This month my seventh novel will officially launch. Maybe “will be born” is a better phrase, considering how many of my titles have either had boy or girl in them. In this case, my publisher will be giving birth to a dead husband, and I’m not sure what kind of balloons one buys for that occasion.
You might think conception occurs with the idea for the book. You conceive of the idea, after all. But no, without the publisher, the writer is merely indulging in partnerless self-pleasure (okay, I’ll stop with the metaphor here). The book really starts to become a reality once that contract is signed and a timetable is set for the launch. The time period between contract and launch is often a year or more, as publishing schedules are set well in advance. I thought it might be interesting to share all that happens in that year leading to the the launch.
16 Months Before: Terms agreed upon. Contract signed. Sigh of relief. Have a drink to toast and celebrate.
15 Months Before: First-round notes from editor. Read quickly and then assure yourself they’re no big deal. Have a drink to numb yourself.
15 Months Before: Re-read notes from editor. Wait, you want a sub-plot?
14 Months Before: Initial round of edits done. Drink to celebrate. Notice pattern, take a month off drinking.
13 Months Before: Second round of edits from publisher–much easier than first round. This is when the book actually feels done.
12 Months Before: Third round of edits from publisher–copyedits. No too much to do with these except approve them. Also, the publisher suggests a new title. Wait, you think, you’re not convinced Bonfire of the Manatees is going to fly off the shelves?
11 Months Before: Title decided after being focus-grouped and algorithmically digested. You envision the title on the cover of Time Magazine under the headline “Is This the Book That Will Save Us?”
10 Months Before: You get an email with the proposed cover art. Take a deep breath and open it. This is when you find out if your baby will be beautiful or ugly (you promise to love it either way, which is a lie). Whew. Your kid is gonna be just fine.
7-9 Months Before: This is a weird Bermuda Triangle time where time just kind of disappears and you actually forget about your book. You can’t even remember character names.
6 Months Before: The advance-reader copies (ARCs) are printed, which is when you see the almost-ready book for the first time. Time to write dedication and acknowledgements. Don’t forget your mother.
5 Months Before: The PR machine starts gearing up, sending out ARCs to media, trades, social-media influencers. Launch-day events get booked, podcast appearances lined up. You begin writing guest blogs for outlets like Writers Digest, The Strand, and CrimeReads.
3 Months Before: Early reviews start to trickle in. You write down the user names of snarky Goodreads reviewers and vow to smite them.
2 Months Before: Trade reviews come in. You hope for those rare starred reviews from the likes of Publishers Weekly and Kirkus but are content just not getting trashed.
1 Month Before: Your author copies of the final book arrive. They smell great.
3 Weeks Before: You flood social media and your newsletter readers with those early reviews, pre-order giveaways, and book excerpts. You gets lots of nice comments. You also notice an uptick in your unsubscribes.
2 Weeks Before: You firm up all your launch-week events, beg your friends to come, and shore up your talking points. Skim through the book so you can remember the characters’ names.
1 Week Before: You vow to stop checking Goodreads. Your hiatus lasts about 2 hours. You add more names to your smite list.
Launch Day: You announce through every communication outlet available to you that your book is OUT TODAY, to which you can almost hear the universe reply WE KNOW.
Launch Night: You have your launch event at a beautiful local indie bookstore. Your friends and family arrive, and no small amount of folks you don’t know. You talk about your book, suddenly remembering all the joy you had writing it, despite the occasional struggle. You do a very short reading, and even though you hate going back and reading your writing, you decide at least that passage is decent, perhaps even good. People buy your book, ask you to sign it, seem genuinely interested. Afterwards there’s a nice bar close by where they make a great gimlet–they even use chilled glasses. You sit with your family and maybe a friend or two and just soak everything in. You sleep well that night.
Launch Day +1: You get back to work on that next book, because, damn, that felt good.
Hey, look, Publishers Weekly didn’t trash my book!
