My new book, Atlantis: The Accidental Invasion, comes out tomorrow! Or today. I forget.
What I do know is that tonight, Monday, at 7 PM EST, I'll be talking about the book, writing, Atlantis, and more with the awesome folks at RJ Julia bookstore in Connecticut. Here’s the link:
SoCal friends, please save this Thursday night at 7:30 PM, when I'll be joining Bill Nye for an exclusive Earth Day chat through the Mysterious Galaxy bookstore.
OK, so why does this marketing-related, self-promotional post merit inclusion in a list of writing rules?
Because telling people your story or article or book exists, and is out there in some readable form, is really important.
This is something I had to learn. I kept it quiet when my fourth book, Dangerous Waters, was published. I'm not sure why. A crisis of self-confidence? Maybe. I liked the book. Still do. But I felt weird standing out on that street corner, spinning my sign, shouting for readers young and old to dive into my latest adventure. So I didn’t really tell anyone when the book hit stores.
Publishers aren't terribly fond of the top-secret book release. Which is totally understandable. When Apple spends years developing a new device, they don't say, Hey, how about we keep this a secret, and just kind of slip it out into stores without telling anyone?
Actually, that's a terrible example, since that would probably work.
The big musicians do that now, right?
As for the rest of us, though, we need to tell people our book or product or wrinkle-erasing eye cream is out in the market if we want it to have traction. Still, that's not the only reason I'm out here spinning my sign with this newsletter. I'm always trying to get better as a writer and storyteller, and for that, I need readers. I need to find out what people like and don't like. I need to keep the feedback loop humming.
When my first book, The Wages of Genius, was published, I discovered that around half the people hated the main character and narrator. OK. Definitely hadn’t considered that possibility. But it was a good lesson - if you’re going to ask people to spend a few hours with your story, you’re better off making the narrator or main character likeable, or relatable. No one wants to hang out for five hours with someone self-absorbed.
My third book, Fish, taught me to pay attention to those secondary characters - the supporting actors in your movie. I was all caught up with the main character, Fish, and the villains. But most young readers actually identified with one of the other young pirates - Nate, Nora, Daniel. This should have been obvious - the best friends in romantic comedies are always the best characters - but it was a good reminder.
As I believe I mentioned in a previous post, I’ve never been too keen on scenic descriptions in novels - as a reader I want to know what people are thinking, feeling, and doing - but when people started reading Dangerous Waters, I realized that most readers love this stuff. Took me a few books to figure that out, but I get it now, and work at that in all my novels. In the new novel, I’m particularly proud of the descriptions of Edgeland, one of the cities in Atlantis. I hope that when you or your kids, students, or grandkids read these scenes, they’ll feel like they’re actually there in that strange world, walking alongside Lewis, Kaya, Hanna, and the Professor, experiencing that wonder.
So, the lesson: Tell them about it. Readers, consumers, users, etc. Get that feedback loop circulating. Take hints and critiques and compliments and use them to get better.
Oh, and sign up for tonight’s free event if you can. And thank you for reading!
(Exclamation points in the next one. Promise.)