I exited through the double doors into a cloudy, gray morning and let the tears fall. I had done it. I had taken a big, giant, terrifying jump and survived. No one laughed at me. Nobody said "who do you think you are?" Nobody said "Are you kidding? Get that dreck out of here." Instead, despite being harried by the holiday rush, a customer service rep scribbled email and phone number on a card and handed it to me, saying, "Contact her. She's not in today, but she'll be here tomorrow."
"Here" was a big brick-and-mortar bookstore near one of the largest shopping malls in the country. I had strolled in, bold as if I'd done this countless times before, and asked who I should talk to about scheduling a book signing. Inside my special burgundy bag, a gift from my mother-in-law precisely for this purpose, was a copy of my first book. I gently extracted it, presenting it with pride and not a small amount of fear. When the customer service rep handed me that card with those precious details, I tucked it into my planner, thanked her with a handshake and a smile, and walked away as nonchalantly as if I did this every day.
Was I scared?
Outside I unlocked Barry, a bright blue Mitsubishi Mirage* that was my ride for the week, and I dabbed at the tears that had, thankfully, waited to drop until I was out of sight. I was nearly giddy with accomplishment.
This is Barry. Sorry he's so blurry. I was a little shaky...
It may not seem like a big deal. I didn't even talk to the person in charge. All I got was a card for the person in charge.
But I had done it. I girded my doubts and packed up my books and drove my borrowed car and I did it. Which meant that the next visit would be less terrifying, and soon I wouldn't be scared at all. (Nah - I'll always be a little scared.)
The next trip was easier, however, and I was even more giddy when another bookstore ordered my book to put on their shelves, right in front of me. I stood at the manager's elbow, watching her place the order.
"When will they be in?" I asked.
"About a week. Do you live close? You can come in and sign them if you'd like."
"Sure! I'm in Elgin, so not too far," I explained.
"Really? That's quite a distance."
"It's my first book," I said. "I'll do anything."
She smiled, like she knew.
I didn't. I had no idea I would feel this way. Honestly, I hadn't thought much beyond actually writing the book. That alone was a challenge; getting it published was monumental. After? I had no idea what to do once the book was printed, and did not realize that getting my work into readers' hands would mean personally walking into as many bookstores as I could to get my book on the shelves. I had a publisher, and I thought a publisher did that.
So, I loaded my box of books and my press kit into Barry and visited bookstores. I drove to Crystal Lake for a radio interview. I drove to downtown Elgin to check out where I'd be signing books during their holiday fest. Fortunately, Barry was tiny on the outside and bigger on the inside, which meant he had plenty of room for books and could also fit into any parking spot. His great gas mileage was a definite bonus. As was his seat warmer.
I also learned I should schedule as many book signings as my calendar allows. These could be anywhere. My launch party was at an antiquities gallery in downtown Chicago. I set up shop in the Elgin Convention and Visitors Bureau during their Winter Wonderland fest. Next week I'll be signing and sipping on $5 martinis during Carlucci Restaurant & Bar's happy hour.
Like I said. I'll do anything.
There's a lot I didn't know about publishing a book when I started this journey. A few things I've learned:
- How to write a book (which is a never-ending lesson)
- How much pizza I can eat in one month
- How to take notes so I can write with clarity later
- How much coffee I can drink before the shakes cause too many typos
- SAVE AS DRAFT. SAVE AS DRAFT.
- The number of pajamas and sweat pants required to allow for maximum comfort and cleanliness with minimum time required for laundry
- How to autograph a book. (Squee!!!)
- How much I still need to learn
Even though I'm in the beginning stages of promoting Volume 1, it's already time to start planning Volume 2. I've been asked about the process behind every aspect of this book, including planning the trip itself, so I figured I'd take you with me.
In this "Writer's Route" series, I'll share an under-the-hood look at how I plan and execute an epic road trip book, from choosing the places we'll visit, all the way through the publication of the next book. I'm not an expert, so this will be a learn-with-me-as-I-go endeavor. If it's anything like the first time around, it will also be a laugh-as-I-go and cry-as-I-go.
Hopefully, we'll laugh and cry together.
The destination planning will begin in earnest over the next few weeks. Follow my Two Lane Gems page on Facebook for updates as I embark on our next great American road trip.
*I was given the opportunity to drive Barry the Bright Blue Mitsubishi Mirage for a week so I could get to these bookstores, media appearances, and book signings in style. This is a great vehicle for tooling around the town, and with seven airbags is an especially great first-time car. It's affordable, stylish, safe, and surprisingly roomy. My husband, who is a professional Christmas caroler, could even wear his top hat!