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Your Book is Always New

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Greer-Final-2-e1646614687947.jpegI’ve been messing up for years now.

I mean, we all make mistakes, obviously. Big ones and small ones, writing-related and otherwise. But the mistake I’ve recently realized is very much related to my publishing career. And now that I’ve vowed to turn over this leaf for myself, I want to shout from the rooftops–to help others, let’s say, turn over their own leaves.

Here’s the thing: it’s an easy mistake to make. If you’ve been lucky–and hard-working and persistent and stubborn and talented and about 83 other things, but especially lucky–enough to write and publish more than one book, your newest book is pretty much always the one topmost in your mind. After all, in some sense, you have to put the others behind to focus on the newest one. If you’re lucky (again, and other adjectives here) enough to write under contract with a publisher, the schedule on which you write the new book is dictated, and then when the book comes out, promotion happens right around one big On Sale date, a brief window where your book is New.

So I’m not beating myself up about it, but for years, when I’ve introduced myself to new people as an author and they ask what I write, I start talking about my newest book. Sometimes it’s the most recent to come out, and sometimes it’s the one that’s coming out next, depending on where I am in the cycle.

Hi, I’m Greer, I write books! What kind of books? Well, my new book Arca, the second in a fantasy series that’s kind of like a matriarchal Game of Thrones, comes out in March!

And I have finally realized, while that’s exactly the right answer for a publishing crowd, it’s almost meaningless to civilians.

People I meet at my kids’ school, or at a fondue party, or at the endodontist’s office, or wherever, don’t care about a specific book of mine. They don’t care about what’s new. I shouldn’t be focusing on that particular book. And if you have multiple books, and someone asks you about your work, you shouldn’t focus on your newest/latest book either.

Don’t tell them what you’ve written. Tell them what you write.

What I mean by that is, don’t start with specific titles. If you write in multiple genres, you don’t even need to start with genre, either. I write both historical fiction and epic fantasy, and the deeper I dive into one or the other of those, the more tempted I am to start listing titles, which is right about when people’s eyes start to glaze over.

Hi, I’m Greer, I write books! What kind of books? Novels about extraordinary women.

That isn’t where it ends, but that’s where it starts. Sometimes, that may be enough to trigger a follow-up question. If not, I could talk next about genre, or specific titles. I could ask the other person a question about what they like to read, and go from there. I could say that sometimes I draw inspiration from real-life figures, like Kate Warne, and ask if they know her story. I could talk about my matriarchal epic fantasy series, including the book that’s coming out next month–but only after setting the stage with the broader description.

Because in the real world, by which I mean not the publishing world, your new book is no more important than any of your other books. Unless they’re very likely to have heard of your newest book because you’re, I don’t know, Tana French or something, the title isn’t going to ring a bell. Tell them who you are as an author. Then go from there to introduce your most relevant book to the conversation depending on who you’re talking to. It’ll be more natural. And your new friend might even be more likely to look up your book if you make an effort to connect.

Q: Do you fall into the trap of always focusing on your newest book when talking to new people? If not, how else do you approach these conversations?

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