It’s the question President Jed Bartlet always asks after every crisis gets resolved on The West Wing. And it’s the question you’ll be asked in nearly every interview and conversation you’ll have while promoting your current book. Your agent will ask. So will your publisher. You’ll get asked at conventions and conferences. Film and TV producers interested in your current project will also ask, “What’s next?”
Your readers will, too. And they’re not just asking about your next book or project. They want to know where and when you’ll be appearing and reading next.
One mistake writers often make is they stop promoting their book after its launch date. This is a huge mistake. It’s been over a year since Flutter, Volume One was published, but sales continue to increase. I still get interview requests. The book continues to be reviewed.
Sometimes writers make the opposite mistake. They stop working on their next book and only promote their current one.
You must continue to promote your current book AND work on your next one. It’s not as difficult as it sounds. Find a rhythm that works for you. Consider promoting your current project a break from working on the new one. Consider writing your new book a refuge, solace from promoting the current one.
For me, I’m 50% extroverted and 50% introverted, so doing readings and attending conventions to promote current projects fulfills the extrovert in me, while writing something new satisfies the introvert. I love planning events, so organizing launch parties and readings is something that I enjoy. I prefer promoting one event at a time so I plan events about a month apart, but you might prefer doing several dates close together that can be promoted in one press release. Or you might hate to travel so skyping with book clubs around the globe is the thing for you.
Don’t be overwhelmed by the options. Gravitate to the one that works for you. Find the rhythm and method that goes with your personality and your writing schedule. The great thing about promotion is you can do it at any time. Tweets and posts can be scheduled in advance. Emails and press releases can be written at two in the morning. You can choose when to do an interview or podcast. You can pick which conferences to attend.
It also helps to have different projects at different stages. As the publication date for A Boy Like Me approached, I began to focus on the publication schedule for Flutter Volume Two: Don’t Let Me Die Nervous, the second graphic novel in the Flutter series with artist Jeff McComsey. It will make its debut at a comic convention in 2015. That’s the ‘what’s next’ for my projects.
After the Boston launch party for A Boy Like Me, I organized a reading for myself and other writers who attended New York Comic Con in October. What’s next for events? A Chicago dance party for A Boy Like Me on Nov. 6 to benefit the Chicago Women’s Health Center.
Again, it’s not as difficult as it sounds. The more you put your work out there, the more the answer to what’s next will come organically. You’ll be invited to participate in conventions and conferences. You’ll be asked to be on panels and lead seminars. Book clubs will want to host you. Organizations and bookstores will ask you to do readings. You’ll also find fellow writers and artists to collaborate with on a variety of projects. You’ll be surrounded by your tribe, a community of kindred spirits who not only inspire and support you, but often times, thorough collaboration and invitation; they will give you the answer to “What’s next?”