The Pandemic Was Really Quite Good to Me
Tune in Tomorrow (Solaris, August 23, 2022), and the author
The pandemic was really quite good to me.
Don’t get into a snit – there are caveats: The horrible ongoing forever pandemic was terrible for everybody, including me. Millions had their lives wrecked, or died, and if the “quite good” experience I had could be swapped for a retcon in which “Covfefe” was as close as we ever got to saying “COVID,” I’d do it in a hot second.
Since that isn’t happening, let’s start again.
The pandemic was actually quite good for my debut novel, Tune in Tomorrow. See, back in 2020 I received an email from my agent saying that a publisher was interested in publishing the book, with a few alterations. Was I game?
As someone who struggled for decades to get a damn novel published, the answer was a quick, “Hell yes!”
That email arrived on March 11. New York City, where I live, went on lockdown two days later, with the rest of the world following suit. Things got real quiet, real fast. But something strange happened during the waiting period: I felt good. I felt like this was it. This was the moment I was going to get a publishing contract. And it … set me free.
So during the first, main, worst lockdown, I wrote a story. Amid the many cries of “writers block!” around my social media, I took a prompt and wrote a short story, then decided I might just have more to say with those characters. I was astonished at how a little boost of potential professional acknowledgement goosed my muse.
(“Goosed My Muse” will be the name of my third album.)
That said the waiting between that email and June, 2021 – when the contract was finally signed – was almost unbearable. The world seemed to be coming to an end. We were going to have to rely on Walking Dead instruction on societal collapse; we didn’t know if we’d need a respirator tomorrow, or be in the ground next week. And here I was, whining about getting my book published. So I put my head down, and I wrote. Escaped into the world of that short story with its two new characters and then declined to submit it. I had a book with those ladies in it.
At long last, the contract was signed. The deal was made public. And I started hearing, “When will it be in stores? Next month?”
Er, no, you sweet summer child. The book I signed a contract for in June 2021 is being published August 16, 2022. See, after you sign the contract, it’s not a matter of sitting back and smoking dollar bills with your enormous advance. (Authors in the audience may now grab a tissue to wipe away tears of mirth from that sentence.) An advance is a nice thing, but it’s really more of a prestige thing. It doesn’t pay the bills.
Instead, after the contract there was a whole new job to take on: Editing the book. And negotiating job turnover. My acquiring editor left the company. I got a new, shiny editor who was terrific, but had many personal issues he had to cope with – so notes on the book were delayed. Anything could be attributed to the pandemic: Working at home. Going nutty from working at home. Paper shortage. Supply chain interruption.
New Shiny Editor gave me some world building notes, and permission to expand the book. He probably meant by a thousand or two words – I ended up adding 8,000 more, giving them what they’d asked for in terms of global changes. I figured I’d get a rap on the knuckles and told where to cut things, but then Editor No. 2 had to step away for a time. Editor No. 3 was also awesome and experienced – and gave the expanded cut his blessing. I’d pulled a Ridley Scott and made my project longer… and it was still going forward!
But at least the book was done, right? It’d be in the shops – any day now, right? August, you say? Well, then … time to start the next part-time job: Self-marketing. Yes, my publishers do have their own publicist, but she’s got a lot of titles on her plate. (Also, she’s new; the previous publicist left a few months ago.) I took my advance and hired my own publicist. A wise idea? Maybe not, but it’s a first book. I wanted to throw everything I could at the wall to make it work.
Whatever it takes to sell books, I will do. I wrote dozens of tweets, tons of essays (like this one). Blog posts. Beefed up my newsletter, started a secondary “street team” mailing list. I learned I wasn’t getting any print advanced reading copies, so I made a short run of those myself and handed them out strategically: to Seth Meyers (I was interviewing him for my regular job as a journalist); to Serena Wolf (Dick Wolf’s daughter, who is an influencer and who I had breakfast with); to a book festival. Along the way, I made note of those who really supported my efforts. My angels. It’s been a wild, ongoing, and exhausting ride – and very little of it has anything to do with actual writing.
To do this job you have to wear at least a dozen hats. I figure I’ve only put on seven or eight so far. I’ve been a writer, editor, publicist, marketer, researcher, interviewee, booker (of myself), and baker (have to let off steam somehow). It’s a lot of heavy lifting, and there are no breaks, because you never know if you’ve done enough.
But the end line is nearly here. The book is nearly out. I’ll continue to do what I can to get it noticed, get it bought, get it read. But the minute I can breathe, the next thing I really, really want to do is …
Start revising the next book.
Randee Dawn writes about entertainment glam by day and fantastical fiction worlds by night. A former Soap Opera Digest editor, she now scribbles about the wacky universe of showbiz for Variety, The Los Angeles Times and Today.com. The co-author of The Law & Order: SVU Unofficial Companion, Randee appeared on L&O once! In the courtroom! Her short fiction has been published in multiple anthologies, and in her spare time she’s a trivia writer for BigBrain Games. Based in Brooklyn, New York she lives with a brilliant spouse, a fluffy Westie, many books and never enough mangoes. More at: RandeeDawn.com / @RandeeDawn.
Tropical Storm Sandy was nobody’s friend. But it wound up giving me a week without other distractions to get a headstart on a contract writing assignment, for which I remain grateful. Would never wish it on anyone, but I cannot deny it gave me a needed breather.