Tuesday, February 25, 2014

Book Stuff: Promotion, Reading and Reviews (and please don't be sick of me...)

Book jacket photo,
credit: Rick Kopstein

This book business is a funny thing.

When I thought of writing a book, only dreamed of getting it published, I never thought about the business side of things.

By trade, I'm a lawyer. While I was doing all of that writing and dreaming on the side, it was purely creative. My outlet. When I was thinking business, it was my current day to day work.

Oh, the things I know now. . . if only I'd known them then. . .

But this isn't about that, I'm not telling you those things here today (sorry), but suffice it to say, some of it has been way harder and lonelier than you would think, and some of it has been way more wonderful and inclusive than I could ever imagine.

But, I will tell you this: if you're not JK Rowling or Stephen King, there's a LOT self-promotion required. It's just how it is, and it's a delicate art, one many of us fail at on a daily basis.

For example, today is the one-month mark till the official publication release date of THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO, yet I feel many of my most loyal readers must be sick of hearing about it already, that I've been talking about it for years (I have!). It took me years (again!) to get the book deal after THE PULL OF GRAVITY, and another two years (!) for the book to be coming out. And, because of my involvement at last year's NCTE (I have a lot of wonderful teacher/librarian followers of my fist book), we got the ARCs(fn 1) out early and far and wide. So, hard not to be a little sick of it, right?(fn2)

At any rate, as the book comes out, and I (try to) steel myself for the reviews, I've been thinking a lot about myself as a reader, and trying to remind myself of the many different ways which we -- I -- read a book. The individuality and subjectivity of it all (fn3), if you will.

What I mean is this: There are books I love, that others don't feel the same connection to. Conversely, there are books people love, absolutely rave about, and I do not love them. Can't (or won't) even bring myself to finish them.

As my reviews roll in, this is (or, ahem, should be) helpful to me, especially when I see a reader voice that they haven't connected to my book.(fn4)

So, I was thinking today what it means to be a reader. How many different kinds of readers there are, and, maybe moreso, how many different ways there are to read (and love) a book.

This was one of those MUST books for me
in the past two years...
so much so that I sought the
author out personally via email and we are now friendly.
For example, there are about five or six books I am either actively reading or still in the middle of (or, let's face it, personally done with (did not finish)), and it occurs to me that even though some of these books are taking me forever, it's not because they're not (IMHO) worthy (that goes for the "dnf"s as well!), but rather due to other circumstances (everything from time constraints and distractions to actual physical placement [I left it in the car and forgot about it for weeks, or, it's in the other bathroom ;)). I will say, however, that there is, of course, the rare book that none of those tangents or interferences will stop me from reading, the MUST books, and, I suppose, as writers we strive to be that MUST book for at least a few of our readers.

But this morning, I was thinking about some of those "not MUST" books, and how, in their own way, they really are MUSTs.

For example, I have been reading, WE NEED TO TALK ABOUT KEVIN (fn5) for well over a year now. There are a few reasons why it's been taking me so long. One is easily "technical" or logistical (is that word? It seems to be...): the print is dense and small. These days I often need reading glasses, but I forget I need reading glasses or don't know where they are. So, when I first started reading it, I often had to put it back down. Thus, I had no traction in it. Yet, every time (EVERY time) I pick it up, I am completely engrossed in it, and marvel that it's truly one of the most staggeringly well-written books I've ever read. And when I put it down (most often because there are other books I "need" to read or get to in the YA realm to feel like I am keeping up with the business side of my work as a YA writer), I can't wait to get back to it. All of this is reminding me that a really good book, one that holds your attention, can still take one forever to read.

There are the books where the writing is absolutely brilliant, but I don't personally connect to the characters, or where the characters and the writing are brilliant, but the story is too (insert whatever here: political, supernatural, dystopian, gory, etc.) for what I love to read. Whatever the case, the truth is, reading is such a subjective and personal thing.

So, as I head into my release and the inevitable less-than-glowing or "dnf" reviews, I remind myself of this. It's one reader. Good or bad, it's only one person's view.

Charlie prefers to eat a book slowly, rather than read it.

Would love you to share in the comments, what kind of reader you are and your MUST books.

And, stay tuned over the next few days for the special launch feature for THE SUMMER OF LETTING GO.

xox gae


1. Advance Reader Copies a/k/a Galley copies

2. please don't be sick of it, and if you read the ARC, please do consider buying the hard copy. It has been twice edited from the ARC and has beautiful shiny perks that the softcover ARC didn't have...

3. FYI, for example, those all-important (or at least very important) critical reviews from places like Kirkus, School Library Journal, and Publishers Weekly, most of us don't realize that is just ONE
reader, often merely contracted out by the publication (ie, not even a staff writer) who reads the book and voices his/her opinion. That ONE opinion then carries a heck of a lot of weight, if not always with readers, then at least with gatekeepers, to wit: booksellers and librarians.

4. People often ask me how I deal with bad reviews, and my quick answer is that, for me, the bad reviews validate the good ones. If all I ever received were 5-star reviews, my mind would quickly discount them as people "just being nice." But when I am forced to see that people will, in fact, be readily (*coughs*) less than nice about their feelings, it allows me to accept the positives better, and, to some extent, to remind myself not to "own" either. Does that make sense? It is, however, always hard to deal with really mean reviews. Those are another story altogether. Luckily, there's a really fun series by author Marc T. Nobleman where we authors get a chance to read our mean reviews loud and proudly (I'm somewhere in episodes 4 -6) which helps us to blow off some steam. ;)

5. I hear it was made into not-such-a-great-movie. Don't let that sway you. The writing is simply brilliant.


  1. I won't just be nice... but can't wait to share my review... and buy the new release! :) I am a wishy washy reader, up some weeks, down others. I find that the books I'm really hooked on? I'll read quickly and become quite mopey upon completion... Other times, books that I'm dying to read are piled up on my side table as I force myself to read a book I'm not excited about just to COMPLETE it. But honestly, sometimes I'm too engrossed on the internet to focus on enough reading... #findingbalance!

