Every author needs some Pips…

So, I went to BEA this past weekend (with Tamar and her three fab friends) and it was great and fun but scary and SO EXHAUSTING that I think I have only now recovered. I now am filled with renewed hope about the prospects of my novel, but then again, I feel like I’ll hate myself forever if I don’t attempt to be more proactive about promoting it. I was incredibly happy to meet all of the reps at PGW. A lot of them had actually read almost all of the book (and they’d probably had galleys for a week at most before the conference), and they were really enthusiastic. This is weird to me, because I’ve realized that for the past three years, I could count the people who have read that book on one hand. And now, suddenly, I have signed and given away a bit less than two hundred galleys and I I have NO IDEA who is reading it! Well, actually I do know a few people who are reading it, but they are some pretty big authors from whom I am praying to the star-gods I will get a blurb or two. So, really, best not to think of it. I know this might seem like a little late to be worried about this– but I’m still afraid that the novel sucks and my publisher/agent/sister are just crazy. Must breathe.

Actually, a good thing about BEA was that it showed me just how much “street cred” my publisher has in the business. Not as though he hasn’t been wonderful as an editor, but I think that this was the first time I had ever really seen him in full publisher mode, and I was definitely impressed. He has a small press, but he gets major attention, and that’s all I can ask for. Sometime later, I may make a more in-depth post about the pros and cons of going with a small publisher, but in brief: my experience has (so far) been great. The major downside, as far as I can tell, is the money, but in these days of dwindling advances and almost non-existent author loyalty, I’m not sure how important that should be.

On Thursday I went to a black publisher event, and ran into a few old colleagues of mine. I also ran into Walter Mosley (or should I say he ran into me? We ended up walking out of the party together.) I introduced myself and mentioned my novel, and since he writes science fiction himself, he was actually sort of interested and suggested I drop off a copy of the galley in the Hachette Book Group booth the next day. Of course, the next day is Friday– and that morning I am due for my very first AUTHOR SIGNING. Now, I know all I have to do is smile, read a name tag, and sign a book, but this absolutely terrifies me. What if no one comes? What if the only books I give away are to my friends? What if I misspell someone’s name? Actually, about fifty people came, which isn’t so bad considering that I’m a first time novelist. Lucky for me that I used to work in publishing, because plenty of old friends/colleagues were at the convention and made sure to stop by and fill up the line. It was just half an hour, and actually a few people ran to catch me when my time was officially over so that they could get a signed copy of the book. It warmed my timid little author’s heart. Later that day, I went with my former boss, friend, and all-around awesome person Retha Powers to find Walter Mosley. He was signing galleys of his forthcoming Easy Rawlins novel, Blonde Faith, and I realized that it would be a perfect opportunity to give him a copy of my galley. So I screwed up my courage (and braved some significant awkwardness) and approached him. He remembered me (whew) and actually complimented me on the first line. He put it with his stuff and I think it is, in fact, possible that he will look at it. Hey, I’m a writer, don’t knock the small hopes.

Saturday I met with Tamar and her friends and they went off to become the swag queens of BEA. Well, actually, they were pretty impressive at the time (shipping boxes home to CA, no less), but on Sunday I realized that I had not seen even a fraction of the gigantic pirate’s bounty that a canny con-goer can obtain at the end of BEA. I’d done the whole “gobble up as many galleys as I can” thing last year and realized that, in fact, cool as free books seem, stacks and stacks of unread books in the apartment are overrated. We had lunch in the (awful) Javits Center food court, and I realized why people have suggested taking the ferry to Jersey City as a viable alternative to dining on a stale cinnamon muffin or congealed General Tso’s Chicken. One of her friends had her first novel come out this past month from St. Martin’s Press, and she was concerned (but reassured by her publisher) about the first-month sales. Clearly, the anxiety of being a writer is a never-ending cycle. I think I need to look into Buddhism or something. Otherwise I might be destined to be reborn as an ulcer.

Saturday night, my boyfriend Scott (who had been planning to attend the show, but instead spent ALL DAY CLOTHES SHOPPING. No, I’m not kidding) and I headed to a bar where I had heard there would be a fun YA get-together. I found my friend Lauren McLaughlin, whose first novel was just picked up by Random House in a major auction (and it’s truly awesome enough to deserve it), her husband Andrew, and her friend Deb. I was planning to go to the big PGW party downtown at the Gramercy Theater, but then Lauren told me about how all the YA authors were going to do some karaoke, and if there is one activity I am powerless to resist, it is the selection of songs and standing up in front of friends and singing them. I am a karaoke fool. When I went to Japan for the first time, my friends and I ended up in a karaoke booth at least three times a week. Sometimes multiple times a day. So, Scott went off ahead to scout out the PGW party and I headed off to karaoke heaven.

And my god, was it karaoke heaven. I have had some fun times, but I don’t think that much tops the singing of “Midnight Train to Georgia” with Coe Booth and Lauren and a few others serving as my Pips (I nearly died on “A superstar, but he didn’t get far”). I didn’t make it to the PGW party, needless to say. Scott came back with his friend and then we ended up going out with Deb to one of my favorite Indian/Pakistani places in the city: the incomparable Haandi, taxi-cab stand to the (karaoke) stars.

Cue Sunday, and I’m so tired that I’m practically falling asleep in the Agate booth. Also, though the air conditioning has been rather inadequate for the last two days, today the clever managers at the Javits Center have decided to really tackle the problem by turning the convention center into an arctic winter. I am wearing a sleeveless sundress. Unhappily. I shivered my way around the areas of the convention that I hadn’t yet seen, and was surprised by the relative lack of self-published authors this year. I remember that last year there was a whole aisle stuck off in the corner of people wearing crazy costumes with hand-made signs attempting to waylay anyone who didn’t walk by fast enough with a discussion of their latest book, printed by that reputable “traditional publisher,” Publish America. Maybe they just decided to explicitly exclude anyone from exhibiting who wasn’t affiliated with a legitimate press? Of course, there was at least one bona-fide, pay-for-your-novel self-publisher on display, but maybe they found some way to hide their true nature. After the con was over, Scott and I went to Patsy’s, because what better way is there to end a crazy weekend than eating the world’s best pizza? Possibly sleeping, which I did promptly at 7 pm.

BEA was a lot of fun, but I’m glad it’s only once a year. I wonder what I’ll be doing this time next year? Oh yeah. Worrying about my writing.