Tuesday, February 16, 2010

Guest Blogger, Susan McBride

Please join me as I welcome award-winning author Susan McBride as the special guest blogger here today at Thoughts in Progress.

Susan's latest release is "The Cougar Club." This stand-alone story is about three friends in St. Louis who are forty-something and happen to date younger men. It's about living real and learning that you're never too old to follow your heart.

A bit of news about her latest book that Susan was just able to announce - it's been selected as a Target "Bookmarked Breakout"  title. In addition, MORE Magazine named "The Cougar Club" one of its "February Books We're Buzzing About" and it's been selected as a Midwest Connections Pick by the Midwest Booksellers Association.

Susan is giving away a signed copy of "The Cougar Club" to one lucky person who comments on her post between now and 8 p.m. on Tuesday, Feb. 23. In addition, Susan will be dropping back by during the day to answer questions and respond to your comments.

With the crazy schedules of writing and promoting a new release, not to mention having a family life, Susan has agreed to tell us how to stay sane in a the crazy (book) world.

The moment my debut in women’s fiction, The Cougar Club, hit bookshelves on February 1, I hit the pavement, making the rounds of local TV news shows, podcasts, BlogTalkRadio, virtual book tour stops, brick-and-mortar bookstores, and libraries. It’s my 10th novel since 1999 (and 11 is already in the can), but I’m no calmer than I was with my first. Before every gig, I still get butterflies in swarms.
Even email interviews have me in knots, wondering if I’ve said something stupid that will be accessible on the Internet for all eternity. No matter how prepared we think we are for a book launch or how many times we’ve done it before, I’m not sure it gets any easier being a control freak in a profession where the only things remotely controllable are the words we write (and those who’ve undergone a brutal edit might even argue with that!).

Before I was published, when I was a wide-eyed pup trying my hand at various genres (and racking up 10 manuscripts before I ever signed a contract), I had such a Hollywood-movie ideal of the industry. I thought the actual writing was the hardest part.  Ah, ignorance is truly bliss! I imagined being consulted every step in my novel’s production, down to selecting my own covers (ha!) and doing the requisite national talk shows, like Oprah and Good Morning, America, so readers all over the country would buy my book and I could stay home, relax in the garden, and write another best-selling tome while my personal chef cooked up lunch (hmm, throw in a few dogs and horse-whipped assistants, and that sounds an awful lot like I imagine Martha Stewart’s life to be!).  

I never realized how much blood, sweat, and tears went into promotion.  I quickly discovered the truth:  doing book publicity is akin to being the Energizer Bunny on an unstoppable treadmill. 

With publishing more accessible than ever through POD presses, the number of titles released each year has grown by Superman-sized leaps and bounds.  I looked up stats online and found that, in 1998, the number of titles in print was around 60,000. If you include print-on-demand and self-published titles, in 2009, the estimate is somewhere between 300,000 and 500,000 titles.  Wowza. Granted, you won’t find but a fraction of those in local bookstores (many, in fact, are paring down inventory as I type).  

Still, that’s a lot of competition, and most of us won’t have the chance to chat about our latest baby with Ms. O, not unless we’ve had an affair with a prominent politician (or golfer!) or we’re starring in some mindless reality show on VH-1 or MTV. 

So what’s an author to do? How can we feel like all the effort we’ve put into writing a book means something (other than our own satisfaction and sense of accomplishment)? I wish I had an answer; but even after 10 years in the biz, I’m still scratching my head, trying to figure it out. All I’ve come up with is this:  we do what we can. We write the best book we can possibly write, we enjoy our brief time in the sun, and we let the rest go.  

Staring at numbers on Amazon or BN.com won’t magically make them dip. Bugging your publicist about booking you on The Today Show won’t make that happen either (and will likely piss off your publicist). 

