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Author: Kelly

Let the publizity begin!

With my first two books, marketing and publicity was hands-down the thing I hated doing the most and also was the worst at. On the other hand, I had a lot more time to devote to things like querying book bloggers and doing guest interviews back then, too. This time around I was not only resolved to let a professional handle all that stuff I suck at for me, I also had a nice list of referrals for good publicists from my publisher.

I queried four of them and had phone meetings with two of them. I would have had three meetings, but they all fell during the week of the freak winter storm we had down here in Austin. I dismissed one of them almost immediately because they put off a very “Publizity” from Kroll Show vibe. What stuck out to me, and ultimately solidified my decision to go with the publicist I did, was that only one of the companies asked to see my manuscript. I know a lot of busy marketing people don’t have time to read everything that comes across their desk, but how do you know if you’re the right person to market the book if you don’t know the book? How do you know who you’re going to sell it to?

After reading horror stories of authors hiring multiple publicists to do multiple things, I was really resolved to only do this once and find someone who really wanted to work with me and wanted to represent my work. And I didn’t want a Liz. So when I talked to potential publicists to represent me, these were the 3 most important questions I asked, and made my decision easier (taken from the larger list from BookBub):

  1. What kind of experience do you have marketing books like mine? This not only leaves room to answer the obvious question, but also lets you know how much effort they put into learning about your book before talking to you.
  2. What kind of promotions would you envision running for my book? This gives you an opportunity to make sure you’re not going to get cookie-cutter promos that don’t fit your book well.
  3. What media contacts do you have that would be interested in my book? One, you get to know what kind of media contacts they have and how many, and two, you can get a good feel of how comfortable they feel about promoting your book where it fits.

Of course the hope is that by June of 2022 I can have a real in-person book launch and sign books face to face after poorly reading from my own novel. But more than anything I am happy that I have someone to handle all the promotional logistics of it for me! Looking forward to a long relationship with Caitlin Hamilton Marketing.

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I survived Texas Winterclysm 2021

This week has sucked balls. It sucked more balls for a lot more people in this state, but it still sucked for us too. Ice and snow basically trapped us in our home for a full week. We lost power and heat for a total of 8 hours, which was a lot less than much of Austin and Texas at large, and we were lucky to not lose power on the single digit days (SO not fair; I left Kansas City to get away from single-digit temperatures). We lost running water on Wednesday and we still don’t have it back. Rumor is it might be next Wednesday before that happens. I need a shower. I need to wash sheets that have been peed upon (by the 4-year-olds, not me). I can’t wait to wash dishes… which is something I never thought I’d hear myself say out loud, but here we are.

Shittiness aside, here’s what I learned this week:

  • I write my best poetry when I am pissed off… like, really, really pissed off.
  • My loving spouse, who has far more doomsday prepper bones in his body than I do, will never tire of hearing “Yes, you were right.”
  • My children will still want to eat ice cream and wear swimsuits when it is 55 degrees in our house.
  • People like book publicists are really forgiving about rescheduling meetings when you have no electricity, spotty internet on your phone, and no running water.
  • No amount of experience of driving on ice and snow (and I have plenty) will make me willing to brave roads in inclement weather with Texas drivers.
  • One box of wine was not enough.
  • Little Fires Everywhere was a damn good miniseries, but still a better book.

In a lot of ways it felt like the early days of COVID: daycare was closed, everything was closed, and anything that was open was mobbed and picked over. Luckily no one expected me to be productive this week, otherwise I might have actually had those book publicist meetings with hair that hasn’t been washed since Tuesday, or made more progress on my next novel. But it was survival mode… literally. Survival was easy enough for us because we were prepared for it, but it didn’t bode well for author work. I may write my best poetry during apocalypses, but fiction not so much. Fuck COVID, and fuck once-in-a-lifetime winter storms. I’m over it.

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My new friend, Amanda Gorman

Like most of the country, I didn’t know who Amanda Gorman was before Tuesday, January 20. At any given time I could tell you a few of my favorite poems, a few of my favorite poets, but I couldn’t tell you who the current poet laureate or youth poet laureate is. I couldn’t even tell you who the poet in residence on The West Wing was, and I’ve seen that whole series three times. But I can tell you that despite my best efforts to be nonplussed by everything inaugural, I was legitimately excited to see that the youngest inaugural poet ever was a female person of color, and excited that I identified a lot with her story.

