Miracles can be small gifts – the monarch butterfly that drifts over the hollyhock in your garden then pauses for you to admire. Or they can be big, life-changing events that grab you by the shoulders. The birth of a child. Or the rebirth of a book.
I’ve experienced both in the last month. Beautiful Francesca, a little Buddha baby who makes me sigh with pleasure each time I hold her, arrived on July 30.
At the same time, Swimming with Maya, my literary baby, has been reborn.
The book has toddled off on a wave of Facebook posts, tweets, Kindle Books and Nook discounts, e-newsletters, and guest blogs, and now seems sturdy enough for Kindergarten. This weekend it’s the featured book on the Kindle Books and Tips blog.
Like any mother, I’m awestruck, proud, and a little afraid to let go. Through the magic of easy, affordable e-book downloads, Swimming with Maya has a new crop of readers. They give stars, or offer “likes,” or write reviews on Amazon or Goodreads. Sometimes, they write to me about how the book has helped them overcome grief, or changed the way they relate to their kids. What could be more miraculous?
I follow Kristen Lamb’s fine blog for writers. She makes a strong case for building a robust digital platform in her latest post. Traditional publishing is an option for those authors with name recognition, a marketable story, and an agent. The rest of us need to create connections to our readers and be agile enough to ride the tides of independent or self-publishing, fine options from where I sit.
I went through the traditional publishing process initially. Capital Books published swimming with Maya in 2004. It was a beautiful hardcover book priced at $28. Despite garnering favorable reviews and publicity (I was interviewed on CNN and several local TV shows, and featured in many articles), we sold about 2,000 books before Capital closed its doors in 2010.
By then, the whole publishing landscape had radically changed. Social media was becoming the way to build an author platform and lots of new options for publishing, including very small companies like Dream of Things, my current publisher, were springing up. As luck would have it, a dear friend of mine, Madeline Sharples, had a memoir out, Leaving the Hall Light On, which was suddenly dropped when her very small publisher closed.
She found Dream of Things, introduced me to publisher Mike O’Mary, who read my book and agreed to reissue it in formats that are much less expensive to produce and sell than a hardcover edition.
What I instantly loved and recognized in Mike was someone who was passionate about books and narrative nonfiction, including memoir and personal essays. Mike has been a genie in finding the right virtual venues for promotion. During a BookBub promotion earlier in July we sold more e-books in one weekend than Capital sold in hardcover in 6 years! Swimming with Maya is currently the featured book on Kindle Books and Tips, a blog with more than 40,000 followers, and Mike dropped the price to 99 cents for two days, ensuring healthy sales. The power of this kind of “viral marketing” can’t be overstated.
So as I tweet and post from my couch in Oakland, I’m grateful for being connected to readers everywhere, and grateful that Swimming with Maya lives on to inspire and uplift people. It is as miraculous as a butterfly and almost as wondrous as a new baby.