Tuesday, December 11, 2018

YA Guy Hosts... Jamie Beth Cohen, author of WASTED PRETTY!

As you can tell from my past several months' posts, YA Guy loves hosting debut authors, especially when they live in my hometown of Pittsburgh. But it gives me particular joy to host Jamie Beth Cohen, whose debut novel WASTED PRETTY comes out in April, 2019. I first met Jamie years and years ago when I was a counselor at a day camp in Pittsburgh and she was (no kidding) one of my campers, so to see her succeed as a writer is the next best thing to watching one of my own children grow. Now, before I embarrass myself (or Jamie) even more, let's hear from her on the artistic and commercial sides of being a debut author!

Have you seen this image floating around the interwebz? I love it!

Writer Erin Dorney made these suggestions, and I think they really speak to the fact that although publishing is a business, there are still ways we can engage with it that don’t involve money. 

As a debut author, with a young adult novel coming from a small press in April 2019, I’ve been thinking a lot about how I want to engage with the commercial side of my art. 

And let me just stop myself right here, because I actually don’t consider myself an artist. I tell stories in order to connect with other people and -- if I’m doing it right -- the stories will help them in some way. A reader might feel less alone after reading something I’ve written or might feel better about a tough choice they’ve made after seeing how tough choices are handled in my work. Whatever it is, language and craft are not my top priority. It’s the connection to others that is most important to me.

Art is amazing. Art is important. I love art! And maybe some people consider what I do art, but if they do, I hope they’re talking about the kind that is accessible to everyone and integral to life, not the kind that is set apart from it (hung on walls in expensive museums or unintelligible without an advanced degree).

But I digress…

The truth is, I want my book to be widely read, not because of any monetary goal, but because I did that thing people tell young adult authors to do: I wrote the book I needed when I was a teen, and I believe there are teens out there today who still need it. 

To get the book into the hands of people who don’t know me, I have to engage with the commercial side of publishing. To that end, I have to spend money -- money I don’t really have -- to promote my book in various ways. I will throw parties, I might do giveaways, I may pay for ads, and to make up that money, I will need to sell books.

This is the vicious cycle of capitalism that many writers don’t want anything to do with. They feel it corrupts their art or takes time away from writing, but, as I said, I don’t consider myself an artist. I feel this story is important and to get it out there, I’m going to jump in with both feet and try to figure out this balancing act.

Side Note: Here’s another paradox that people have been asking me about lately: I will make about five times as much money per book if you buy it directly from me, but sales I do “out of my trunk” don’t count in the measure of “how well” my book is doing. My book will be available online directly through my publisher, on Amazon and through other outlets, but in order to quickly make up the money I spend to promote my book, I’m going to have to sell a fair number of copies “out of my trunk.” 

And to be clear, it’s not just small press authors who have to spend their own money on these things. Check out Josh’s great post about what he spent promoting his debut (which came out with a big house) and his other great post about what worked and what didn't.

So, all of Erin’s suggestions above on ways you can help an author are great, but there are some things my writer-heart and my writer-brain are struggling with right now. Taking the lead from Josh, I’m letting you in with the hope that transparency is the way to go. Because people ask all the time how they can support my debut, but I’m never sure if they really want the truth…

My writer-heart wants you to love this story.
My writer-brain wants you to buy this book for yourself, your family, and your friends!

My writer-heart wants you to buy enough books through your local indie bookstore that the next time I want to sell a story, people think I’m a safe bet.
My writer-brain wants you to place an order with me so I can recoup my marketing costs and maybe see a movie with my family.

My writer-heart wants to sit over coffee and talk to you about this story.
My writer-brain wants you to tell everyone you know to buy this book!

My writer-heart wants you to write honest reviews on Amazon and Goodreads.
My writer-brain wants you to keep your criticisms just between us. Tell me what you think so I can be a better writer, but please don’t put me on blast.

My writer-heart wants to travel the world visiting my friends and coming to book clubs they set up with their friends.
My writer-brain knows I don’t have the kind of time or cash to make this happen, but I hope I can video-chat with lots of fun book clubs.

My writer-heart wants you to buy my book and love it without me ever having to mention it again.
My writer-brain knows it takes roughly seven mentions to influence behavior... apologies in advance…

About Jamie: Jamie Beth Cohen is a writer, storyteller, and community organizer whose writing has appeared in TeenVogue.com, The Washington Post/On Parenting, Salon, and many other outlets. WASTED PRETTY, her debut YA novel about a sixteen-year-old girl who faces wanted and unwanted attention when she accidentally goes from blending in to standing out, will be published by Black Rose Writing in April 2019.

Stalk Jamie here: