In this series, 'The Path', I'll discuss my journey, as it's happening, in going from manuscript to commercial publication for the first time.
In the last post, I talked about the developmental edit process I went through in collaboration with my editors at Sourcebooks. This time, I’ll talk about what’s happened since I turned over the ‘final’ version of the book to go into production.
As always, keep in mind that experiences will vary; this is just what my path looked like.
Hi! It's been a minute! :)
When I last posted for this series in July 2021, DARK THINGS I ADORE was just a few months shy of being launched into the world on September 14, 2021. My publisher, Sourcebooks, was doing most of the heavy-lifting at that point, working hard on marketing and buzz for the book, including reaching out to major book clubs, periodicals, blogs, and more.
Pictured above: publishing house marketing teams.
In August and September, my part of it kicked into high gear. Part of the marketing apparatus was meant to not only get coverage for the book, but to get me opportunities to talk about my book in an effort to market both my book and myself. Most of this was coordinated by the amazing Molly Waxman at Sourcebooks or the amazing Sarah Mather at Titan Books, and some I did on my own.
Every publisher and book is different, so there probably isn’t a standard amount, kind, or package of marketing a book will get, so I am truly grateful for ALL of the work my publishers put in to get my book exposure.
In some ways, I can’t imagine the level of time and energy commitment an author would have to put in for a book that truly blows up – it must be overwhelming, tbh. Between working fulltime and having my parents go through some serious health issues right around the time my book launched, I was pretty well fried by the time I hit October. But I made it through, and I’m better for it.
The TL;DR of the month before and the several months after launch for me has been lots of marketing “homework” interspersed with periods of quiet.
So here is a look at what this busy, tiring, exciting, wonderful time frame was like for me:
August 11, 2021: I mailed 5-10 handwritten notes to local (Maine) booksellers to make them aware of my book; this was to encourage ordering/stocking it and as a possible lead-in for future events (signings, readings, etc.) Sourcebooks provides Advanced Reader Copies (ARCs) for these mailing as well. I also did something similar for a few local libraries.
August 30, 2021: I created and promoted my own giveaway box to entice new followers to my social media accounts and newsletter. It included an ARC of the book, watercolor paints, a Moosehead Lake poster, a goldenrod flower embroidery hoop, and a book sticker.
September 1, 2021: DARK THINGS I ADORE was named a Best Book of September by Apple Books!
September 7, 2021: I did a social media post introducing DTIA character Audra Colfax via a mood board.
September 8, 2021: I did a social media post introducing DTIA character Max Durant via a mood board.
September 9, 2021: I did a social media post introducing DTIA character Coral Dunn via a mood board.
September 10, 2021: I did a social media post introducing DTIA character Juniper via a mood board.
September 13, 2021:
I put together a playlist that to me captured the vibe of DTIA and posted it to my social media accounts.
I wrote an essay for Culturefly that got posted on this day: “The Synesthete’s Guide to the Characters in Dark Things I Adore.”
Virtual Event with Politics & Prose bookstore, Washington, DC (in conversation with Sarah Langan!)
SEPTEMBER 14, 2021: I held my book launch event at local bookstore The Briar Patch! We held it in person, fully masked, and it was really wonderful. I read an excerpt from the book, answered a bunch of really great audience questions, then did a signing.
September 15, 2021:
I did a written interview with the Trans-Scribe blog that was posted on this day.
I wrote an essay for Crimereads that got posted on this day: “Five Books Featuring Paintings That Reveal Emotional Truths About Their Characters.”
I wrote an essay for Kings River Life that got posted on this day: “The Darkness in Your Own Backyard.”
September 16, 2021:
Virtual Event with Mystery to Me bookstore, Madison, WI
I wrote an essay for Shots: the Crime and Thriller EZine: “Her Dark Things: The Paintings at the Heart of Dark Things I Adore.”
September 17, 2021: Virtual Event with Horton’s Books, Carrollton, GA (in conversation with Caitlin Mullen!)
September 19, 2021: Virtual Event with Crime by the Book (Instagram)
September 21, 2021: DTIA was reviewed in the Crime & Thriller section of the New York Times Book Review!
September 22, 2021: Virtual Event with Murder by the Book, Houston, Texas (in conversation with Eliza Jane Brazier!)
September 23, 2021: I wrote an essay for Criminal Element that was posted on this day: “Find Your Bunk, Change Your Life: Thinking About Liminal Space in Books, TV, and Movies.”
September 28, 2021: I created a social media post/game about the nicknames in DTIA.
October 2021: DTIA was the Unplugged Book Box’s pick of the month. I wrote an intro letter to be included with the box.
October 7, 2021: Virtual Event with The Bigger Boat Series at Cape Cod Community College, West Barnstable, MA (in conversation with Michael T. Fournier!)
