Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I’ve learned in my first year as a published author

As of today, October 14, 2009, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte) has been out exactly one year. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 365 days:

-Your friends and your family will be your top salespersons. They will pass your name and title along to their bookstore/library/teacher. They will come to your booksignings. They will review your book on Amazon and in other places. We love them for doing this. Remember to say thank you. (Thank you, friends and family! J)

-At any given moment, it will be difficult to know how many books you’ve sold. Royalty statements come out twice a year. Too, publishing houses have four months to compile and mail these statements. So for my book that came out last October, I’ve received one royalty statement, reflecting sales between October 2008 and December 2008. But if you have an awesome editor (as I just so happen to have!), you can ask her intermittently for an update.

-The rankings on Amazon are as addictive as caffeine and should be avoided as such. I say this as a raving coffee addict. But seriously, they reflect only the ranking of your book as it relates to sales of other books IN THAT HOUR. There are sites that track your Amazon ranking over time, but these appear to take your average sales rank by day, not your top rank of the day. Stay *away* from the sales rank. If you can.

-Speaking of Amazon, many, many readers prefer to give their business to local, independent bookstores (yay, indies!) Support your indies by asking them to host your launch parties (see more below) and visiting and purchasing from them often. Too, link to on your website – give your site visitors the option to purchase from whomever they choose.

-Bad reviews sting and good ones make you feel like a superstar. You have control over neither.

-Book bloggers rock. They live to read and discuss books. Find them and talk books with them (and not just yours!). They are wondermous.

-Social networking sites rock. These are FREE outlets that help you promote your book and (more importantly) connect with others in the kidlit community. Utilize them. They are worth your time.

-Things that have not been worth the time (as far as I can tell):

---Mailing postcards to bookstores and gift shops in the area in which the story is set (but note here – contacting them in other ways, like via email, has been fruitful).

---Contacting media in areas in which you are doing a signing UNLESS this is done early enough to get on the community calendar (in other words, don’t expect the paparazzi at your signings).

---Agreeing to/trying to do too much – as in all areas of life, spreading yourself too thin means nothing gets your full attention.

-Getting your book into specialty stores is time-consuming, but can be worth it. Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different is an historical fiction account of the beginnings of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’m grateful that the book is now available for sale in the park bookstores. But getting there took months of review and a unanimous vote from the buying committee. Be prepared for specialty stores (like tourist attractions and gift stores) to take a lot of time if you wish to break into them. Too, the salespeople within your publishing house have little if any time to devote to a location that *might* purchase 8 copies of just your book (understandably), so you will likely be doing much of this legwork yourself.

-Doing more than two bookstore signings in any one community might stretch your audience too thin. The first two signings I did in each community were well-attended; the third rarely was.

-BUT: do more than one launch party, if you can. I did two in my hometown, and one in the town where I grew up. All were wonderful; all sold out. I’m blessed with wonderful friends and family (see point one).

-Librarians rule the world. They love writers; I have yet to meet one who doesn’t. You can track your book in libraries throughout the world by visiting and clicking through individual libraries to see if your book is checked out! Too awesome.

-School visits are exhausting, but are so totally worth it. Kids love meeting authors, and you will never feel more like a rock star than when you do school visits. If possible, see if you can sell books at the visit, though honestly, many schools frown upon this (which is understandable – it’s difficult when not every child can afford a new hardback book). Always bring postcards to the visit (enough for each child in your presentation, even if that’s hundreds) and ask teachers to put these in the backpacks to send home. I’ve had many parents thank me for doing this; they want to buy the books of the author who visited their school, if they can.

-You can always do more. It can really stress you out at times, thinking of all the things you COULD do to promote your book. Be creative, have fun, but don’t let it sweep you away from the important things.

-All the work? It’s worth it when you get emails that say things like this:

---“I am by no means a professional book reviewer, but coming from someone who reads a lot of books for this age group, I LOVED your book! I started to tear up when Autumn heard those 53 bell rings and kept crying right up until the end!” Fourth-grade teacher from Kentucky

---“I really love reading your books and I really like the front cover.” Third-grader from a school at which I did a school visit

---“I like to write and thought that one day I might be an author like you. I have written a few stories. I have been wondering if you and I could keep in touch. I really liked your book!” Girl from a school at which I did a school visit

---“i loved your book autumn winifried oliver does things different….I loveeeeee tennessee, and i understand you live there. My mom grew up there and half my family lives there, but guess what i'm stuck here in georgia!!!!!" 10-year-old reader (my favorite part – look at how “Winifred” is spelled! :-) )

I love this job. I hope I am blessed enough to do this forever.

And NOW: in celebration of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different’s one-year anniversary, I will make a $1.00 donation to Friends of the Smokies for EACH VALID COMMENT I receive in the comment section of this post between now and October 31. GO! :-)

Thank you again, friends and family.

Monday, October 12, 2009

Photos from the 2009 National Book Festival

I'm honored/delighted/ecstatic-to-the-point-of-obnoxiousness that Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different was selected by the Tennessee State Library to represent the State of Tennessee at the 2009 National Book Festival in Washington, D.C.! My dear friend Lauren Trew and her beautiful daughters Bess and Emma took these photos for me:

Above is the Pavilion of States, which housed all 50 states. Each state chose a single children's book to represent their state. Autumn keeps glorious company; my friend Hester Bass's book, The Secret World of Walter Anderson, was selected to represent the State of Mississippi.

And there she is! Autumn, hanging under a glorious "Tennessee" banner! I am a native Tennessean, and I still reside here. I am so honored that Autumn was chosen as its ambassador!