As you all know, I have been silent for another whole week, and that is not like me. But, I am in the category of a being a new mother these days. I’m all intent upon the whole long process of giving birth, as well as tending what I’ve already given birth to. Books and babies…lots of similarities.
First, there’s the moment of conception, though in this case, it’s really called inception. That’s when you come up with a great idea and then realize that you suddenly have a book in your belly. The pregnancy can be long and thoughtful and can continue for years and years, if you want it to. The delivery often takes just as long, because that covers the time spent in your chair, typing hard on the computer; or sometimes for old-fashioned writers, scribbling words on a yellow pad. Pregnancy and delivery are long, lone projects with no one on your back about deadlines and decisions. You can just let it flow all alone in there within your own private universe. You and your book. Tweaking and diddling as much as you like. Mother and child. Secret, contemplative, marvelously successful, because you are the only one you have to please.
However, there IS the business of the name, which becomes an ongoing weighty matter, indeed, as it always is with any expected child. Dither, dither. Such a responsibility. This poor creature you are bringing into the world will have to stand alone on the name you select, possibly long after you have left the scene. The wrong name could be a disaster. Might create unpopularity, misunderstanding, wimpiness or it might convey the wrong impression to the wrong audience.
Who is your audience, anyway? Who is this little twerp planning to hang out with? The title you bestow will have a huge effect on that outcome. Dither, dither. Here’s where my own yellow pads always fill up. Friends and family have learned to nod their heads indulgently whenever I suggest a new name for my book. They know it will be gone in the morning, replaced by another equally-silly one. These days, Google Search has a lot to do with book-naming; as well as Amazon.com. Has anyone already snagged it? That squelches a whole lot of perfectly good names, right there.
Cover design is another whole area of worry. The same dynamics apply as they do to the title. The right one gets you in doors. The wrong one sinks the ship. And, those few words you choose to decorate your back cover? Make or break stuff, right there! Then, during sleepless nights, if midnight cover designs hit you in the head, and you’re not an artist, you must find some talent to whip that into shape.
Next come the midwives: those copy editors who rake through your whole creation and make this child actually deliverable. They fix its little (or very big) faults and stay by your side during the birthing process.
There’s the delivery room, your publisher, which handles all important details of the actual birthing process. You go in with this baby in your belly. You come out with a book in hand. Magical stuff! Very heady. And, when it goes well, you want to turn right around and do it all again. And, you will…after you recover from this one.
Now, as all new parents know, or find out soon enough, the story doesn’t end when you leave the hospital with a sweet bundle in your arms. Ohhhhhhh no! Not by a long shot! You have this active new entity on your hands, in your arms, never out of your sight…or hearing. It has NEEEEEEDS! All of a sudden, those diapers hit the fan!
Things that you should have done before delivery are still not complete, like all those registrations for publishers lists, booksellers, book fairs, contests, and so many things bearing imposing and important initials which convey worthy information to the makers, shakers and breakers. Papers to fill out, things to mail in. Copyrights to register. Probably, this is similar to registering a newborn for Yale University’s waiting list, only much more urgent,if your prodigy is to become anything in this world. You stay up at night. You get confused easily.
You still write, write, write all day long. Only this time, it’s marketing ideas and snappy press releases and promotional ploys galore; while the new baby cries in your arms with its own demands and you’re still in your bathrobe. And therein lies the rubbing alcohol. you’ve only just met this little squalling collection of your own ideas. How do you know how to sum it all up in a few stirling paragraphs that will introduce it to the world and make everyone want to adopt your little offspring?
Because, in effect, you ARE putting your fine little baby up for adoption. You will love it anyway, even if you fret over glaring faults, like an undiscovered typo, which suddenly shows up right there on the kid’s nose. You’ll still love your baby, unreservedly, though you may plan to perform a little plastic surgery in your next reprint. Hopefully, all flaws will be unnoticeable, except by you. You’ll then hope, fervently, that someone (preferably a reviewer) might soon begin to notice the brilliance of your work. You pray that they will like it well enough to take that newborn home and keep on their nightstand. Let it keep THEM awake at night, not you!
You are about to SELL YOUR CHILD! How can you think like a Public Relations professional and create beautiful press releases and perfect video presentations, and yet represent your book fairly and exactly like it is? How can you find and focus on its best features? This demanding newborn doesn’t look like its adult self yet; hasn’t begun to explain itself to you, its mother, so that you can even begin to discern how others are going to perceive it.
Yet this must be done while it lies in its cradle, either blessedly silent, or needing hours of attention in some behind-the-scenes way. Multi-tasking mothers are nothing new. We all put in the time. We all get in way over our heads and wonder whether we’ll actually get that shower today or must it go on the to-do list for tomorrow?
But, the marketing material you have to churn out in the middle of all this hubbub, is life-changing for the little tyke. Decisions you make right now, under duress, could affect its entire future. What can you say, accurately and honestly and yet, with appealing, one-of-a-kind hype? Truth, but hype, nonetheless.
Eventually, your child must be likeable of its own accord, because the minute it steps into public scrutiny, folks will know whether you represented it well in your words of praise and promise – or not. This is a whole different type of writing from the book you have just gestated. That was really creative writing. Marketing is too, but with a bite. It must be succinct, and to the point, and true to a fault.
Here, in the light of this newborn day, is where you must turn around and frankly evaluate the product that sat cloistered close to your heart, invisibly, for so very long.
Then, comes the day when your baby bounces off your lap and far away from you. The ink is dry. The dye is cast. The course is run. You then become simply the proud parent lurking in the background; pulling out your wallet snapshots and saying, “That’s my kid! Just look at her go!”
Any parent will tell you, it’s all worthwhile.