We can revel in the good reviews that our agents and publishers forward. We can try like hell to ignore the ugly ones that pop up on the Web in the usual places. And we can move on to the next book and then the one after that. These days, just having a book contract seems like a blessing when the industry’s been hammered by cost-cutting and lay-offs. In just the last seven years since Blue Blood came out, I’ve had eight books released in three different genres at two separate publishing houses (and I’m with Editor No. 2 at one house and Editor No. 3 at the other—last year was brutal on editors!). I realize more than ever that surviving in the crazy world of publishing has a lot to do with being adaptable. 

No matter how hard we work, how much we network, how willing we are to get out there and talk about our books to anyone who’ll listen, much of what happens with our literary babies is left up to fate. That’s hard for a Type A to stomach, whether it’s a first novel or the 10th. Now if you’ll excuse me, it’s time for my daily margarita-and-meditation before I have to get out and plug The Cougar Club at the St. Louis Zoo’s Big Cat Country while wearing cat ears and a tail. (Okay, not really, but I might consider it if asked.)

Susan, thanks so much for stopping by and sharing this interesting look at life after publishing. I think a lot of readers do have the idea that a writer's life is more glamorous than it might really be. As a reader, we don't always stop and think about everything that has to be done once the book is published.

For more scoop on Susan and her novels, visit her web site at http://SusanMcBride.com.

Did you think writing your book would be the hardest part? Or did the hard part come only after you got your book published? 


  1. Mason - I really do enjoy "meeting" all of the authors that you host; you're very kind to open your blog up the way you do. Susan - I know exactly what you mean about promotion. It's a never-ending, time-consumer, isn't it? Not at all my favorite part of being a writer, but it is a part of the process.

  2. Another great interview! 11 books! Definitely something to aspire to :)

  3. Great interview!

    I'm so glad to see an author say that some of promotion is up to fate. I completely agree! We can only do so much on our end...we just can't control the publicity machine.

    Mystery Writing is Murder

  4. Once again a stellar interview.

    I,too, agree that we can't control every aspect of promotion. Some people just will not cooperate. :)

  5. Hello Susan and Mason, Congrats on your Target and More announcements, Susan ... all wonderful promotions for your work! As demanding as promotion is, there does seem an element of excitement to it as well. If you had to choose, what would you say your favorite type of promotion might be?

    And continued success to you ...

  6. Hi, everyone! Thanks so much for having me, Mason! As to your questions....

    Margot, you're so right. Promotion is never-ending. So long as we've got books in print (and new books coming out), there's this pressure to keep our names out there. It can definitely be draining, and it's important not to let it take over (or take too much time from our writing). I'm learning to pace myself better...I think! ;-)

    Thanks, Jemi! :-)

    Elizabeth/Riley, it's taken a looong time for me to fully grasp that much of what happens with my books is out of my hands. So I do a lot of crossing fingers and toes, knocking on wood, praying, whining to my husband...the kind of stuff that really helps! (Ha!)

    Journaling Women, darn those people who won't cooperate! I mean, Oprah should have had all of us on by now, don't you think? What is up with that? ;-D

    Joanne, I'd have to say that I have the most fun doing events with other authors. I did a panel last week with Angie Fox, Sharon Shinn, and Bobbi Smith, and it was a hoot! When the chemistry works, the conversation takes off, and there's nothing more enjoyabe. I'm doing another gig with Sharon tomorrow night and am looking forward to it. Two of the best things about joint events: the pressure isn't solely on me, and it's a great opportunity to have my readers check out what Sharon has to say (and see what her books are about) and vice versa. So group gigs are one of my favorite things!


  7. Great post. Realistic, while at the same time, optimistic. Loved hearing from a pro. (On a totally different note, I love the top you're wearing in the author pic.)

    Straight From Hel

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  9. Great post. I particularly enjoyed the optimism. Some days, it feels like everything coming out of the publishing world is filled with gloom and doom, so it's refreshing to see something like this.

    Congrats on the Target and MORE deals, how exciting! I'd love to hear what, if any, online promoting (other than this wonderful guest post) you've done, and whether you've found it effective.

    Mason, thank you for hosting Susan and all the other wonderful authors!

