March 15


Ten Behind-the-Scenes Experiences a Writer Goes Through Before the Release of a Major New Book by Alan Sitomer

It’s a unique time for me as I have not one but two books being released across the nation within 5 weeks of one another. While the genres are different – and I mean entirely DIFFERENT! – the behind-the-scenes machinations are very much the same.

Here’s a top-ten peek behind the curtain of what us inked stained wretches go through in the time leading up to our goodies hitting the shelves.

1) Writers reflect on their completed works and contemplate terms like “marketing to their market.”

In April, 2014 the second children’s picture book in my “DADDIES” series (I plan on eventually cooking up 15-20 of them) will land with a hopeful BOOM!

Daddy's zigzagging copy

All us writers hope for a BOOM! and not a thud.. Why an April release for DADDY’S ZIGZAGGING BEDTIME STORY? Because Disney, my publisher, released my first book in the series (DADDIES DO IT DIFFERENT) in the weeks leading up to Father’s Day and the timing allowed this title to find its way to nice big displays at the front of book stores across the nation. Since book sellers always like to put seasonal offerings near the entrance to the store and funny, warm children’s picture books about dads during Father’s Day are much less common to see than funny, warm children’s picture books about moms during Mother’s Day, I hit a sweet spot.

Hoping for lightning to strike again, we are going to market to that market.

Of course while my first title is entire family friendly and 100% G-rated, my second book being released (by Hyperion Books for Children) is a YA novel entirely at the other end of the spectrum.

Caged Warrior copy

CAGED WARRIOR a hardscrabble tale about a group of underground, under-age teens who start an illegal MMA fight club in the back of an abandoned Detroit middle school.

It’s raw. It’s rated R. (Mothers, hide your children!)

CAGED WARRIOR is a follow up of sorts for me to one of my most popular YA books, HOMEBOYZ. For years readers – particularly reluctant readers and their teachers – have asked me to pen another adventure in the genre of grit lit. I’m really proud of this book and the early reviews have been wonderful.

Teenagers – particularly boys – who are fans of the mixed martial arts will be the market to which I market.

2) The Emotional Roller Coaster flies high, sinks low, twists, turns, makes me feel invincible and makes me want to throw up.

Just like ebooks are bound by computer codes and printed books are bound by stitching so too are a writer’s texts bound by the stuff of their dreams and hopes. To release a book is to have hours of flying high accompanied by days of getting kicked in the gut by the cruel boot of hard reality with the joystick controlling all the action being controlled by a sadistic monkey cooked up on meth. All ya can do is buckle your seat belt, strap in and cross your fingers.

Roller Coaster Pic

Of course the high comes with the arrival of the final printed book at my door. It’s a day like no other when the finished project lands in physical form. Hope lives, birds sing and authors everywhere discover they do indeed know how to whistle.

Then fear knocks. What if “they” hate it? What if “they” hate me? What if “they” never let me type another line of fiction again because I’ve violated every last unspoken law of terrible writinghoodness that there ever is done be? (As you can see, things can go sideways, fast.)

Manic mood swings become a constant companion. Nothing helps but the thought of Oprah Winfrey reviving her book club and selecting your literary efforts for her next big read.

3) We Plan for the PR.

There will be travel, interviews, blogs, book signings and with a little luck, even tv. On the other hand, there will be no Oprah.


You hope she’ll call. You hope she’ll love you. You know you’d even take a verbal tongue lashing while sitting shame-filled on her couch admitting you are a total fraud if only she’d be kind enough to shine her unmatched spotlight on your book. But alas, there is no Oprah and when the 87th blogger with less than 23 followers in a part of the country you’ve never even heard of sends you a 4,700 word email asking you to respond to 17 questions which show they’ve never even read your book, you realize that the fine print of doing PR is not what you first thought it would be when you signed that lovely book contract.

But you answer the questions with cheer in your heart anyway because at least they cared enough to invite you to their forum.

Unlike that cruel witch Oprah!

4) Time to get your online ducks in a row.