Granted, she is from Los Angeles and I am from about the furthest thing from Los Angeles. She grew up with a single mom; I grew up with a single dad. But like Gorman, I fell in love with poetry from a very young age (although my very young age was much before Amanda’s) because it felt like one of the only ways I could truly express myself. I wrote a ton of (really bad) poems as a kid, as an adolescent, and beyond. I still write bad poems when there’s a really big feeling I have that I don’t know how else to get through. For every poem I have had published, there are 20 more sitting in a folder.

And like Gorman, I have a speech impediment, too. Sometimes my stutter is barely noticeable if I am relaxed, not overthinking my speech, and talking to people I know, like when I read books to my kids. Other times, especially when I am talking to new people or speaking up in front of people, my brain will completely short-circuit my speech and cripple my ability to get through certain sounds without stuttering. And the longer I am away from regularly talking to people, like a whole year working from home in quarantine, the worse my stutter gets. It’s like, 18 months away, but I am already dreading doing book readings for Community Klepto and stuttering over certain words. Good thing I didn’t name my protagonist Millie or Rachel.

Poetry is a very solitary, deeply personal art. For most poets, it’s one of the only ways to express feelings and emotions they may not even consciously know they’re feeling. Refining a poem to use just the right words in a very concise form is long, tedious work. “The Hill We Climb” wasn’t written overnight. I’m no Amanda Gorman, but a poem of that length would have taken me weeks, maybe months. When we see a poem like “The Hill We Climb” read aloud for a few minutes on a national stage for the whole world to see, it’s easy to forget the long, lonely work of turning those personal thoughts into something worth reading. Watching someone who’s fought struggles with speech read her heart’s work so passionately and eloquently in front of the entire world… that’s incredibly inspiring to me.

It’s become part of my weekday monthly routine to listen to a poetry podcast while I walk around the block, drink my coffee, and wake the fuck up. Hearing Padraig O’Tuama read on Poetry Unbound sets the tone for the rest of my day and it’s been a great way to get introduced to new poets beyond the Seamus Haney and Emily Dickinson I had to read in college. Poets, especially modern poets, don’t get a lot of respect. They’re viewed as weirdos (and to be fair, some are – I distinctly remember going to a slam poetry open mic for extra credit and hearing a very hairy dude tell us not to clap for him because he was not a poet, but a conduit for a higher power). It’s easy to see poetry as something kitschy or woke or elitist. But after Tuesday, more people bought poetry than ever, and a 22-year-old poet is going to be taking her kitschy, woke, elitist work straight to the bank. And that’s awesome.

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Kelly Hitchcock’s Day Off

The office for my day job (which has been my guest bedroom since March) was closed for the MLK holiday today. In my mind, I was going to use this unexpected day off to focus on finishing editing Community Klepto and work on some other documents for my publisher, since they’re due at the end of the month. However, because I am a working mom, my day off ended up looking more like this:

  • Get the children off to school
  • Take the microvan for an overdue oil change and an overdue state inspection
  • Finish paperback (Dry) waiting for microvan
  • Take microvan through car wash because bird shit happens
  • Vacuum fossilized french fries and Reese’s Pieces out of the microvan
  • Pick up more Zyrtec-D because it’s cedar season in Austin
  • Barre class (yay! I usually have to do this before anyone else in my house wakes up)
  • Take bunch of bags of crap to the Goodwill, also the box spring for old bed, now bungeed to the top of the microvan
  • Goodwill won’t take box spring – attempt Habitat for Humanity Restore
  • Restore won’t take box spring – succeed at Salvation army 10 miles away
  • Start editing, realize I need to start crock pot
  • Start crock pot, realize I am too tired to stare at computer screen
  • Finish audiobook (Fight Club) falling asleep
  • Get up, finish editing book before retrieving children

The reality is that even when I have a day off my day is really just filled with the backlog of things that I haven’t been able to get to because I either can’t do them when I am working during the day or I can’t do them while I’m with my children on the weekend. This is the reality for all working parents, especially moms.

