The paperback for TRAFFICKED is coming out in February, 2013 and I’m so very grateful. Nowadays, not every book makes it to the paperback stage. If your sales aren’t good enough in the hardback, your book just dies a sad little death, without even an obituary, leaving the writer bereft and alone in her grief.
Thank goodness this isn’t happening to TRAFFICKED. My baby is living on, has been given a second life, in fact, and many more people will have the opportunity to read it in paperback. I know how lucky I am. It’s not a vampire or an angel book. It’s not about an American teenager being bullied. It’s a book about an illegal immigrant who comes to America to find a better life but is forced to be a modern-day slave. It’s tough for the stories of immigrants to be heard. The fact that Penguin was willing to take a chance on Trafficked is a small miracle.
TRAFFICKED has received some attention from the publishing world, fortunately, and it did get wonderful reviews in all the major trades, but bringing it to the attention of the wider public has required a ton of work. My publisher did what it could for TRAFFICKED, especially since it was a book for which huge sales were unlikely, but mostly it has required a lot of my own sweat and tears.
What did I do? Here’s a partial list.
1. In December, I hired a publicist who worked alongside my new publicist at Penguin to get a blog tour going, and they did a wonderful job. I wrote at least twenty different guest blog posts for different blogs. This took weeks of hard work, but it got some buzz going before the pub date.
2. I contacted every bookstore in my area and along the West Coast to schedule a book tour. The owners of the bookstores were surprisingly receptive and everyone I contacted agreed to a reading and signing.
3. I had my book launch party at the Community Bookstore in Park Slope, Brooklyn. About fifty people showed up and the bookstore sold 37 copies of TRAFFICKED that night. I had been hoping for a bigger number, but this is apparently a good number for a debut novel at any bookstore.
4. Shortly afterward, I went on my West Coast Book Tour and did events in Seattle, WA, (Secret Garden Books and Chief Sealth High School) Edmonds, WA, (Edmonds Bookshop) Portland, OR, (A Children’s Place Bookstore) and Vancouver, BC (Blackberry Books). Along the West Coast, I have a lot of friends and family and I made sure they were coming. I told them I needed them. I emailed and Facebooked everyone a few times, so they wouldn’t forget. I have pretty amazing people in my life and they all showed up at all the events, filling the bookstores, buying books.
5. After this, I didn’t stop. I continued to arrange events, do panels, teach at writing conferences, go to festivals. Most of these opportunities came about because I did something to make it happen. I sent an email or made a phone call. Very few events came to me unsolicited. In one case, I begged Penguin to send me to ALA, arguing about how educators love Trafficked, and they agreed, even though it wasn’t a priority book for them, and gave me a badge. I paid for my own way and then, when I was there, I talked to librarian after librarian. One of those librarians read my book, loved it, and I became the Madison Reads Author of 2012, for Madison High School, in Portland, OR, where she is the librarian.
6. I used social media, tweeting frequently. As a result, I connected with one of the festival organizers of Wordfest in Calgary. I didn’t even know about Wordfest at that point, but I think she said something funny and I liked her, so we tweeted back and forth. To my surprise, she read the book and I was invited to Wordfest in Calgary. Penguin couldn’t pay for my flight, but the festival did pay per event and I used that to cover my flight. I would not have gone to Calgary otherwise, and I met with a lot of great kids there, and now I hope to go again. This wouldn’t have happened if I hadn’t been on Twitter.
7. I emailed every school in Westchester, where I currently live, and some schools in Brooklyn, where I used to live and where I will soon live again. I went to every library I passed. As a result, I’ve done two school visits in Westchester, taught at a writing retreat for one of those schools, and I’ve been invited to teach at a Westchester writing conference for teens in March. In Brooklyn, the Brooklyn library system has a teen program and they’ve interviewed me for their book club. When I move back to Brooklyn, I’ll send out emails to all the Brooklyn schools.
8. Every time I go on a vacation, I contact libraries and schools in the area. When I was skiing in Park City, Utah, last year, I contacted the high schools there. One of the schools brought me in to talk to the kids. I talked to the local bookstores and once they heard about the school visit, they said they’d order my book right away. When I was in Bellingham, WA, I did an event at the Barnes & Noble.
9. I’ve contacted every magazine, newspaper and online magazine in my area. I’ve done a radio interview for a Westchester radio station as a direct result of a Westchester newspaper article, which I solicited, by telling them about TRAFFICKED. Every time I do an event in an area, I let the newspapers know. I’ve contacted many anti-trafficking organizations to let them know about TRAFFICKED, and tell them that I’m giving twenty-percent of my royalties to anti-trafficking nonprofits. One big anti-trafficking nonprofit, called Love 146, has tweeted about the book and told people to read it. I want this book to make a difference and increase awareness about human trafficking, but people need to know about it. Next week, I’m going to Texas where a school district is doing a district-wide book club for Trafficked. I don’t know how they heard about the book, but I’m glad. Today, I’m contacting the local newspaper there. Maybe they’ll interview me when I get there, you never know.
10. Not a single week has gone by when I didn’t contact someone about the book, and I’ve had at least one event a month, sometimes two or three. When people bring me to events or do anything to help the book, I thank them. Gratitude is important. Giving back is important. This week I went to a juvenile detention center to talk to the kids about writing and about human trafficking. When one of the kids said, “Those girls want it,” I saw how much work there was still to be done. And I’m going to keep doing it. And somewhere along the way, hopefully soon, I’ll finish my next book.
(If you’d like to hear some of my lessons/mistakes from the first year, I recently did a guest blog post on my Top Ten Lessons for A Life Bound By Books.)