The writer talks honestly and openly about the beauty of writing when the stakes are really high, writing big versus writing quietly, and the intense and focused work of promotion and publicity.
Allison Winn Scotch is the author of The Department of Lost and Found, and the New York Times Bestseller, Time of My Life, The One That I Want, and, her brand-newest one: The Song Remains the Same, which has received awesome raves (most recently from Kirkus). Allison, always generous and supportive of other writers, was The Writer’s [Inner] Journey’s inaugural interview, so in this follow-up, I got to ask Allison about her progression as author, and what that feels like from the inside out. Welcome back, Allison!
Meredith: As an author with many projects across many genres in motion, many platforms at work and many works in the public eye, how do you balance the left-brain activity of promotion with the right-brain activity of creation?
ALLISON: As strange as this sounds (or maybe it doesn’t sounds strange), but I don’t have such a difficult time juggling them. It really just means that I have to better organize my time. Right now, for example, I’m finishing up the draft of my next book, but I’m also totally slammed with promotion for The One That I Want. So…I designate chunks of time throughout my day for each. Say, 10 am to noon is for my manuscript, and then 1pm to 3pm is for answering Q/As. I actually really enjoy wearing different hats. I’m the type of person who functions much more efficiently when I have more, not less, to do, as when I only have one thing on my to-do list, I spend half the day procrastinating and web-surfing. As long as I make my lists and allocate my time wisely, I’m a happy (though busy) camper.
Meredith: Digging deeper (and wider): Does the creative+platform+publicity process of expansion feel like you are moving forward on parallel tracks or is the process more unified and seamless?
ALLISON: I wouldn’t say that it’s unified, as they require really different energies and focuses for me. The manuscript is much heavier lifting, in terms of brain power, and my publicity stuff is much more in tune with my personality and open self-expression. So while I don’t have a difficult time juggling them, I do really shift gears and thus, to answer your question, I’d say they’re on parallel tracks, each getting nudged forward bit by bit.
Meredith: Is publicity building an organic process, or is it something that has to be created—literally—from the ground up? How has it changed for you over the years?
ALLISON: Oh no, publicity is 99% pure hard work. Like, roll up your sleeves and dig in work. There are too many voices and books competing for readers’ attention these days for anyone to assume that it happens naturally or that you can stand out without putting a ton of effort into it. The good news, for me at least, is that since my first book came out a few years ago, social media has really taken off, and thus, I feel more in control of reaching readers and steering a decent portion of my publicity than I could in years past. I really think that if an author isn’t tweeting and networking on line, he or she is shooting himself in the foot. Yes, it would be wonderful to think that you didn’t have to get out there and become someone who courts publicity, but the bottom line is that you do. At least if you want to sell books. I really can’t think of a single example of a book that went on to be a huge success without a big promotional effort. That’s on both the part of the publisher AND the author.
Meredith: With a hat tip to Time of My Life and The One That I Want, what would you the novelist today tell the budding you-novelist of yesterday? What should she concern herself with? What is she worried about that will make absolutely no difference whatsoever?
ALLISON: I would tell her to write big. And what I mean by that is that I’ve written several manuscripts that were much quieter than Time of My Life and The One That I Want, and that ultimately, went no where. When I say “quiet,” I just mean the stories were smaller, the stakes weren’t as high, the themes not as universal or resonant. In today’s market, often times, it’s the bigger books – those high concept ideas or the books with a tasty hook – that get sold. And this doesn’t mean that you sell out. It just means that in terms of the scope of your writing, you push the boundaries of your plot and your theme. The writing and the characters are still just as intimate and cared for, it’s just that the ideas themselves are bigger. This isn’t for everyone, but now that I understand who I am as a writer – and who my audience is – it works for me. And I might have saved myself a lot of time and grief if I’d understood this years ago.
As far as what my former self worried about that really doesn’t matter? Hmmm. Well, there are very few things that don’t matter at all, but I would tell her to recognize – like it or not – that 95% of what happens with your book is out of your hands. At least once it’s bound and packaged and sent on its way. You’d like to think that you can control who reviews it, who sells it, what the print run is, etc, etc, etc, but…I’ve learned, as I wrap up work on my fourth book…that you can’t. And I think most debut authors – myself included – make themselves CRAZY in trying to control everything and take care of everything, and the let-down, when you realize that the mountain is too big for you to scale – is pretty enormous. My author friends who have been published more than once will often joke that the difference between who they were as a debut author and who they are now is that they’re jaded to the process. 🙂 Which isn’t negative AT ALL. It’s realistic. A lot of what happens with a book has nothing to do with you. And once you accept that, you might sleep a little more in those days leading up to the launch.
Meredith: Okay, using the 6-word memoir approach, describe your writing style. Now, please describe your promotion/publicity style.
ALLISON: Writing style: Intimate, sisterly, spirited, fantastical, whimsical, honest.
Promotional style: Conversational, self-deprecating, inclusive, expansive, funny (I hope). That’s eight. Sorry!
Allison lives in New York with her family. Click here for THE SONG REMAINS THE SAME. Click here to learn about The One That I Want and here to order. Also, check out Ask Allison, her blog about the business and life of writing. To read Allison’s first interview at The Writer’s [Inner] Journey, click here.
[Thanks (again!), Allison!]