I received my first fan letter late last year. Not an email fan letter, but an honest-to-goodness paper letter that came in the mail. The two-page letter had been sent to my publisher, who then forwarded it in the mail to me. I was genuinely delighted to open a letter from a seventh grader in Texas who told me what she liked about THE MOCKINGBIRDS and then asked me questions about other books I have enjoyed. This is the stuff that makes all the ups and downs of the publishing business worth weathering — hearing from readers.
Interestingly, this letter arrived shortly before the paperback publication of THE MOCKINGBIRDS (Jan. 2) and the hardcover publication of its sequel THE RIVALS (Feb. 6). And this letter reminded me of the thing I’m trying to do differently with my second book. Because this letter came of its own accord. I didn’t force it, I didn’t give away a book to this reader, I didn’t talk her up online, I didn’t reach out to her. My book found her. Through her school librarian.
I bring this up because I thought — erroneously — I could control everything with the launch of my first book. I thought I could reach out to enough people, spread the word, email all my colleagues and friends and ask them to buy my book, and do virtually everything singlehandedly to ensure my book was a success. If this meant making videos or doing blog tours or interviews or getting no sleep or checking my Amazon ranking every hour or visiting every book store in a 100-mile radius to see where my book was stocked and to turn the book face out, by golly I’d do it.
Of course, you know what happened. Or you can imagine. I nearly went crazy. Because once the book is out there, it is out of our hands and out of our control. And it wasn’t until I stopped my constant checking of rankings and sales and blog reviews that I became happy again.
Now that I have a paperback out in the wild and a sequel hitting shelves in a few weeks, I’m trying to change course. I’m trying to NOT control my book’s fate for the first time. I won’t be popping into Barnes & Noble or Book Passage or Copperfield’s every week to see how many of my books they are carrying. I won’t be checking my Amazon or BN rankings. And I sure as heck won’t be looking at BookScan.
Because I have no control over those things.
I’ll just start on a new book. Because the characters and the story — those are the only things I can control.