  • SOCIAL MEDIAFacebook

  • Twitter

  • Goodreads

  • Google+

  • Amazon

  • Barnes and Noble

  • IndieBound

  • Twitter

  • Pinterest

  • Instagram

  • Tumblr

  • Linked In

  • Whatever other “amazing new app” some pimple faced millionaire teen just cooked up to add more work to your plate and torture the rest of us who still have dormant My Space accounts.

Oh yeah, don’t forget to feed the insatiable but amazing Nerdy Book Club. 😉

5) Make sure all of your online ducks have a hub (i.e. tend to your author website).

Should I re-do my website? Should I add more to my website? Should I re-organize my website? Do I…

  • Blog? (Yes.)

  • Offer a media kit? (Yes.)

  • Have links to where people can learn about the book? (Yes.)

  • Have links to where people can buy the book? (Yes.)

  • Offer fun facts about me? (Yes.)

  • Have an easy-to-navigate platform? (Yes.)

  • Post video? (Yes.)

  • Keep my appearance calendar updated? (Yes.)

  • Make it easy to invite me to speak? (Yes.)

  • Show cute pics of a cat that’s not even mine just to pander? (Jury still out.)


6) You write and write wondering when you’ll ever get a chance to write again.

You’ve been writing like a fiend. Perhaps your word count has never been higher. Yet, you are under contract for a new book due out next year but not one sentence of the thousands of words you’ve recently just banged out on your keyboard is fiction.

I’d explain more about this right now but blogger #88 just sent me an email needing to know how my protagonist travels through the 12 stages of the Hero’s Journey and my editor would love to see a progress report that is more than just a vague, TV Guide style logline.


7) Check Your Amazon number! Don’t check your Amazon number! Okay, check your Amazon number. No, don’t look!!!


Amazon’s ranking system is like Vegas for authors and it’s pretty much turned us all into gambling junkies who simply can’t help but continually check and see how their latest offerings stack up.

And since Amazon refreshes every half hour, you can go from the 3,976th most popular book in the system to the 57th most popular book in the system in a matter of a mere 30 minutes.

Also you can fall. Far. Like from number 236 to  number 172,482.

In half an hour.

It’s like betting on blind horses who have been spun around three times til they are dizzy before being released from the starting gate. Stick with it long enough and before long you starting talking to yourself: “Ok, I’m up 2,673 ranking points in the last 60 minutes. Now, if only a few book buyers in the state of Maine step up, I can add a little diversity to my national sales map and perhaps get some momentum going in the northeast! Maybe I should blog about their state flower right now. Quick, time for Google.”

Why do we do this to ourselves? (Answer still not known.)

8) Hollywood calls!

Bradley Cooper, Meryl Streep, Angelina Jolie, Kevin Spacey and Brad Pitt are all interested in your project.

Oscars Tweet Pic copy

Actually, none of them have ever heard of you but your agent thinks that with a wee bit of luck, Carrot Top might skim your back cover.

Carrot Top

9) Your mom wants a free book.

Your mom used to buy your books. Prided herself on being the first one. She even overbought your first book and handed out copies to neighbors and associates with a beam in her eye. However, after a few books on the shelf, the bloom is off the rose as she sees no reason at all to spend her hard-earned money on nonsense she can easily get for free.

If you love your mother, that is.

Mom Cartoon

50/50 she’ll even bother to read it, btw, even if there’s scuttlebutt you might be up for a Printz Award.

10) Just one thing left to do, clear out your “pre-pub” to-do list.

Pre-Pub to-do list:

  • Contact local libraries

  • Contact local bookstores

  • Do a book give-away

  • Create a clever contest idea for book give-away

  • Make bookmarks

  • Make book trailers

  • Invent a cool hashtag

  • Get yourself to trend

  • Comment on other people’s blog for cross blog love

  • Tweet til your thumbs fall off

  • Build a tribe

  • Figure out your tipping point

  • Do a 4-Hour Work Week

  • Read book called The Four Hour Work Week so you can learn how to do all this sh*t in four hours

  • Stay informed on pertinent publishing news

  • Attend 5 writer’s conferences

  • Cancel that stupid contest

And finally…

  • Call Oprah Winfrey!

Oprah #2

Alan Sitomer is an author, educator and keynote speaker who just published his 16th project. He can be found on the web at and on Twitter as @alansitomer.