Whether you're Indie, Traditional, or somewhere in between, launching a book can be crazy making.
You've invested hours of your life creating characters that are more real to you than your next door neighbor and most of your co-workers at the day job. You've developed extra brow wrinkles from frowning at the computer monitor. Your wrists hurt and you have calluses on your fingertips from typing and retyping all of those words. There are gaping wounds in your soul from the darlings you've cut. The pages of your precious book are drenched in your heart's blood.
And then, one day, you get a publishing contract. Or you decide the book is polished and ready and set it up to go Indie. This is exciting! This is fun! Everything is going to be marvelous, and you're filled with all the superlative emotions of elation and joy and excitement--
Until the reality hits.
People are going to read it. Not just friendly people who love you.
You've hoped all along that the reading masses will love and adore your book. Universal praise! Money! Fans! Helicopters!
Nope. Even the most successful of books have their share of haters. Trolls will read your book. Critics. Reviewers. Readers who don't understand what you were trying to do and totally miss the point.
Or, worse, maybe nobody will read it. Maybe you'll send your little book out into the world and it will drift, lonely and unloved, in a tiny little backwater somewhere far away from civilization.
But wait - this isn't even the bad part, yet.
The nightmare side of launching a book is really this: its fate is now out of your hands.
Oh, sure, there are some things you can do. First and foremost, you can write a really good book. And then there's the blog tour, a little advertising, maybe a book signing tour, if you can swing the time and money. Maybe you'll offer up some great giveaways. If you're Indie, you can change up pricing or rewrite the cover copy or maybe get a Book Bub. Your efforts will find you a few more readers.
But whatever that magic something is that makes a book go viral may or may not happen, no matter how much you engage in smart marketing practices.
There's a point where you have to relinquish control and move on to other things.
My Viking came up with an excellent analogy for me as we were battening down the hatches in preparation for the launch of Dead Before Dying.
"You're the Queen of Spain," he said. "You've just launched the Nina, Pinta and Santa Maria, off to find a new route to Asia. You don't have cell phones or email or radio or any means of communication. Those ships sail out of harbor, and you're not going to hear anything for months, if ever. Maybe the voyage will be successful, and sooner or later they'll sail home laden with all sorts of foreign treasures. Or maybe they'll sink in the middle of a storm and never be heard of again. So you get on with your life and do other things, because there's absolutely nothing you can do to help the ships or the crews once they're out to sea."
I had to acknowledge that he had a point, and that it fits with my life philosophy of focusing my efforts on the things I do have control of and letting go of the rest. So, adopting the ship metaphor, I agreed to forego my usual launch week behaviors. No haunting of Amazon sales rankings, no looking at reviews, no angsting over the number of Goodreads shelf ads.
I've managed, so far, to abide by the terms of this agreement, and I have to say that this has been, so far, the least stressful launch I've had for any of my books. If I have a PR task lined up, I do it. If an opportunity to promote or buzz something comes to my attention, I do that.
I've done everything I could by writing the best book I knew how to write, and then lining up the best promotional avenues I could think of and/or afford prior to the launch day. The book is out there and off to make its way in the world. Maybe it will come back to me laden with new and wonderful things. Maybe it will founder and sink.
While I'm waiting to find out, I need to be preparing for the next voyage, and the one after that.