And of course, those with big publishers send their authors on book tours. My publisher is in between, doing what they can for a small press, and I appreciate it. But I am not going into debt to promote this book. It will have to find its way on its own. Mostly. With a little help now and then.