  10. How exciting to have your book recognized by Target. Congratulations!

    I have seen how hard authors work to promote their books and I am often in awe of their tenacity. I used to think that writing would be the hardest part of publishing a book, but now I'm sure that promoting it is much harder and more demanding. Thank you for sharing your thoughts, Susan!

  11. Hi, Ingrid, and thanks for the kind words! I made a New Year's resolution to focus on the positive, and I'm working very hard to do that! I'm promoting as much as I possibly can online without driving myself batty. Wonderful bloggers like Mason have invited me to guest, and I'm always grateful for the invitation. HarperCollins set up an online book tour throughout February via TLC Book Tours, and I'm in the midst of that. I've done a podcast for http://lipsticknlaundry.com, and HC/Avon used some home video to make a book trailer for The Cougar Club that's up on YouTube. With HC/Avon's assistance, I did an ad in the Missouri Library Association newsletter online and a banner add for SIBA's Circle of Sites promotion (run by the Southern Independent Booksellers Association). And I do blog twice a month at The Stiletto Gang, plus I'm on GoodReads.com, LibraryThing, and even Facebook (thanks to the HC/Avon folks nudging me). So long as I don't find myself spending TOO much time online, I enjoy it. It's really nice to be able to "tour" from home and not have to pack my bags! I hope readers see mention of Cougar somewhere and get a copy in their hands. I truly believe word of mouth is the best way to sell books, although that's something out of our control, too!

    Thank you, Janel! :-)

  12. a fabulous posting...thanks for the opportunity to read this wonderful book...great title :)


  13. I'm glad you like the title, Karen! I do, too! I hope you enjoy the book. :-)

  14. Hi all, thanks for dropping by.

    Susan, thanks again for guest blogging here today. You've given us a glimpse of some of the hectic side to promoting. A writer's life is not as easy as one might think. I still think you need your personal chef so you can relax in the garden. :)

  15. A lot of truths in your observations of the industry, Susan!

  16. An eye-opening perspective! Thanks for sharing, Susan. I guess it's a good thing I'm Type B. :D


    from the desk of a writer

  17. Mason, it's been a pleasure hanging out here today. I would love that chef and the garden, too! Ah, hopefully one of these days! (Well, a girl's gotta dream!) ;-)

    L. Diane, so glad you enjoyed the piece. What a strange business for sensitive people to be in, huh? I'll bet you have plenty of stories to share, too!

    Corra, how I wish I could be a Type B! You're so lucky! My husband is, too, and I keep hoping it'll rub off on me. Hey, you never know!



    OOps, sorry, caps UNintentional!

  19. I've always wondered how authors find the time to promote their books, either with tours, daily blogs or twitter ... I do like to believe that best writing promotes itself by unsolicited word of the mouth, great reviews and growing fan clubs.

    I just hope promoting the current release doesn't take time away from the writing of the next book. It seems to be a delicate juggling act. Susan I think you've done a great job of keeping all the balls in the air!

  20. Every success my dear I wish you all the very best and I'll be sure to look for you charming book when next I'm at the book store.
    Warm regargs to you Susan and you Mason.

  21. Great post. Your movement between genres is encouraging. I'll have to track down Cougars...sounds like fun.
    I'm ready to promote, if I can convince an agent and a publisher that I've conquered that minor skill of writing a good read!
    P.S. I got to your blog, Mason, via Carol Kilgore, and it looks like a great place to visit. Thanks.

  22. I don't know, Mary. I think dating a younger guy for many years is something to scream about! ;-) My hubby's nine years younger, and we just clicked from the moment we met. I wasn't a very good Cougar, I guess, because he pursued me (and I'm oh-so-happy that he did--he's awesome!).

    Thanks for the encouragement, Sue! Pretty soon promotion is going to have to take a backseat to writing as I need to get to work!

    What a sweet message, the romantic query letter and happily-ever-after! So glad you stopped by.

    Good luck with your writing, Kathy! Stay tough and keep working, and you'll break through!

  23. Kathy, so glad you found my blog and I hope you return often. Carol's blog is one I visit regularly and love.


I'd love to hear your thoughts on today's post. Thanks for dropping by.