On Publishing a Book During a Pandemic

(plus feel free to send me your questions…)

image by Gerd Altmann from Pixabay

This happened to me once before. Well, sort of. It was 2016, and I was getting ready to release my third book (and the first one that I self-published), Outspoken: A Decade of Transgender Activism and Trans Feminism. My initial plan was to release it in October, but it was a presidential election year here in the U.S., so it was virtually impossible to get any social media traction during that last month of the campaign. So, being the “genius” that I am, I thought: “Why don’t I just push back the release date to November, because once Clinton is finally elected, everything will settle back down, and then I can focus on book promotion . . .”

Ha! That obviously never happened. Instead, the world seemed to turn upside-down. Within the LGBTQIA+, feminist, and activist circles that I inhabit (which were also the primary audiences for Outspoken), everyone was understandably distraught and terrified, worried about what this new administration (which was openly hostile to women and minorities during the campaign) would do once in office. I too was preoccupied with it all, and the task of book promotion seemed to pale in comparison to this dramatic and traumatic shift in the world. Unfortunately, I ended up dropping the ball on much of my original book promotion to-do list as a result.

Fast forward to late last year: I am preparing to publish my first foray into fiction, 99 Erics: a Kat Cataclysm faux novel. (It is a humorous account of a bisexual female absurdist short fiction writer who dates ninety-nine different people named Eric for literature’s sake. It is more surreal than slutty. Not that there is anything wrong with slutty.) I settled on late January, 2020 for my release date — plenty of time before the presidential election would begin to suck all of the oxygen out of social media. But then in late December, after several months of dealing with on-again off-again lung issues, I got pneumonia. And then it resurfaced again in late February. During the interim, I was able to get the book up for sale on all the usual online platforms and on Ingram (who distributes books to libraries and brick-and-mortar bookstores), but my health setbacks forced me to push back my book promotion to March or April. Which didn’t seem like that big of a deal at first. But then Covid-19 happened.

Before all the lockdowns and shelter-in-place orders began, I had a few book readings lined up for April through June, and I had planned to use those to help get the word out about the book. But they have all since been cancelled, unsurprisingly. But even more disheartening than the event cancellations was the existential dread. Much like in the wake of the 2016 election, my brain has been preoccupied by this pandemic: I’ve spent much of the last two months glued to the news, refreshing my browser every ten minutes or so, listening to podcasts about coronaviruses and epidemiology, and so on. I feel very lucky that I haven’t been personally impacted to the degree that many others have. But I also have chronic conditions (see e.g., the aforementioned lung issues) that have made this an especially worrisome time for me.

Anyway, now it’s mid-May. I feel like I’ve begun to accept this “new normal” inasmuch as possible. And I finally feel both mentally and physically up to revisiting the task of book promotion. So here we go . . .

I am making this announcement on Medium for several reasons. First, I plan to publish a few excerpts from the book here. I know that most people who follow me on Medium do so for my nonfiction essays about gender, sexuality, and social justice. While 99 Erics is chock-full of absurdist humor and escapism, the narrator/protagonist (Kat Cataclysm) is a sexual minority and sex-positive feminist who has plenty of her own thoughts about these matters (some of which overlap with my own views). So if you appreciate my nonfiction takes on these subjects, you will probably enjoy my fictional (and thus more playful) renditions.

yes, that really is a banana slug on a vibrator

Second, the novel chronicles Kat’s experiences writing the book 99 Erics (aka, the book that the reader is in the midst of reading; it’s all somewhat “meta”). This gave me the opportunity to wax — sometimes poetically, but mostly humorously — about the writing process and being a writer. I know that many folks who follow me on Medium are writers themselves, so perhaps y’all might appreciate some of Kat’s musings on topics such as (to name but a few): not wanting to put your characters into conflict, failing at writing erotica, misfiring Chekhov’s gun, stereotype traps, freelancing, slam poetry, why adverb-hating is sexist, why pop-science articles often suck, gender-swap fiction, manic pixie dream girls, nonrepresentative book covers, book tours, authors who turn their sexual minority characters into plot twists, and how language (much like mathematics) is oppressive.

Finally, in addition to being a platform for writers more generally, I know that Medium is often a venue for people who write about technology and the tech industry. There is a subplot within 99 Erics in which Kat takes a job writing listicles for a company called CliqueClick — they are basically a Buzzfeed-meets-Facebook mashup. So there is a sprinkling of tech industry and online media-related satire thrown into the mix as well.

In addition to publishing a few excerpts here, I plan to release videos of me reading from the book (both previously recorded and live) — these may show up on my YouTube channel, Facebook, and/or Instagram.

One of my favorite parts of doing book readings is answering the audience questions at the end, so I’ve decided to record a series of “Q&A”-type videos to answer any questions readers may have about the book or related topics. If you have any such questions, feel free to leave them as comments at the end of this post (so long as they are not too spoilery). Alternatively, you can send your questions to me via email or Twitter.

I will compile links to all these excerpts and videos on the 99 Erics webpage, and will provide occasional updates about them here on Medium and via social media, so stay tuned!

Finally, if you happen to be associated with a literary or media outlet and wish to obtain a review copy of 99 Erics, or to possibly interview me about the book, please feel free to contact me!

I will leave y’all with a glimpse of the Table of Contents for 99 Erics. More to come . . .

the Table of Contents for 99 Erics

writes about gender, sexuality, social justice, & science. author of Whipping Girl, Excluded, Outspoken, & the unusually queer novel 99 Erics. juliaserano.com

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