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Notes From the Nervous Breakdown Lane: Book Launch Week and What a Writer Should Expect

Just recently, it was launch week for my new novel, The Albuquerque Turkey. I was on the road promoting it when a friend calls to ask how it’s going. “It must be very exciting,” she says, and I have to reply, “Well, yeah, but not jumping-up-and-down-on-the-hotel-bed exciting. ”After all, I’ve launched books before—a dozen or more—and while it’s fun and gratifying to see them in print and see them in stores, I know how quickly this part of the ride ends, and how important it is to keep doing the things that matter most: 1) promoting the books and 2) writing new ones. All of which requires a certain eyes-on-the-prize hard-headedness, even during launch week.

Just recently, it was launch week for my new novel, The Albuquerque Turkey. I was on the road promoting it when a friend calls to ask how it’s going. “It must be very exciting,” she says, and I have to reply, “Well, yeah, but not jumping-up-and-down-on-the-hotel-bed exciting. ”After all, I’ve launched books before—a dozen or more—and while it’s fun and gratifying to see them in print and see them in stores, I know how quickly this part of the ride ends, and how important it is to keep doing the things that matter most: 1) promoting the books and 2) writing new ones. All of which requires a certain eyes-on-the-prize hard-headedness, even during launch week.

John is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week;
winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Ricki won.)


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Guest column by John Vorhaus, author of the “sunshine
noir” novels, The California Roll and The Albuquerque Turkey
(March 2011), both featuring the exploits of world-class
con artist Radar Hoverlander. He’s also well known for
his seminal book on comedy writing, The Comic Toolbox:
How to be Funny Even if You’re Not and its companion,
Creativity Rules! Vorhaus dwells in Southern California,
and in cyberspace at johnvorhaus.com, where he invites
your visits and comments. Please check out The
Albuquerque Turkey official video on the Amazon page

I’m not talking about disconnecting emotionally from the moment; quite the opposite. Launch weeks come around rarely, as do many other cherished writers’ milestones such as getting an agent, getting an offer, or finishing a draft. All of these milestones are meant to be savored—sucked dry for reward precisely because they’re cherished and fleeting and rare. It’s called “always take cookies when cookies are passed.”

But look ... the book’s going to sell or it’s not going to sell. It’s going to enhance my reputation and expand my readership base or it’s not. Even while I’m doing everything in my power to push the work forward (including writing this guest blog), I’m doing everything else in my power not to get hooked on the outcome. That’s what I mean by staying in the moment. If I sweat or fret about whether my efforts will bear considerable fruit, then I stop being happy for what I’ve achieved. I’m out of the moment, and not having fun.

Two incidents from recent days illustrate the point.

I was at the Collected Works bookstore in Santa Fe (support independent booksellers!), splitting the bill with talented suspense writer Joe Badal. Joe is local, and his fans came out in force. While they dug our joint presentation—we shared a lively and entertaining hour—when it came time to buy books, Joe’s sales outnumbered mine by many to nearly none. I could have bummed out over that. At a different time in my life, I would have bummed out. Now I just thought, well, that’s a roomful of people who know me now and didn’t know me before. Maybe they’ll buy later. And even if they don’t buy later, I’ll continue to try later. But right now I’m going to cherish this moment—take this cookie—because it’s launch week, and launch week doesn’t last long.

Two days later, this happened: Someone who saw me speak bought my book. She read one chapter and insisted that her friend buy it, too. That’s grassroots sales of the most grassrooty kind. And it works. One fan turning into two … if you can keep that kind of math going and growing, well, that sounds like a career.

So keep this in mind when the good times roll around: Your job is not to wonder whether launch week will lead to best-sellers or no-sellers. Your job is to make the most of the moment, from both an emotional and a strategic point of view. That’s where both career growth and happiness lie. In other words, take the cookie. Always take the cookie. Then do what you can to keep the cookies coming. “Success,” they say, “is enjoying your days.” How much you enjoy them—indeed whether you enjoy them—is ever and always totally up to you.

John is excited to give away a free copy of his novel to a random commenter. Comment within one week; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you've won before. (Update: Ricki won.)

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Need to sharpen the beginning of your
novel/memoir? Check out the great
resource Hooked, which is all about
writing an excellent Chapter 1.

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