Alyson Noël is the best-selling and award-winning author of several books for teens and adults, including the upcoming Immortals series (St. Martin’s Griffin) featuring Evermore (February 2009), Blue Moon (August 2009), and three more titles for 2010. Her books have won the National Reader’s Choice Award, made many top ten lists, and appeared on the “CBS Early Show” Give the Gift of Reading segment. She lives with her husband in Laguna Beach, California.
Alyson, if you could travel back in time to before you were first published, what advice would you give yourself?
I remember the moment I got The Call so clearly, it’s as if it’s frozen in time. I was driving north on the 55 freeway on my way to return a rental car to John Wayne Airport when my agent called with the news. And by the time I got to the Avis drop-off, I was way beyond giddy. I was jumping up and down and mumbling unintelligibly to the poor attendant, who wasn’t quite sure what to make of me.
And while the majority of my excitement was due to the sheer elation of finally hearing the words ‘two-book deal’ after several months of rejection, now, looking back, I can honestly say that the other part was due to the misguided belief that the worst was now over—that from that moment on I could expect nothing but sunny skies and smooth sailing.
And so I remained, stuck in a bewildering state of wonder and bliss (because trust me, ignorance really is bliss!), gaping wide-eyed and slack-jawed at all the publishing minutiae happening around me, until my third book, Laguna Cove, was about to hit the shelves. Then my editor quit, I changed agents, and, thinking it might be nice to meet some fellow writerly types with whom to commiserate, I crawled out of my writing cave and joined some professional writers’organizations—something I should’ve done from day one. I learned so much in my first year alone from both RWA and the various Yahoo groups that I joined that I could hardly believe I’d waited so long.
That was also about the time when I discovered that the Internet is your friend. Just as I was lax in joining the writers’ groups, I didn’t really use the Internet for anything other than browsing Nordstrom.com and occasionally updating my Website. Completely oblivious to the huge community of cyberspace book bloggers, readers, and reviewers that were popping up daily, I hadn’t even considered Facebooking, Myspacing, or Twittering (yes, these are all verbs now! Aren’t they?), until I realized everyone around me was doing these things and figured I should maybe try them out too. And while there’s no getting around the fact that social networking sites are a major time suck, they’ve also resulted in numerous review requests, interview requests, bookstore signings, school visits—you name it! None of which would’ve happened if I hadn’t put myself out there like that.
But while it’s truly tempting to go crazy with the promo, I really believe the key to promotion is to know when to say when. I had no promotional strategy for my first two books other than crossing my fingers and hoping for the best, which, thankfully, worked out okay since they went into additional printings on the very first day. But after seeing all the cool bookmarks and book trailers and bookplates to be had, I decided to get me some of those too. And while it’s doubtful that any of these things helps to sell books, they’re fun to have so I continue to do them. Though I truly believe the most effective way to build your readership and promote your books is to write the next book. And then the one after that. And to keep writing, keep perfecting your craft, keep reaching out to your readers in the ways that you can without letting your promotional efforts get in the way of your writing, because all your fans really want from you is to read your next book!
And even though writing is a business, (which also means rejection isn’t personal), just like any business, it’s important to take some time off to relax, rewind, and to recharge your body and brain, which full confession alert is something I still struggle with, so this definitely falls into the “do as I say not as I” category! It’s tempting to work all the time, wanting to get out as many books as you can, but it’s also just as important to carve out some time for some nonwriting fun, making time to get reacquainted with the world outside of the one you created, because trust me, your family, friends, and characters will thank you!