step 19Eventually, darlings, your pesky publicist will get around to asking you how the newsletter is coming—as in, where is it?  When you try to explain that you weren’t really planning on having a newsletter (I mean who reads newsletters?), they get irritated.

“Well, how do you plan to draw readers in?” they will undoubtedly ask in a smug sort of way.

“Website?” you suggest feebly.

“Well, how are you going to get people to the website?”

“Email people?”

Exasperated sigh.

“I don’t know!  Isn’t this your department?  There’s not much really on the website, anyway.”

“Yes.  We noticed.  How’s the blog coming?”

“Well, good.  Sort of.”

“Listen.  You need a newsletter to let your fans know what’s happening in your life.  You know—upcoming events, great blurbs, links to your website and blog, updates on how the book is coming, you know . . . stuff like that.  People love that!”

Do they? I wondered with more than a trace of suspicion.  And who are these “fans” of which they speak?  My biggest fan seems to be the rather needy dog that annoyingly follows me around half the day.  Even my kids aren’t all that enthused by my presence.  And, just for the sake of argument, assuming that I do have a few real people who are interested in my progress (not just my siblings and my best friends, and maybe my husband), I don’t have any news to share!  No events or blurbs (great or otherwise), no long blog archive to leisurely peruse or even any real updates on the book—after all, the editor is just now dusting it off (see Step 17)!

“Are you still there?”

“Yes, I was just thinking that . . .”

“Listen, we’ll put Sophia (again with the names, see Step 8) on it.  She’ll help you with the first few and fill in the empty space.  How about a “cover reveal”?

This sounded vaguely obscene.  “A cover reveal?” I asked hesitantly.

“Yeah, you know—you reveal the cover for the first time to the world!”

“Well, I already put that up on Facebook a few months ago . . .”

Another exasperated sigh.

“Well, no one told me not to . . .”

“Okay, scrap that idea.  How about Top Ten lists?  People love that.  Sophia can help you come up with some.  You know, like “Top 10 Celebs” you’d want to read your book, or your “Top 10 Summer Beach Reads,” or “Top 10 Chick Flicks” you recommend . . . stuff like that.”

“Well, that’s not really newsworthy . . . And what does it have to do with my book?”

Low growling sound.  “It’s not always supposed to be about the book!  We keep telling you this.  It’s supposed to be about you.  You’re trying to brand yourself, create an image, a persona.  Remember?  You’re trying to build a platform!  You have to start somewhere.”

I tried to focus.  But I couldn’t help wonder what “Top 10 Summer Beach Reads” had to do with me, either. And anyway, what’s a beach read (see Step 15)?  And even if I did succumb to this, I suspected I would have to make them up, as somehow I guessed that listing Bleak House, or Far From the Maddening Crowd, or As I Lay Dying would not be all that attractive on a summer reading list.

The phone call having ended somewhat abruptly after this exchange, I was left alone with my disjointed thoughts.

So, basically, I reiterated, ticking things off on my fingers, I am supposed to 1) create a newsletter that has no actual news and 2) apparently send it out to friends and family, or whoever happens to be in my email contact list, like the appointment scheduler at the dentist, to 3) direct them back to a website which also doesn’t have anything substantial on it or 4) back to a rather empty author FB page that so far merely vacillates between shared Huff posts and silly polls about who makes the best Darcy—Macfadyen or Firth? (Well, that’s sort of literary, isn’t it?)

Anyway, I’m sure you cannot have failed to conclude the obvious, dear readers, by now.  No need to excessively spell it out beyond simply stating that building a newsletter is just one more chapter in the Emperor’s New Clothes, or the chicken and the egg or the “build it and they will come” thing.  One more little piece of the puzzle.

I will put your minds at ease, darlings, and tell you that now that I am much further down the publishing road, a newsletter is actually helpful in letting your “fans” (or people who are at least mildly curious) know what’s happening lately and to drum up excitement for not only the book, but for you!  If nothing else, it’s a nice place to keep everything straight, even for yourself.  A one-page summary of your writing life, month by month, if you will.  And not to worry – eventually you really will have people who admire your work and want to get to know you.  And you will have news!  So persevere through this rough beginning and start building.  They will come!  I promise.