When my novel, Rain Song, made its debut, I was eager to promote it with the typical book signings at local stores. I arranged three events and enjoyed each one; people came and bought books. However, I wanted more, something unique, something to stand out. As one friend said, with a wry smile, “You want a following.” I grimaced; that sounded lofty.
Rain Song is set in Mount Olive, NC and has quirky southern relatives who believe in tradition and unity. They don Mount Olive Pickle Company aprons and make pineapple chutney while discussing the next family reunion. I wanted my novel to expand off the pages and generate some fun in the lives of others today. So, after the book signings, I hosted a Holiday Reunion Open House Event. I sent out printed invitations to neighbors, those in my writers group, friends, church folk, and relatives. I announced the event on social networking sites.
I’d never done this before, but with the help of my children and boyfriend, I knew the event couldn’t go wrong. We planned the menu to reflect the food in the novel–hot ginger tea, egg salad and cucumber sandwiches, shortbread, and of course, homemade pineapple chutney. About an hour into the open house, I gathered everyone into the living room and read portions, primarily the food-related ones, from my southern novel. Books were for sale in the kitchen, and after the reading, many were ready to purchase with cash and checks.
I posted pictures on my Facebook page and, days after the event, I heard from two friends planning a canning party. Their delicacy of choice? Pineapple chutney, using the recipe at the back of my novel. They bought twelve ripe pineapples and enjoyed a day of chopping and cooking. Centering a copy of Rain Song in the twelve pineapple line-up, they took photos. The 48 jars of chutney they made were for Christmas gifts. (These friends also purchased twelve books between them to give as presents.)
You, too, can think about themes and topics that are evident in your books. Have fun! Fun creates a bright audience, an audience waiting and ready to talk about your novel, and anticipate your next.
I guess you could call it a following, and there would be nothing wrong with that.
Alice J. Wisler created the characters of her novel, Rain Song, by observing those around her in stores, airports, and restaurants. The recipe for pineapple chutney is in the back of her novel so anyone can make it and host his/her own reunion party. Read more about Alice’s work and upcoming novel, How Sweet It Is, at https://www.alicewisler.com.