11:38 p.m. It’s two weeks before the launch of my Young Adult novel, “Genesis Girl,” which comes out June 14 from Month9Books. My husband is sound asleep in bed, and I’m standing at the bathroom sink fiddling with the essential oil diffuser I bought because I was so stressed out.
Sadly, no amount of “Mellow Mix” seems to help, especially since the piece of junk won’t work. Instead of gurgling, it sputters, and the cord is tangled into a knot with the electric razor. I take the whole thing apart and bash it against the counter. My husband jumps up from the racket and asks me what’s going on.
“What does it look like is going on?” I snap. “I’m trying to relax!”
6:40 a.m. As soon as I wake up I turn on my phone and swipe into Instagram. I am elated to see that I got 55 new followers to my Bookstagram account, @the_ya_gal, overnight. But a ball of stress pops up in my stomach when I do the math. I give seven “hearts” to every new follower to say thank you. But Instagram only lets you do about 350 hearts an hour before they think you are a bot and block your account. That means it will take me all morning to catch up on hearting the new followers I got last night, and I’ll fall behind on hearting the additional followers I get this morning. Plus, in the middle of that Instagramming, I have to pack lunches and get the kids to school.
9:15 a.m. Two school drop-offs later, I’m parked at a Sno-Isle library and hooked into their free Wi-Fi. My Zumba class starts in 15 minutes and I’m desperately trying to catch up on Instagram hearting while at the same time attending to Twitter. Several of my friends in The Sweet Sixteens, a national group of Middle Grade and Young Adult debut authors, have tweeted me, and this requires responding in a clever way, favoriting their tweets and occasionally retweeting.
The Sweet Sixteens have worked together for over two years preparing for each other’s book launches. Without “buzz” books die, and that’s why you need social-media-savvy friends.
11 a.m. I haven’t changed out of my sweaty Zumba clothes, which is really disgusting, but showering must wait because 11 o’clock is when I post on Instagram every day. Posting at a regular time helps boost engagement, and the more followers I have commenting on my pictures, the more likely I am to land in the top posts of important hashtags like #youngadultbooks, #lovetoread and #YAlovin. People that land in the top posts get more attention, and this is how I’ve built my account to over 14,000 followers.
I can’t control whether “Genesis Girl” is automatically stocked at Barnes &Noble, but I can control whether or not people become aware of my book via social media. Facebook skews older, and the 20,000 people who follow me on my page “The YA Gal” are generally over 18 years of age. But Instagram is packed with teens, and many of them are passionate readers. I need both demographics to become excited about “Genesis Girl” which is why I’m heavily involved in both platforms.
1:02 p.m. Merlin the poodle is at my feet, curled into blissful slumber. I’m at the computer typing up a storm. My publicist has organized a blog tour for me. This means that book bloggers all across the world will post about “Genesis Girl” in a coordinated way. Every day of the tour will be something different. Perhaps there will be a review, or an interview. Or maybe they’ll share a piece I wrote about why I love female science fiction heroines. Blog tours bring awareness to books, but they also require time on the author’s part. Answering interview questions takes work.
1: 58 p.m. Before I pick up my kids from school I run through my email inbox. It seems like my standard procedure these days is Delete-Delete-Ignore-Apologize. I used to be a regular volunteer at two schools and my church. I still have the reputation as somebody people can ask for help. But now I don’t have time to help anyone. I look like a stay-at-home-mom with time on her hands, but I’m not. I’m a working mother who won’t make any money (beyond my advance) until the royalty checks arrive.
Do I want to spend all day chaperoning my daughter’s field trip to the zoo? Yes, I do! Unfortunately it’s June 16, the same date as my book launch party at Edmonds Bookshop. If I sign up to chaperone, that could send me over the edge, but if I don’t, my sweet little girl will be crushed.
2:15 p.m. Wracked with guilt I race to school and arrive two minutes late for pickup. “Were you on your phone?” my daughter asks. I give a guilty nod. When I first started writing fiction eight years ago, I had no idea that building up my author’s platform would one day take over my life.
4:46 p.m. After dropping off my son at gymnastics, my daughter and I rush to the post office. This past year I’ve spent oodles of time at the post office, and well over $400. A lot of this expense comes from mailing Advanced Review Copies of books from my friends in The Sweet Sixteens all over the country. We send the books on tour so that we can promote each other’s novels on social media. Now it’s my book’s turn, and all these friends have come through for me in a major way.
But today I’m not mailing a book to a Sweet 16er, I’m shipping several complimentary copies of “Genesis Girl” to booktubers in England who are interested in posting a video review on YouTube. Right here in Puget Sound we have two exceptional booktubers, Grace from “LovingDemBooks” and Taylor, from “TayliciousReads.” Reaching the Booktube audience is critical for YA books, and Grace and Taylor have been extremely kind to me.
6:33 p.m. Forget farm-to-table, we are eating the most disgusting meal ever. Since I don’t have time to cook I’ve invented what I call “The Slow-Cooker Dump,” and yes that name is intentional. I put in a protein like chicken thighs, lamb chunks, or ground beef, add a jar of sauce from Trader Joe’s and a couple of bags of chopped vegetables. Sometimes it turns out delicious, but tonight’s endeavor is a complete failure. My son asks if he can eat hard boiled eggs while my daughter fake-gags.
Meanwhile, my phone is face down on the kitchen counter buzzing with so many social media notifications that it sounds like an electric toothbrush. This is exceptionally ironic because “Genesis Girl” is about a girl named Blanca who has no social-media presence at all. Blanca’s lack of a digital footprint makes her so valuable that she gets auctioned off to the highest bidder.
9:48 p.m. Both kids are asleep, my husband is folding laundry (bless his heart) and I’m at the dining room table that is littered with bookswag, i.e. bookmarks and other trinkets that promote my book. I’m trying hard not to get ink on my hands while I stamp envelopes with the hashtag #GenesisGirl, prepping them to mail out to people who preordered my book.
The preorder support I’ve received from followers of my Facebook page has been enormous. But unfortunately, every preorder causes me to lose money due to the cost of postage, bookswag and time. It doesn’t matter though, because preorder sales are so essential to authors.
I have no idea how it works in reality, but in my imagination there is a gorilla wearing a necktie who sits in the headquarters of Amazon. Every time a preorder comes in he yells at his monkeys: “Drop those bananas and activate the algorithm! This is a book we should help!”
11:37 p.m. I plug my phone into the charger and climb into bed, desperate for sleep. But when my head hits the pillow my mind refuses to turn off. All the scary thoughts I’ve held at bay flood over me. What if nobody buys my book? What if people hate it? What if my agent drops me? What if nobody leaves a review on Amazon or Goodreads? How could I possibly think that a mom like me from Snohomish County could ever compete with a New York City author from a bigger publisher?
I take five deep breaths and force my eyelids shut. Hope seems like a shaky foundation to stand on, but if I concentrate on all the friendship and goodwill that has already been given to me, I just might be able to fall asleep.
Meet the author
You’re invited to the launch party for “Genesis Girl.” Come meet Jennifer Bardsley at 7 p.m. June 16 at Edmonds Bookshop, where she will be signing copies of her book.