As a mom with a full time job and a book coming out next year, time for writing, editing, or doing author platform building comes at a premium, and often comes after my children decide they’re done jumping off their beds for the night and decide to actually sleep on them. So even when my “day of editing” gets derailed by a jillion other tasks that have to be done, I can feel a great sense of gratitude in actually getting editing time in when the sun is out.

And, of course, it doesn’t hurt that the manuscript is now officially ready for the publisher. And the children loved the crock pot soup.

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2020 in review: it wasn’t all shit.

I started 2020 ready to get busy with a local publisher on getting Community Klepto on shelves. Then of course, COVID-19 trickled into the US and all of a sudden my publisher wasn’t my publisher anymore. Meanwhile, my day job changed to remote in my home, and my kids’ daycare closed down for awhile. Life was unbelievably hard. Every day was longer than the last one and I felt like I was failing at everything. My writing, at this time, was not even on the map. The publisher wasn’t returning my emails or texts and though I knew the writing was on the wall, it wasn’t until they finally responded to me saying it wasn’t going to happen that I accepted it wasn’t going to happen.

By July, I was ready for a win. I made time every night to query at least two publishers or agents about Community Klepto. I followed through, even though many nights I was working on queries while ushering my children back into their room to go to bed (those summer solstice months when it doesn’t get dark til what feels like midnight are brutal for parents with young children). There were nights it took me hours to get those two queries done, but I did it. I knew that if I had already had two publishers interested enough to offer me a deal, even though both of those fell through, chances were that a third one would, too.

I got a fair number of rejections, some coming mere minutes after spending hours working on the query, but one of the bright sides of COVID was that it made me a lot more immune to rejection. One of the first queries I made in July was to She Writes Press, and they accepted my manuscript a couple months later. I still queried up until I signed with She Writes Press, but I slowed down a lot. Now I am working with my SWP project manager on all the business-side things of the book. I won’t get to brag about it until the year-end post of 2022, but things are chugging along.

Despite all the shitty things that happened this year, there was also plenty to have gratitude about, too. I mean, I signed with the 2019 independent publisher of the year, so that’s kind of a big deal. And while my job moved me into my spare bedroom and didn’t give any of us raises this year, I still have a job, which is more than a lot of people can say. My children were able to go back to in-person preschool until the middle of this month. My 15-year-old dog is even still kicking! So what else happened this year?

In reading…

According to Goodreads I read just 24 books this year. It was definitely more than that, but updating Goodreads doesn’t always happen and this year has turned my brain to mush. Here were my top 5 favorite reads of the year, in no particular order:

Educated by Tara Westover
A Man Called Ove by Fredrik Backman
Mother for Dinner by Shalom Auslander
Ready Player One by Ernest Cline
The Interestings by Meg Wollitzer

The worst book I read all year was American Skin by Don de Grazia, and the fact that it took me months to get through it was a good indicator that I should have put it in the DNF pile.

In writing…

After my summer querying escapade was over, I decided to dedicate a few hours a week to just sitting and writing, even if I had nothing on my mind. I wrote some random things and had a flash fiction piece published by the Rose City Sisters. Right now I am working on something that started out as a romance satire piece, but I’m not sure what it will end up being, only that it’s one of the best things I’ve ever written so far (but my opinion could be changed completely once I go back to edit it). Like everything else in my life that is not my day job, my children, or all the other crap I have to do every day, writing must be dedicated focused time, planned and scheduled out.

Favorite things of the year…

Favorite internet thing of the year: Man Who Has It All – the Twitter account, the website, the store – any time I needed a laugh in 2020, Man Who Has It All came through.

Favorite new album this year: Fetch the Bolt Cutters by Fiona Apple – I could listen to “Ladies” on repeat all freaking day.

Favorite new show this year: The Mandalorian – I can’t even stop myself from cooing and doing baby talk when Grogu comes on screen. But I also watched Cheer more times than I am willing to admit.

Favorite game: Blather Round – we spent all the time we would have spent in bars and at people’s houses playing Jackbox over Skype instead.

Favorite wine: Noble Vines 337 Cabernet Sauvignon – rich yet affordable.

