by Laura S. Wharton, Author of The Pirate’s Bastard and Leaving Lukens
A year has come and gone since my first novel, The Pirate’s Bastard, was launched. The strong reviews of my colonial tale continue to come in, and I’m pleased to say I’ve learned a great deal about book publishing and promotions that I can apply to my World War II “romaction” novel, Leaving Lukens, which is about to be released. (Romaction: a little romance mixed in with a whole lot of action set on the North Carolina coast near New Bern, Oriental, and Ocracoke. And yes, there’s a sailboat involved.)
For instance, I’ve learned that writing a full-length manuscript requires a lot of butt glue. Getting up early nearly every morning takes perseverance, to be sure. But staying seated for my allotted writing time is challenging when there’s laundry to do, breakfast to make, correspondence to send, or one of a dozen other pesky tasks niggling away at my in the mornings. It’s only through the sitting that the writing gets done. The good news is that as a result, the second novel only took six months to write (versus the six years the first one took) – a vast improvement in production scheduling. Now I know when the time comes, completing a third and a fourth won’t be impossible.
I’ve learned that sometimes, diplomacy has a cost. I had the honor of speaking to fourth graders recently at my son’s school – all 60 of them at one time. They are learning about writing (beginning, middle, end), and the teachers felt it might be fun to have an author speak with them. Together we built a wildly ridiculous story about an alien who visits their school and has a really, really bad day. Each child had to help create a twist or turn in the plot (a small “story ball” can be a useful teaching tool for kids and adults), and it was a fun exercise. But when a girl got “stuck” on how to get the alien out of the S.W.A.T. car her neighbor as just put it in, I told her to lie. That’s right. I told a room full of nine-year-olds it was okay to lie – as long as they did it only when they were writing fiction and it helped them get through what some writers call a block, which I don’t believe in, ever. Imagine the look on the principal’s face as he walked into the room just as I was affirming it was okay to lie. The kids loved it. Had I been diplomatic and told them to figure out another way out of a stuck situation, I would have lost the audience. The cost of being brutally honest in this case was the principal’s horrified look and his hasty retreat. (Might just be the last time I’m asked to speak at his school.) On the other hand, my son’s teacher called me early that morning to ask me NOT to mention the title of my first book for fear of offending some child’s parent. Okay. And when the children asked me what the first book was called, I had to say, “I can’t tell you,” but go to the local bookstore and ask. I focused on Leaving Lukens instead. Diplomacy probably cost me a few book sales of The Pirate’s Bastard which can be enjoyed by mature children and adults, but the teacher was happy, so she may invite me back. We’ll see how that goes.
Many lessons made an imprint on me this year, most all of them positive. I’ve learned promoting books is no different than promoting other products that no one really needs. It’s essential to create desire, or fill a perceived need (escape for a few hours), something inherent in marketing any item. I’ve learned how valuable social media can be in making friends and making sales, and not necessarily in that order. And I’ve learned that the dream of being a novelist is alive and well among the young: of the 60 students I spoke to that day, over 30% confessed in sweet thank-you notes that they wanted to be writers someday. That lesson in and of itself was probably the year’s best.
Laura S. Wharton is the author of The Pirate’s Bastard (Second Wind, 2010) and Leaving Lukens. Visit http://www.LauraWhartonBooks.com to learn more about her writing projects or to get your own copies of her historical “romaction” novels.