I was asked by RedRoom, a website for writers, to blog about the problems of publicity when my first book came out. I had a publicist through my publisher, but they’re notoriously overworked, and they didn’t even read my book to start out with. So, because I am Jewish, my publicist ended up being my mother. Here’s how it went.
When my first book came out, I turned into a bit of a diva.
I didn’t expect it to happen. I totally wasn’t diva material. It was like becoming a werewolf: one second you forgot to shave, the next you’re outside, naked, howling at the moon. For me, it was more like howling at everyone who picked up their phones. My editor, my publisher, the company publicist (who was working with about 50 books that came out the same month as mine, each with their own totally press-release-worthy story that was at least as good as mine) and the agent I’d just signed onto who had nothing to do with my first book, but who seemed eager to establish a good relationship with me, and was game to listen to just about any story or rant I cared to fire at him — no one was spared my wrath. Instead of telling people why Never Mind the Goldbergs was the book they needed to read, I kept telling people how no one was ever going to hear about Never Mind the
It was my editor, David Levithan, who finally slapped me to my senses. He’s kind of the opposite of me — I’ve been self-publishing zines and chapbooks since I was twelve. He was writing for major publishers (the Baby-Sitters’ Club, no less) at 18. I was punk rock. He listened to teen pop. I was a firm believer in the indie, underground aesthetic; his first book, a personal journal from the viewpoint of Darth Maul, had been printed and publicized by no less than Lucasfilm.
“Matthue, you’ve grown up doing things by yourself, and you’ve never wanted anyone else to put words into your mouth,” he said. (That last part might have been a special dig at the chapter that he wanted to delete and I over-my-dead-body’d him about until he gave in.) “You have friends, good friends, who are willing to die for you. Why not ask them to help? Why not do a little bit yourself?”