  2. yes to the tenth power to all you wrote, Debbie! Exactly!

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  4. I used to be able to complete a book in two days. But as time goes by and life changes I find my stack of books getting higher and higher. I try to keep them in order of when I bought them, but like with food I get the urge to mix it up.
    my go to books are a quirky mix. I am one of those people that can judge a book by its cover. Funny enough I have never been wrong. Your latest cover is fabulous by the way.

    1. Good to know, Heidi. Let's keep your track record. <3

  5. I was a more voracious reader before Mark Zuckerburg ruined me. Now I focus first on books recommended by others where as before I'd browse for hours finding books that might interest me. when I read a book I don't connect with that someone else highly recommended I always feel like there's something wrong with ME so I appreciate what you said here. I rarely fail to finish a fictional book, or a movie, no matter how bad they are. Can't stand not knowing how something ends. The ones I usually put down are the self published How To's or motivational things, or something with bad editing and typos littered throughout that make me cringe so much that I must give up on the ending after all. I know I'll at least be able to finish TSOLG and my BET is that I will LOVE it. Dawn

    1. Mark Zuckerberg is to blame for almost everything. Hope you do love it, Dawn. <3

  6. Lately, I feel like nearly every book I pick up is not a MUST book, and it's really bumming me out. I don't know if it's the books themselves or if it's just me, but I'm thinking it's more of the latter because this is translating a bit to my writing habits as well. The good news is, I've immersed myself into a WIP finally, so maybe everything else will settle into a natural rhythm with that.

    I find my list of MUST authors is very short. Stephen King? Absolutely. Gillian Flynn is up there too, as is Margaret Atwood and Cormac McCarthy. Joe Hill as well. Right now I'm reading my first Chuck Wendig book and digging his style. In between that I'm slowly but surely inching my way through The Goldfinch and loving it, though I think this will for me be like your "Kevin" book (which I agree is achingly good and also took me about three months to finish for one reason or another).

    Anyway, I am always at pains to discover new authors and keep my reading diverse. Otherwise I will happily re-read all my favorite books over and over again. At heart, that's the kind of reader I am. The one who looks at books like trusty menu items in a favorite restaurant, afraid to try something new because what you know is already so good and won't let you down. I love rediscovery and turning over stones again and again to see if there is anything I might have missed before. It's an old childhood habit I've made great strides to break. To that end, very excited about SUMMER, and can't wait to sing its praises.

    Enough of my rambling. :)

    1. Alison, The Goldfinch is turning into my Kevin as well. I actually meant to mention it in the post. Brilliant writing, evocative, and yet, I'm not yet invested as I should be. Because it's so big and heavy (I have the hardcover), I find it hard to read in bed, and hard to drag out to places with me, where I might read it in between stuff. So I'm always grabbing smaller books.

  7. No, no, no, I never get tired of hearing about your new book, and I can't wait to get it! I've always been a compulsive reader. If I start a book, I have to know how it ends, no matter how "bad" I find the book. The only book I could not finish was MOBY DICK (the English teacher hangs her head in shame). I made it 1/3 of the way through before deciding life was too short to read any more. Some books I finish more quickly than others. My must read authors right now are Rainbow Rowell and Marissa Meyer. They will probably be different tomorrow. As a teacher of readers, though, I see it all. One student will hate a book that is the gateway book that opens up reading for another. Some students devour almost any book. Others pick up and abandon one book after another. Often my students surprise me by what books they stick with, and often I can pick the right book for the right reader (and sometimes at the right time).

    1. Thanks, Kay! Nice to see you here. What you do with and for your students is amazing. They will never ever forget you. Trust me. I remember (and feel great gratitude toward) all of my terrific teachers, especially my fourth grade teacher.

  8. Hmmm. I read so very much - 12 grades at our school to read FOR, and I read TO 7 grades every week - yes, I read aloud to students through the fourth grade. I also read for a library review group, professional reviews, and I read because I love to. So intersting you mentioned the mechanical aspect, Gae - I took more than a year to finish Geraldine Brooks' CALEB'S CROSSING because of tiny font I was too tired to read at bedtime. But it's the books that grab me with their characters that are my MUST reads. Brooks had done it for me with every one of her books, especially THE PEOPLE OF THE BOOK. Anne Patchett. And Jo Knowles. And Laurel Snyder, and Anne Ursu. My greatest joy is having a student get as excited about a book as I have. And I can tell you, I can't wait to share your upcoming book with some very specific young people. I'm only about half finished - but the longing and pain, the hope and fear are there, Gae, and they are wonderful. Your talking about your process, your struggles, your triumphs - they all help us - they all make those of us trying to tell the story that's inside of us feel less alone. Your humor and your cheerleading and your determination, and especially your honesty all make a huge difference. No, we won't get sick of you. Honored to be in on all the parts of this party.

  9. Valerie, thank you so much for this. Your kind words (and sentiments) are so appreciated. <3