What I’m Watching:
Patriot, (Amazon, 2017-) I just re-watched season one of Amazon’s wholly original Patriot and appreciated it even more than the first viewing (Jess and I are well into season two at this point). On the surface the plotline seems like a mundane thriller: a U.S. government agent needs to funnel money to an Iranian opposition party to help stop Iran’s nuclear program. But this show is anything but mundane, and is the quirkiest spy thriller I’ve ever seen. The lead is a morose agent working for his father who also likes to write folk songs, and has a bad habit of singing about his exploits in European coffee shops during open mic nights. The writing is exceptionally clever, the show is infused with real emotion despite its idiosyncratic nature, it doesn’t mind showcasing jarring violence when necessary, and features some of the most creative sequences of any series out there (case in point: a single-take scene of two people playing rock-paper-scissors in which they tie at least forty straight times while carrying a conversation). Sometimes it’s tough to follow the plot, so best to watch a few episodes at a time to avoid getting lost.
What I’m Reading:
Is This Anything?, (Jerry Seinfeld, Simon & Schuster, 2021) Seinfeld writes down all of his jokes and keeps them forever. In Is This Anything? he’s unearthed all of his material, organized it by decade, and created a book out of it. So basically it’s just a volume of all the bits Seinfeld’s ever told on stage, along with some brief observational interludes at the beginning of each decade. While this is an entertaining book that provides a nice dose of nostalgia, I was hoping for more of a memoir from Seinfeld. I’ve read/listened to a lot of interviews with him and he has some pretty profound thoughts regarding how he approaches comedy, his work ethic, aging, raising kids, etc. I’d rather read 300 pages of his philosophies and experiences rather than his jokes. Still, this kept me entertained.
Bits of The Dead Husband
Up until my book launch next month I’ll be sharing snippets of The Dead Husband in this space. This month’s passage:
Colin went with his gut, knowing there was something. Something about Bury. If not outright malevolent, then at least mysterious. Suspicious. There are no perfect communities. Every town has a stain.
“How about way back, say ten or twenty years ago?” Colin asked. “Any major crimes in Bury? Any…I don’t know…anything that got Bury a little attention beyond the town borders?”
Chief Sike peered up into the acoustic ceiling tiles of the police station, as if all the answers he ever wanted could be found in their thousands of craters. After taking a moment’s reflection, he directed his gaze back to Colin.
“Missing kid. Back in the nineties. Sixteen-year-old boy named Caleb Benner. Never found him.”
“A sixteen-year-old boy?” Colin said. “That’s not a missing kid. That’s a runaway.”
“Ayuh, that’s what most say. Not his family, though. Not his friends.”
Colin crossed his arms over his chest, tucking his fingers into his armpits. “Were you here then?”
“Manchester. But we came down to help search. Mike Patterson was the lead on the case.”
“Is he still on the job?”
Sike shook his head. “Heart attack killed him back in oh-nine.”
“Do you remember the details of the case?”
“I do, indeed.”
Colin nodded over to the coffee machine in the back corner of their room.
“Buy you a cup of coffee if you tell me everything you know about it,” he said.
“Coffee’s free here,” Sike said.
“It’s the gesture that counts.”
Sike grunted, which Colin took as an affirmation. Colin walked over the pot, still half-full, and filled two paper cups. He took a sip from one, surprised that it tasted decent.
He walked back over and handed a cup to Sike, who offered another grunt.
Sike took his own sip, tilted back in his chair, and said, “Kid went missing on a Friday night.”
It took about twenty minutes for Sike to tell Colin the story of a missing boy named Caleb Benner.
Afterward, Colin couldn’t stop thinking about it.
Update From My Kids AND Cat
1. My daughter gave my cat Guff several bites of meatloaf one night.
2. Later that night, Guff violently puked all the meatloaf in my son’s bedroom.
3. The location of the cat vomit was on some carpet scraps that we use to play with Guff.
4. My son, being woken by the awful noise, took a paper towel and grabbed as much of the puke as he could in one pass and put it in his closed-lid trashcan in his bathroom. Then he just flipped the carpet scrap over with no further cleaning and went back to bed.
5. SIX DAYS LATER I walked into my son’s bathroom, smelled something off, opened the trashcan and was nearly brought to my knees by the smell.
6. I immediately texted the kids.
Best Image Sent To Me By a Friend Last Month
What’s in My Backyard?
This racoon, who scaled my bird feeder to try to get to some suet, only to tip over the very pole to which he was clinging.
That’s all for now…see you next month!