Saturday, June 7, 2014

My book launch

As I sit here, I realize something for the 97th time: I do not have the nervous system for public events.

In a way, this is good, because it looks like I won't have to do too many of them. Trying to set up an event for a book release now is a nearly-impossible, or at least daunting task. My information is nine years out of date, and even two years would make a difference, given the speed with which things are changing in the publishing world.

We're straddling systems, it seems - the paper and the electronic, not to mention the self- and the traditionally-published, which may be an even more profound schism. I am tired of reading articles, as I so often do, that claim "publishing is dead", followed by a screed on how to publish your book "the new way" (i. e. it all turns out to be an ad for a self-publishing site). Whatever irked me about the old system - just not enough slots for books from the smaller houses to gain any attention - is worse than ever now. Authors go on, bravely or foolishly, publishing in paper, with a side of ebook to dip a toe into the World of Tomorrow.
But their only chance to gain a solid readership is through winning a major award, and if your book has dropped off the radar, how is it going to do that? To be well-known, you must be well-known.

All this I write as I sit here enjoying the truly sickening part of a book launch: the time "before". The waiting. There is no guarantee anyone at all will be there. I am committed to a time slot which was the only one available to me: a Saturday afternoon, and as it turns out, a gorgeous one when not too many people will want to go to a book launch, anyone's book launch, let alone the book launch of an obscure fiction writer whose orientation in the publishing world is nine years out of date.

We have the internet now, of course, and social networking, and blogs, and YouTube. We had them before, too, in some form, but it was all a little more arcane and less accessible. I was able to set up a Facebook account in five minutes, and this blog was no harder, though I had great trepidation about my ability to use any of it. But has it furthered my cause, or the cause of most writers, in any significant way?

I think not.

The group who is graciously setting up and hosting my launch, the Tri-City Wordsmiths, has asked me to give a presentation on whatever aspect of writing I chose. I had to choose the only one I felt qualified to speak on. I called it "how to keep on keepin' on", probably the worst title ever, but the only one (besides "keep on truckin'") that would express the things I needed to say.

You see, the only thing I know how to do is keep on. I won't quit because I can't, for some reason. It is wired into me so hard and deep that to stop would be a recipe for disastrous depression. I have learned things that help me keep going - or just things that are of necessity a part of the writer's life, such as spending a lot of time alone (and being willing to turn down fun things for the sake of finishing a chapter before it flies out of your head, which it will in short order). I had no idea what I was going to say at first, then did one of the things I recommended, sat down and wrote down everything I could think of about the topic. I ended up, quite quickly, with four single-spaced typewritten pages, and ended up having to boil it down considerably.

So why DO I do this, when times like this are such torture? I loved writing The Glass Character more than anything else I've ever done. I assumed someone else would love it too, but I have had, to date, no reviews - not just negative reviews, NO reviews at all. I have been completely shut out.

What do I do now? I go to my launch, I give my presentation, to seven people (counting me!) if I am lucky. If I am even more lucky, this feeling of a screwdriver relentlessly turning and turning in my intestines may stop before then.

Or not.


  1. Margaret, if it's really all about the writing, then screw the rest.

  2. In spite of my usual eternal pessimism, it was a lovely afternoon and the event went well. This is a serious writer's group who not only listened attentively as I gave my presentation, but asked well-thought-out and sometimes quite challenging questions (the best part, I thought). Actually, the best part may have been the fact that my two blondie grandgirls unexpectedly attended - it must've been dreadfully dull for them at times, but they were troupers. I was wondering how the DVD of Harold climbing the building would go down , but as it turned out, they LOVED it and howled with laughter at every gag. It made me marvel at how timeless all this is, and I thought: how Harold would love it, these people who really aren't silent movie buffs like people at film festivals, appreciating the artistry and craziness of this, and the total commitment (to lunacy, sometimes) that makes Lloyd so appealing. SO. . . as far as turnout went, I was quite satisfied, and I ended up seeing two friends I had not spoken to in years (one of them, not since Mallory NINE years ago). But you're right, I get too caught up in the "will this sell?" BS when it really is the writing that is the reward, and my fascination with Harold and being able to share him with a group of people who have never seen him before. This should be my next post, shouldn't it?