Chicago Tribune Printer's Row Journal

Now Comes the Hard Part

The book is almost ready. It took years. Though it is a small novel, my smallest, a two-foot-high stack of some of the books I consulted, then kept, and boxes of catalogues, newspaper clippings, website print outs and archival photographs testify to its density. It was fun, too. Not as in sex, drugs and rock and roll fun, but the good deep fun of discovery, then wrestling with imagination, and in this case, putting imagination together with facts I hoped would disappear in the narrative. My first historical novel.
Worth a thousand words

I feel lucky to have found an enthusiastic and careful publisher, who has created a handsome book. While she suggested changes that at first seemed difficult to make without compromising my ideas, the work I put into trying them stimulated my understanding of what I was writing. When I resisted a change and explained why, she almost always accepted my view. "It's your book."

The Reason for Time will be released by Allium Press of Chicago in April. But now comes the hard part.  Nobody is going to buy and read the book unless they know about it. That means promotion and marketing, things literary folks resist because they are, from the writer's point of view, the opposite of sitting in a room by yourself, and from the publisher's standpoint, a lot of effort for questionable results. And yet, books are made to be read, and to choose one over another in the ever-expanding universe of books, you have to be aware of its existence.

Since my first book was published, this end of the business has changed big time. Most new books, including mine, are simultaneously published as print and ebooks, and the eworld must be covered as part of the promotion effort. Authors are advised to have a website, to interact on social media like Facebook and Google plus, all of which I have and do, to some extent. I've avoided Twitter because of its extreme temporariness and I haven't done much with Linked in or my Goodreads author page since I signed up.  Will it make a difference if I do? In the literary eworld,  promotion is frenetic, I found when I first dipped into it a few years ago. Lots of cleverness going on, bright, insistent voices.

It used to be that publishers depended on newspaper reviewers and columnists to spread the word about books.  In fact, sending out review copies might have been a small publisher's main, even sole, promotion effort. It was always a gamble, because editors received so many books. The stacks around reviewers' desks must be growing even higher because there are few book sections left in printed North American papers. Few printed papers period. Even the well regarded Chicago Tribune's Printers Row Journal went completely digital as of last week.

So, well, we'll see. While it might not be testing oneself against angry bears and arrows from enemies, icy rivers and ruthless companions, publishing a book these days is still a survival challenge.