When you finally sit down to write that book you’ve been mentally plotting for years, you begin to envision what your #writerslife will look like. Because I penned my debut novel while living in Paris, my daydreams more or less reflected a 21st-century version of Ernest Hemingway’s vie Parisienne:
I’d spend my days plotting narrative arcs in the shadows of Saint-Germain-des-Prés; downing espressos in a sidewalk café, drawing inspiration from the crowds as I watched the world go by; engaging in intellectual debate with fellow authors over whiskey & sodas at the Closerie des Lilas or Brasserie Lipp; generally inhabiting Hemingway’s impoverished literary lifestyle, though hopefully not having to follow in his footsteps quite so literally as to shoot pigeons for my dinner in the Jardin du Luxembourg.
Some of these fantasies came to pass. First in Paris, now in New York, I find many of my most productive writing sessions take place in public gardens or cafes; I’ve probably spent my entire advance on those espressos, which focus and fuel much of my writing; and I *have* been fortunate enough to meet a few author friends who engage in enriching, creative conversations over whiskey sodas & other choice beverages.
But what nobody tells you when you start to write a book, when you land an agent, or even when your agent lands a publisher, is that writing and revising the manuscript is the easy part. Once you’ve signed that publishing contract, you can kiss those poetic, creative days of yore goodbye. No longer an author, you now have a new job! One that—If you’re like me—you’ve had zero experience with and exposure to. One that nobody trains you for. One that pays zero dollars and requires what feels like 100% of your waking hours.
- Toss your character-driven stories aside and your (metaphorical) author’s hat in the garbage.
- Replace them with a good half dozen differently formatted pitch e-mails.
- Open 10,000 new Google search windows and get ready to research every single person, publication, blogger, and influencer you can think of who is even remotely interested or involved in the book world.
- Clear your schedule for the next 6 months until your publication date, as you will need to devote all early-morning and weekend hours to crafting well-researched, personalized pitches, and all evening hours to speaking on panels, in interviews, and on podcasts.
Et voilà: You are now officially your own Marketing Machine, and it is time to do The (Book PR) Hustle.
I like to pretend that by chanting ad nauseum “Do the (Book PR) Hustle,” this awkward and painful phase of the publishing journey can be rendered slightly less grueling. The hustle, after all, is my and my father’s favorite dance step, and “Do The Hustle,” is one of the cheesiest (best?) songs and music videos of all time. Perhaps if I can associate the Book PR Hustle with the groovy disco one, I will stop dreading it so much? A girl can dream . . .
There are two parts of The (Book PR) Hustle, and though Phase One—cold pitching around the clock 24/7—is outright stressful and depressing, I’ve recently come to understand that Phase Two—accepting invitations that come out of Phase One—can produce significant rewards, even if the payoff isn’t necessarily in the book sales or dollars you were hoping for.
Let us examine a day in the life of a debut novelist, based on a 24-hour chunk of my life last week. Between 9:30 p.m. Thursday and 9:30 p.m. Friday, I & Match Made in Manhattan appeared:
- On a podcast dissecting the blossoming and torpedoing romances on “Bachelor in Paradise”
- In a feature in my hometown newspaper, The Scarsdale Inquirer
- As the featured speaker for a “Singles Dinner” in Westhampton
How many hours did these events and their corresponding transit time take up? Lots. I think 13? How many book sales were generated? My book’s not out until January 2nd, so it’s impossible to say. But for the first time in a long time, I felt reconnected to the subject matter of my book and to HUMANS! And man, is that a good feeling.
In Phase One of The (Book PR) Hustle, you haven’t touched your manuscript since it’s been finalized 9+ months ago. Consequently, sitting behind the computer pitching a synopsis and sales angle that you can now recite verbatim feels more akin to being a product rep than an author. In the best-case scenario, your contact writes back, “Sounds interesting. I’d love an advance copy.” This best-case scenario is indeed very exciting, but there are no follow-up questions about the book itself, no exchange of ideas, no thoughtful discussion on the writing process or publishing journey . . . best case we’re looking at 2 fragment sentences. And then, you are on to pitching the next outlet.
But a podcast? Or an interview? These are just public discussions of topics you care very much about. I could chat about love and dating and book-writing and the Bachelor franchise till the cows come home; and to be able to do this with hosts who feel equally passionate about these subjects as I do? Who introduce me to new viewpoints or facts? Conversational heaven.
My evening in Westhampton revivified this energy x 85 (since there were 85 people in the audience). After relating my most germane experiences and useful advice in a half-hour talk, I mingled with audience members for another 2 hours until I had to catch my train home. Some had questions about the publishing process and book world, which I’m always happy to converse about; but the vast majority wanted my take on their own dating experiences—whether feedback on specific dates or advice/critique on their overall approach. To be clear, I am not a love expert. Just someone who spends way too much time analyzing dating and relationships, then writing about it. But men and women who want to spend their Friday night dishing on dating apps and contemporary social mores? This is my happy place.
Contemplating the boisterousness and fun of the “Singles Dinner” on the train ride home, I realized that once I embarked on Phase One of The (Book PR) Hustle, the heart of Match Made in Manhattan became necessarily reduced to a bullet point in a marketing campaign—something to be pitched and peddled rather than thoughtfully discussed or analyzed. Phase Two, however? Connecting with podcasters, journalists, eager audiences & future readers? As one host erroneously titled my book this past week: Match Made in Heaven.