Life After Yes, my rookie novel, has been out in the world now for almost two months and I want to give you guys a bit of an update. And, as is becoming par for the course chez ILI, I also want to ask you about something. Something philosophical and something very practical. Here goes.
A few book highlights. Before I left for vacation, I was pushing Baby in her stroller by my local Barnes & Noble. Without realizing it, I slowed to a stop outside the bookstore and stood there with no real agenda looking at the window display. I told myself that I should go inside and see how LAY is doing. Baby was thrilled as she knew this meant a new Dora book (Mommy is a sucker) and I was oddly a bit nervous. We made our way to the New Paperbacks section where LAY had been displayed and it was not there. My heart sank. I was tempted to pout and leave, but no! I moseyed on over to the Information Desk, asked about my literary baby, and what do you know? It was on the Paperback Favorites table! The nice man (I believe his name was Alex) asked if I would sign some books and so I did. And I met the mother of a fellow lawyer who wants to jump ship and write. She bought my book for her girl!
While in Chicago, we visited a local TARGET. I was thrilled to see that the book section was right there by the entrance! When I inched closer, I saw a little label on an empty shelf in the Bestsellers Display that said Life After Yes. So, my book was on the bestsellers shelf and was sold out. Score! You know who else scored? Toddler and Baby. They are now each proud owners of utterly-flammable and not-at-all-hideous polyester Thomas the Train pajamas that they must wear every single night. They also got their very first (metallic pink) soccer ball which is a big deal since they will both one day be collegiate soccer stars like Daddy. (No pressure, kiddos.)
Do you guys know Leah Stewart? Well, she is a wonderful author (her latest is HUSBAND AND WIFE) and she organized almost fifty writers (mostly women, including moi!) to do an epic book giveaway. The contest was a follow up to Allison Winn Scotch's earlier brilliant giveaway and the winning book clubs received books for a year! Anyway, I plan to write an entire post on this fabulous community into which I've luckily stumbled because I am beyond honored to be included in this amazing and diverse group of authors.
Speaking of book clubs, my good friend from law school who now lives in the Chicago suburbs encouraged her local ladies to read Life After Yes and she arranged the discussion so it would fall on a night when I could attend. (Thanks, D!) Truth be told, I have never been part of a book club, so I didn't know what to expect, but I was excited! And for good reason. There was something completely fascinating about immersing myself in a discussion of my own story, of the characters I created. My fear, my biggest fear, was that the women there would censor things because of my presence, that they wouldn't be as critical as they might have been if the author weren't there.
Well. The women loved the book. Or most of them did at least. Or most of them said they did at least. But. Yes, there is a but. A big one. There was plenty of criticism. Not of my writing or my storytelling ability, thank goodness. But of the main character. Quinn. Now, I know many of you might not have found the time in the last two months to read my book, so let me give you a little color on this leading lady. Quinn is a confused modern soul. She is a bit lost. She makes mistakes. She has not been plucked from a Disney movie. Are you with me? She is flawed and struggling and, ahem, real.
These book club women had a hard time sympathizing with Quinn. They felt like she was indulgent, that she drank too much, that she was a shred promiscuous and untrustworthy. One woman in particular, a lovely mom of two who was our host for the evening, summed it up well. She said something like:
"I just didn't like Quinn because she was not nice at all."
Wow. Interestingly, this was kind of hard for me to hear. And, frankly, I got a little defensive and protective of my protagonist. I said something like, No, she is not nice and perfect. She is struggling and having a bit of an identity crisis. And she might not be a nice person, but I think, ultimately, she is a good person. Honestly, I rambled a lot more than this, but I will spare you. The point is that though LAY is fiction, and is not a story about me, I felt personally invested in this discussion and even a bit hurt. Why?
I am not nice. Not a quintessentially nice person. Now, I'm not mean either. I am nice a lot of the time. I am polite and civilized (most of the time). But I'm not sure the first word anyone would use to describe me is "nice." I would like to think of myself as thoughtful, empathetic, trustworthy, honest, loving, etc, but nice? I'm not so sure. I'm a city girl with an edge or two. There is some cynicism and skepticism pumping through my veins and sentences. Do I cheat on my husband and swear like a sailor? No. I don't. But I'm still not sure that I'm "nice."
Okay, Aidan. What ever is the point? Well, I'm not sure, but there is one and I think it's kind of interesting. What is niceness? Is it something we should all strive for in our lives? Should we expect it of people and of protagonists? Or, maybe, is life more real and interesting when the barometer is core goodness and intention? Maybe no one can be nice all the time? Maybe we should be a pinch suspicious when we encounter someone who is nice all the time? I don't know. I do know that I am rambling, that I love rambling, and that I feel very privileged to have made a cameo at such an interesting (and eye-opening) discussion of my own work that has left me questioning not only Quinn's character but my own.
Now, the practical bit. I will keep this quick, but it's important. I need your advice and expertise. It appears that LAY is faring quite well in the world. People seem to be buying the book and liking it. That said, it is very important (for the health of my first book and my sanity and my writing career) that the book continues to sell and that I continue to spread the word about it. But how? How do I continue to promote my book without it being overkill, simply too much? I am just not willing to throw up my arms and say "whatever happens, happens." Not yet at least. There has to be a way to continue to let people know about my book and to encourage them to pick up a copy. You guys are smart. So, bring on the ideas!
Whew. That was longer than I expected. Recap: (1) I am not nice; (2) I am seeking a nice way to continue to promote LAY.
- Are you a nice person?
- Are you interested in reading stories about nice people?
- Are you suspicious of people who are always nice in every situation?
- Do you agree that it is possible to be a good person without being a permanently nice person?
- Do you agree that there is an important difference between being "nice" and "not mean"?
- Do you have any genius ideas about how to boost book sales two months into the game?