This is the third in my series of posts counting down the days to April 1, the one-year birthday of The Joy of Poetry.
Before the book came out I did something that probably served me better than any marketing seminar with a catchy title about how to sell books. I didn’t do this thing with an eye toward how it might help me navigate the book’s release, but it turned out to be essential. I was in a community theater production of Stephen Sondheim’s Into the Woods.
I have been a theater fangirl since I was a child, when my mother took me to see a production every year for my birthday. After I got married and had children, our daughter became involved in theater, thus turning both my husband and I into the kind of people who plan their New York City trip around shows. In 2014 my husband and daughter were in Fredericksburg Theater Company‘s production of Les Misérables, playing several chorus roles. For Into the Woods I played the back half of Milky White, the cow, (and Snow White in the finale). Our Milky White was on wheels, and she could sit down or tip forward. My co-cowhand and I worked her like a giant puppet.
What does this have to do with writing a book? Not much. What does it have to do with promoting a book? Everything.
I am quiet, sometimes shy. I’d much rather interview you than have you interview me. I don’t like to draw attention to myself without good reason.
A show is a good reason. So is a book.
We rehearsed for four months. I got to work with a cast of 20 talented people and together, along with the directors and crew, we put on a great show. I am proud of all nine performances, including the one when the cow broke and we went on with the show so well that the director didn’t realize what had happened until someone told him. For those three weekends I got used to being in public. I got used to applause. I invited folks who were only acquaintances to come to a musical about fairy tales, and a handful came just because I was in it. That, my friends, was humbling.
It was also great training for what was to come, after the book published. Suddenly, I was put in the position to invite acquaintances to check out my book, and not something fun like a mystery or a romance. No, I was offering poetry. Sometimes I felt like I was offering chocolate, and all they could see was broccoli.
When you’re in a show or have a loved in one, you know how much work goes on behind the scenes to pull it off. It’s the same with getting a book published. At a small publisher like TS Poetry Press, fewer people wear more hats, but I’m aware that a book doesn’t happen without the equivalent of a director and crew.
Every person matters. Everyone who wrote an Amazon review or a blog post or hosted an event for me went out of their way. They spent time and their own hard-earned cash. It’s no small thing.
Sometimes I wish I could be doing this book thing from that familiar stage in Fredericksburg. I wish the house lights were dim. I wish Ryan was in the crow’s nest, directing the music with his glow stick. I wish I could look to the left see Jim, taking notes. I wish I could hear Donna laughing from the audience. I wish Heidi and Julie and Will — aka Jack’s family — and all my cast mates were close by. But it’s just me and my little book with a yellow flower.
And it’s okay. Because I’ve done this before.