Here’s another thing that authors published in New York probably don’t have to worry about: finding their own reviewers and others to write glowing blurbs for the back cover of their book. This is a problem because I don’t personally know any famous New York Times bestselling authors of historical novels about World War II. If only I could call up Anthony Doerr and get a rave review from him!
Sarah Blake’s best-selling novel The Postmistress is a little like my novel; it takes place in Massachusetts (as well as London and the Continent) during WWII, it doesn’t depict battles, and the main characters are women. So I googled Sarah Blake, found her home address in Washington DC, and wrote her a letter asking if she’d consider writing a blurb for my book. She hasn’t replied.
Since my novel is set in New England, it would be great if I could find a fiction writer who lives in or writes about New England, but I don’t know any. The local fiction writers I know in the Twin Cities might be able to help, but that’s a short list. My best hope was Judith Guest, but she turned me down because she’s in the midst of working on two novels and a play—I can understand that she’s too busy.
Then I starting thinking harder about who the audiences are for my book. In addition to readers who are interested in home front U.S.A. during WWII, I think people who like women’s history might enjoy my book. Sara Evans, a historian who has written several highly regarded nonfiction books about women’s history, is a possibility since she was the advisor for my master’s thesis years ago; maybe it doesn’t matter that she doesn’t write fiction.
A number of scenes in my novel take place at Phillips Academy Andover so people who went to Andover or some other boarding school and who have an interest in life at boarding schools during the war could make up another segment of my audience. How do I reach those potential readers? Fortunately I’ve worked with the woman who was the archivist at Andover for many years, so she’s a possible blurber.
One of the lead characters in my novel plays the piano for Gilbert & Sullivan operettas and he writes songs that are somewhat Gilbert & Sullivanesque so I’m thinking fans of Gilbert & Sullivan comprise another segment of my potential audience. Over the years I’ve attended many productions of Gilbert & Sullivan mounted by the Gilbert & Sullivan Very Light Opera Company in Minneapolis and I’ve written one of the company’s lead actors, a board member who’s in charge of publicity, to ask if he’d do a blurb.
Then there are the book reviewers at the major newspapers. However, many of them won’t touch an independently published book. Marketing an independently published book certainly has its challenges!
Thank goodness for my local writer friends, even though they don’t write historical fiction.