I’m looking forward to saying goodbye to 2020 by playing Jackbox over Skype with a bottle of 337 cab and doing the diligent work of getting Community Klepto ready for the world – and hopefully by then herd immunity can allow us to have a real book launch party.

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Community Klepto is coming to a bookshelf near you, courtesy of She Writes Press

After COVID reared its ugly viral head and caused my prior publisher to shelve all its projects, I thought long and hard about what I wanted for my book. I’m biased of course, but I knew it was a polished, funny, marketable book (it wouldn’t have had two offers to publish it already if it wasn’t). Not wanting to sell myself short, and feeling like I had nothing to lose, I submitted COMMUNITY KLEPTO to She Writes Press, after reading that it took the prize of Independent Publisher of the Year in 2019. I also started aggressively querying other publishers and agents, not letting the sun set on a day where I submitted less than two queries.

A couple months later, I woke up to an email from She Writes Press saying they wanted to publish COMMUNITY KLEPTO. Today, I made it official and signed the contract, making me She Writes Press’s newest author! COMMUNITY KLEPTO will be released sometime in the Spring of 2022 (hopefully by then, things like in-person book signings and launch parties won’t be frowned upon by the CDC).

It goes without saying that applying my signature to a book deal is the easy part and now 18 months of hard work begins to bring my newest book into this world, and I guess it also means that I’m finally going to have to go back to my hair salon since my last cover photo is now a decade old. Mask up, stay safe, and follow along on my ride as a SWP author.

About She Writes Press:

She Writes Press is an independent publishing company founded to serve members of SheWrites.com, the largest global community of women writers online, and women writers everywhere. She Writes Press is both mission-driven and community-oriented, aiming to serve writers who wish to maintain greater ownership and control of their projects while still getting the highest quality editorial help possible for their work.

In 2014, SheWrites.com and She Writes Press became part of SparkPoint Studio, LLC, creating a powerful combination that no other hybrid publisher brings to the table, including a strong editorial vision; traditional distribution; two award-winning hybrid imprints (She Writes Press and SparkPress); and an in-house marketing and publicity team through its publicity division, BookSparks. The SparkPoint Studio family is a female-run company with a strong vision, passion, and work ethic. In 2019, She Writes Press was named Indie Publisher of the Year.

– She Writes Press 2020
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New flash fiction piece!

My mind, like everyone’s right now, has been a swirling cesspool trying to process everything that’s going on in the world right now. The cesspool, mixed with a recent-ish encounter with my own children in a grocery store, spurned me to write this flash fiction piece which is now featured in the Rose City Sisters short fiction site. It feels so good to be writing and querying in the midst of the world going a new flavor of batshit crazy every day.

Enjoy! https://www.rosecitysisters.com/the-black-baby-by-kelly-i-hitchcock/

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2019 in review, author goals for 2020!

In 2019, I had only one writing goal – it was to get serious about submitting Community Klepto for publication and secure a book deal for it. On January 1, I hit the ground running and sent three query submissions. Then, I finally marked an item off my to-do list that had been on there for FAR too long; I dumped GoDaddy and (with the help of my husband who is way smarter than me) stood up hosting for my website myself and gave the website a little facelift. Before the end of January, a publisher wanted to see the full manuscript. Before I knew it, I had my first offer from the same publisher. I thought to myself, holy crap! How could it be this easy?!

Well, it wasn’t. The proposal was with a hybrid publisher who, while selective, required a pretty hefty investment on the part of the author. As attractive as the offer was, I said I wasn’t ready to commit to it yet. I told myself that if 2019 came to a close and I didn’t have any other prospects, I’d go back to the table and take the deal. Over the next 6 months, I sent over 20 more query submissions, one of which I didn’t hear back from until the last day of the year, and it was one of the three I’d sent on January 1! (That’s got to be some record.)

