So Your Book Is Published – Now What? Ten Steps in The First Year

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.)

In Thanks To Bloggers: A Six Month Anniversary

This week I passed my six-month book anniversary and as a result, I’ve been reflecting on TRAFFICKED, where it was and where it has come. Before the book came out, I never could have imagined how busy I would be doing readings, interviews and guest blog posts for the entire six months. Today I want to talk about these guest blog posts, blogger reviews and interviews and how intensely grateful I am to the bloggers who’ve helped me. Without them, there wouldn’t have been radio shows, newspaper and magazine articles, readings, or invites to conferences.

TRAFFICKED did not start out as a big book. It wasn’t a racehorse that was pounding ahead of all the other books even before its pub date (February 16). In fact, I’d say few people had heard about it in the month before it came out. If you looked online, truly, there was nothing. That TRAFFICKED has experienced any level of success is due mostly to amazing book bloggers who got behind the book and started talking about it.

For the month before TRAFFICKED came out, all I did was write guest posts for bloggers who generously hosted me.  Many of them also reviewed the book and continue to review the book, even six months later, which is unheard of. Conventional wisdom is if the book doesn’t take off in three months, it’s dead, but TRAFFICKED is the little engine that could.

TRAFFICKED is a little different from most books because it speaks to one of the most important issues of our day, modern-day slavery, an issue more and more people are learning about. As people become aware about the issue, they learn about the book. They go online. TRAFFICKED has received amazing reviews from all of the big reviewers for which I’m also very grateful. Every time one came out, I wept. The first one that came out was Kirkus. I was in the car at a stoplight when I started reading it. I had steeled myself not to care, but I burst into tears, I was so relieved. The light changed and I had to pull the car over. However, the reviews are not what you see online. If you type in TRAFFICKED and Kim Purcell into Google, you will find page after page of bloggers talking about the book or hosting me. They have spread the word to readers. Thank God.

Recently, an author threatened to publish a blacklist of bad bloggers on his blog. He was annoyed that bloggers hadn’t reviewed his book, even though he claimed they’d promised a review. Sadly, he didn’t talk once about all the amazing bloggers out there who are working their butts off – for free.

These bloggers are mostly students and they have jobs. I think back to when I was a university student and I can’t imagine running a successful blog. Every spare minute I wasn’t working or in classes, I was studying or working out. (I was on the rowing team.) I didn’t have a spare minute. When you consider all the books these bloggers read, the hours they must put in is incredible. I barely had time to read for pleasure in university and reading is my favorite thing to do, besides writing. The bloggers don’t just read; they write about the books. They aren’t doing this for free books, despite what that author said. You can get free books at the library. Come on, now. They are doing it because they love books and they want to help us authors, and for that, I’m awe-struck. They have to review the big books for their readers, but they also choose to review the smaller books, just because.

Thanks to all the bloggers for their reviews and blog posts, to all of the bloggers who have even mentioned TRAFFICKED on Twitter and to all the bloggers who will review TRAFFICKED or host me in the future. You are not only making a huge difference to the life of this little book, but you are also promoting awareness about a very serious issue which affects the lives of teenage girls around the world.