October 14, 2021: Virtual Event with the Lincoln Public Library, Lincoln, CA
October 27, 2021: Virtual Event with Mystery at the Library
November 4, 2021: In-Person Event with The New Writing Series at the University of Maine, Orono, ME (co-reading with Morgan Talty!)
November 16, 2021: Private Book Club Event
November 27, 2021: Television interview with local late night show ‘The Nite Show with Dan Cashman’
March 1, 2022: Podcast interview with Wine, Women and Words
I have a taped YouTube interview for Carter Wilson’s ‘Making it Up’ show that will be released soon, and I will be taping a podcast at the end of March. In April I’ll be part of a writer’s symposium at the University of Notre Dame, and in June I’ll be doing an event with the Raymond Public Library in Raymond, ME. All exciting stuff!
The other thing I’m sure people will want to know about at this point in my journey is sales. I’m six months out from publication, and I have had one check-in about numbers in that time. My agent said that numbers in the first several months can be fuzzy/wobbly, because booksellers are allowed to return any copies of a book that don’t sell, and that process can take some time (months), so true numbers take some time to firm up. As with everything else in publishing a book: things. take. time.
Alright, I'll be vulnerable for the sake of transparency. I always wanted to know this stuff when I was reading author blogs, so now's my chance to be that for someone else. So, keep in mind: debut thriller, pandemic, no major book club selections, but solid press coverage (NYT, Publishers Weekly, etc.) and distribution (Barnes & Noble, Sam's Club, among others).
I was pleasantly surprised by sales – nothing that will make it a bestseller, and probably modest by a lot of standards, but, by mid-December (just three months after launch), about 5,600 hardcover units and and 2,100 e-book units had sold. I asked my agent if that was “good,” and she said that was pretty good, especially during the pandemic as a debut. TBH, the idea that thousands of people were interested enough to buy it is mind-blowing and awesome to me, so I'm thrilled.
I’m supposed to get my first official sales statement by the end of April, I believe, and so that will give me a more real sense of where the book is at, if I'm close to "earning out," etc. Then every 6 months thereafter I’ll get a new report unless I ask for an update in between.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR DARK THINGS I ADORE
The next major milestone for the book will be its release in paperback form, which will happen during the summer of 2022. From there, unless something major happens (like a movie deal, which are extremely hard to come by), my sense is that the book will just be out there in the world in its various formats (hardcover, paperback, ebook, and audiobook), doing its thing, which is a really lovely thought. I think of all the books I’ve discovered and read weeks, months, years after their original publication. Publication is a long game. A book’s sellable life can extend for years, for decades if you’re lucky. I hope I get a little lucky.
WHAT’S NEXT FOR ME
Right now I’m working on rewrites of my next book. Around the time DTIA launched, I sent book two to Sourcebooks for their “first look,” as per my contract. The idea being that they would basically get the right of first refusal on my follow-up before anyone else saw it. Unfortunately, they did pass, which was heartbreaking, to be honest, and really sent me for a loop for a while. (As you can imagine, it was a hectic and trying mix of feelings I was going through in mid-September 2021!)
I’ve really liked working with the team at Sourcebooks, and have felt very supported throughout. Even now, after rejecting book two, they are of course as lovely and communicative as ever about DTIA – which of course they would be, because they want it to be successful, and it's sort of ours, together.
Book Two was just not quite what they were looking for, and though we tried to negotiate our way through it – thinking about revisions, etc. – we couldn’t quite bridge the gap.
So where does that leave Book Two? Well, my agent and I have had some great talks, and my editor at Sourcebooks had also provided feedback during the review period, and after letting it sit for a few months and thinking and thinking and thinking about it while I tried to keep my head above water this past fall, I’ve returned to the manuscript and am more than halfway through a rewrite. I’m really loving where the book is going, and have high hopes it will eventually find a home somewhere. Our plan is to submit it to publishers widely toward the end of 2022, after I’ve had time to do a few rounds of rewriting. Wish me luck!
I want to take a moment to say thank you to every single person who has bought, borrowed, recommended, or otherwise chatted up DARK THINGS I ADORE. I want to thank every single person who has read DARK THINGS I ADORE. I want to thank every single person who has taken the time to rate or review the book on Amazon, Goodreads, etc. That stuff does matter. We live and die by The Algorithm. I want to thank every single person who has reached out to me directly by tagging me in social media posts, or emailing me directly through my website, or calling me or texting me to let me know how much they enjoyed the book. The amount of work and effort and time and tears that have been poured into this book by me and my team has been huge, so to hear about my book living its life Out There, with you all, has meant more than anything else. It’s like Pinnochio becoming a real boy.
I really look forward to introducing you to new characters and new thrills in the future, if you’ll have us. Thanks for coming along for whatever part of this ride you have – it means the world.
Until next time, take care of yourself and happy reading!