Tuesday, December 10, 2013

Guest Post: Greg Pincus on Writing & Marketing with Serious Lead Time

By Greg Pincus
for Cynthia Leitich Smith's Cynsations

Greg Pincus is the first-time author of The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. (Arthur A. Levine Books, 2013)(author blog). From the promotional copy:

Gregory K. comes from a family of mathematical geniuses. But if he claimed to love math he'd be fibbing. 

What he really wants most is to go to Author Camp. But to get his parents' permission he's going to have to pass his math class, which has a probability of 0. 

Hilariously it's the "Fibonacci Sequence," a famous mathematical formula, that comes to the rescue.

I can safely say I never expected to be making my authorial debut in 2013...or at least I didn't when I agreed to the deal for The 14 Fibs of Gregory K. back in April of 2006. Admittedly, there was no manuscript at the time, so I didn't think I'd be debuting in 2006... but if you'd said 2013, I'd've laughed politely and said "I sure hope not."

The journey, I will freely admit, has not always been entirely pleasant. One low point for me was the decision to jettison the entire first draft of my book and start over.

Okay, not totally over - the basic family structure and bones of the plot remained intact, as did a joke about fish sticks. Still, I think there are fewer than five sentences in the final book that are recognizable from the first draft, it went from first to third person, the structure changed, and the style/tone changed.

Even at the time I knew that my editor, Arthur Levine, was right in his suggestion to rethink...but that first draft was a labor of love and was fueled by passion and excitement.

So...no, that was not pleasant. Necessary for sure, but not pleasant.

I've learned plenty of lessons along the way, too, some of which are not necessarily applicable to other people or situations. For instance, if you happen to finish a draft of your novel when your editor is working 168 hours a week on the final Harry Potter book, you will not hear back with notes as quickly as you would under normal circumstances. Go figure.

Other lessons, though, strike me as more universal. In no particular order, here are things I learned or was reminded of during the 14 Fibs trip from brainstorm to final book:
  • writing is hard; 
  • rewriting is hard; 
  • listening deeply to intelligent notes will make your work better; 
  • focusing on the story you want to tell and not treating others' ideas as prescriptions will also make your writing better; 
  • patience might or might not be a virtue but it is definitely necessary; 
  • be kind to yourself as you struggle to find the right word or phrase or storyline;
  •  and remember that everyone who gives you notes or hears you talk about your process wants you to write the best possible book and is offering their thoughts to help get you there.

It's been quite a journey from inspiration until publication, and when all's said and done, I'm thrilled to be making my debut in 2013 - the perfect time, because that's simply how long it took to be ready.

Dog in a desk!
It also turns out that there are advantages to a longer road to first publication. After all, author/marketer Seth Godin has said that the best time to start promoting your book is three years before it comes out.

Heck, I had seven years lead time!

It does seem to me, though, that I hear more about marketing and promotion being an author's job now than I did back in 2006.

Another advantage of my long journey, then, is that I've had lots of time to observe what others have done in terms of promotion. As a result, I've been able to pick a few ideas to focus on that I think will work for me and which make me feel comfortable - I know why I'm doing what I'm doing, so it feels good to me. Plus, I've found that most of my PR/marketing "ideas" are opportunities that spring up organically or are simply things I think would be fun.

The organic is easier to describe: because I've spent a lot of time over these years being active offline and online - blogging, Tweeting, Facebooking, and the like - I've developed amazing relationships with wonderful people, and it turns out that these relationships have ended up creating lots of opportunities for me and The 14 Fibs.

For example, I have Skype visits set up with teachers who I've known and often blogged alongside for years and with others who I've only recently come to know. I've had bloggers and Twitter/Facebook friends help spread the word about my book trailer, cover reveal and other news. I've found myself in newsletters, been given names of people to talk to, and had wonderful interactions with folks all around the world.

Launch Pie!
Of course, I would pursue a brilliant PR idea if I had one, or hire someone to help me, as needed. But so far, my "big ideas" have all be things I think would be fun for me and others.

Along those lines, I streamed my book launch live on the web so my friends and family could be part of the celebration with me. Sure, that gave me another chance to remind everyone that my book was out (it is, by the way. You should all go buy it, of course, as I hear it makes a great gift!) and could lead to interesting PR opportunities, too, as it was "new"... but, for me, it was simply a blast to connect with others in a fun, different way.

What I'm doing may not be considered traditional PR or marketing paths, of course, but it's all about the ideas that work for me. Nothing feels like a chore or a task, so I never resent it. I have fun, still have time to work, and also know I'm doing what I can to support my book.

And after the long journey I took to publication, I can't imagine doing anything less than giving The 14 Fibs the love it deserves.

2 comments:

Brenda said...

I won this book on Goodreads and absolutely adored it, plus the poems mixed with math and writing just wonderful.

Julie Hedlund said...

Love, love, LOVED this post! I've already got 14 Fibs ready for my son for Christmas! I think people assume that all PR/Marketing is horrible and wretched and does nothing but take time away from writing. They forget that it can be fun if you let it. Thanks for the reminder Greg!

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