In July, I got a response back from another publisher. This one was local, a small but traditional independent press. The acquisitions editor and I sat down for coffee (outside, in August, in Austin… it gets hot in August in Austin). We discussed possibilities for Community Klepto, shook hands, and decided to move forward! This year, my primary goal is of course to put in the work to bring Community Klepto to market. We’re still editing, and there’s no date yet, but I’m excited about working with Lit City Press to make this book happen! Outside of Community Klepto, I have the following goals:

  • Write one poem per month. Even if they’re terrible Vogon poems. I only wrote one all year in 2019, and I need to do more.
  • Read 20 books. The first book I finished this year was Educated by Tara Westover. Technically I started it in 2019 but I’ll count it.
  • Publish a poem or short story in a literary journal. I did a decent amount of querying in 2019, but my material is so old, I need to get more works into the pipeline. I haven’t been featured in a journal since 2015!
  • Write a new short story. I have no idea what I’m going to write about – maybe returning PJ Masks toothbrushes to the grocery store because they were the wrong character.

Lots to come in 2020! Hope y’all will be along for the ride…

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COMMUNITY KLEPTO is officially happening!

I started writing this silly humor piece about a sociopath who stole from people at her gym way back when my gym was a community center in Mission, Kansas – before I moved to Austin, before I birthed two humans at the same time, before my hip joints started hating stairs. What started as a silly short story turned into a concept for my first long-form novel (I’d grown so comfortable with the short story collection form, writing novels seemed like it wasn’t really for me). I finished writing the book in the middle of a severe thunderstorm, workshopped the chapters while I was in my second trimester with the twins, finished editing it while toys were being thrown at my head, and sent queries after singing the good night song one last time.

Today I’m ridiculously excited (and a little proud) to announce that what started as this silly short story will soon be a novel called Community Klepto thanks to Austin-based independent publisher Lit City Press. I’m honored that they’ve chosen to take a chance on me and my work, and eager to work with them to get this book on shelves in 2020. The ink’s just dried on this little deal, so this journey is just starting and I hope my readers will follow it with me!

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Authors, your query is your book’s dating profile

I put off writing my query letter for Community Klepto for way too long. After all, it feels almost reductive to turn years (many years, in my case) worth of work into a three-paragraph sales pitch some acquisitions editor at a publishing house who doesn’t give a crap about my work. It IS reductive. And it’s hard. But it’s also necessary, and will make or break you as an author. So, I made myself sit down and do it.

On some advice from the brilliant Rachelle Gardner, I pulled a couple of my favorite books off the shelf and took a look at the back cover. I was able to get a few lines out but still struggled with how to write about myself. At one time in;  my life, I had a side job as a freelance writer, doing other people’s online dating profiles, so I am intimately familiar with people not being good at writing about themselves. The more I spun my wheels with writing my query, the more I felt like I was trying to write an online dating profile…

So I did just that. I started applying the same principles that I employed as a profile writer to my query; and you know what? It worked. I was able to step out of my hamster wheel and actually come up with a pitch that was worth a damn. The more I thought about it, the more convinced I became that the query letter was really just a dating profile for my book. So if you’re struggling with how to write a really good query, try applying some of these dating profile writing techniques –

ADJECTIVE LISTS, NO.

No one wants to read a dating profile that’s just list of boring adjectives that you think describes you. Likewise, no publisher wants to hear you talk about how your book is visceral, humorous, horrifying and uplifting. It’s just not convincing. What is convincing, though, is humor that comes through in your voice when you talk about your book’s plot, its characters, its setting.

PAINT A PICTURE

Reading is an experience. A publisher can’t get a feel of what that experience will be like for a reader if you don’t give it to them in your query. Rather than describe or summarize your work, paint a picture of what it’s like to be inside your book. Pick out a specific scene or character trait that can take the place of those boring lists of adjectives you’re supposed to be avoiding.

KEEP IT SHORT

Yes, publishers and agents read for a living. That doesn’t mean they want to open a query submission only to be confronted by a wall of text. Keep your query to three paragraphs – four max. Here I employ another freelance writing gig’s strategies: Groupon. First paragraph, introduce the concept and create an experience the publisher can be a part of. Second paragraph, tell the publisher what they’re buying if they get your book. Third paragraph, talk about you. You have to do it at some point and this keeps the focus on the work. (Of course, these rules are completely different for non-fiction authors.

Of course there is a lot more advice on query letter writing out there, but the dating profile strategy really helped me make my query into something I can be confident putting in front of publishers and agents. Now I just have to actually do that… stay tuned.

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