Making “The Lists”

September 5, 2012 by · Leave a Comment 

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Midnight on Julia StreetYou’ve heard the line “I was an overnight success after twenty-five years?”  Well, that certainly applied to yours truly when I received an email early in the summer from my publicist at Sourcebooks/Landmark .  “Great news!” chortled Beth Pehlke.  “Your book Midnight on Julia Street is going to be a Nook Daily Find August 24th!”  The price would be dropped to $1.99 that day as a way of encouraging new readers to discover a bargain novel by Ciji Ware…and hopefully  be inspired to buy my other books at full price.

I figured that was very nice and put it in my electronic date book to remind myself to go online to have a look when the date rolled around and post something on my Facebook Author Page–and then promptly forgot about it.

Much to my astonishment, by noon on the 24th,  Midnight on Julia Street  (a book published originally in 1999 and reissued in June of 2011) “opened” in the #2 slot on the Barnes & Noble list that day…and a few hours later was #1!  I checked that title on Amazon, and lo-and-behold, the price had dropped to $1.99 there, too.  Now I had a nice “come on” book on both big online sites. It was exciting for an author who’d written eight books, only one of which made a few city lists like the Los Angeles Times for a few weeks, and another on an Extended List (above the 100 mark)–but never anything “national.”

Then, exactly a week later, my cell phone rang on Thursday, August 30th, and my editor, Deb Werksman said excitedly, “Julia Street has made the USA Today Bestsellers List at #54!” Soon my writer friend Peter Lerangis from New York posted on Facebook that I should definitely be doing the Happy Dance as this list is a “bar code” compilation of every book in America that was sold last week, including cookbooks, self-help, nonfiction, “coffee table books,” and–yes–fiction.  “This is serious stuff,” said he.

The following day, Friday August 31, my cell phone rang again, and I swear, when I saw it was Deb Werksman calling for the second time in two days, my heart stopped and I thought, “They made a mistake…I didn’t actually make USA Today…” and she’s calling to break the news.

“Why would your editor call two days in a row?” she asked, and I could hear the excitement in her voice. Not waiting for my guess, she announced, “Julia Street made TWO lists in the New York Times this week! You’re #18 on the New York Times Bestsellers e-book list, right after Stephen King and you’re #27 on the combined e-book and print list between James Patterson and Danielle Steele!”

What???!!!”

I was having coffee at Poggio’s–a wonderful trattoria that serves great Italian java in the mornings– with my dog walking group, and I think my screams shattered a few cups of foaming lattes, to say nothing of nearly scaring my Cavalier King Charles spaniel, Ensign Aubrey, witless. Fortunately, I was smiling and doing a jig, so everyone there assumed no one had died.  I told my walking pals what had just happened and they told everyone else while I danced around the outdoor bistro tables, trying to hear what else Deb was saying about such wonderful news.

Later that day, author pals from all over the country started posting my happy news.  Then the site Goodreads posted my announcement and a bunch of other readers and authors weighed in.

What struck me, when I finally calmed down, was that we are in a totally new world as authors.  For the first time in history, there is very little standing between an author and her readers and a book like Midnight on Julia Street never really “goes out of print” anymore. Here it is, eleven years after its first edition, making the all-important New York Times & USA Today lists for the first time!  Thanks to the Internet and online book sales, a novel that had a modest distribution in print back in the day can always–given a late-life electronic push–find new audiences that, in this case, were attracted by the price (a bargain); by New Orleans (the setting) during a week when Hurricane Isaac was bearing down on the Gulf Coast; by their love of good music and food (which play a secondary role in the plot); and by a media-based story (faintly autobiographical) about a tired, worn-out television reporter who successively gets fired from her on-camera jobs for –gasp!–telling the truth.

Talk about a shot-in-the-arm for a tired novelist and “recovering” TV and radio journalist!

Now, each morning since Deb Werksman’s calls, I cannot wait to put the seat of my pants on the chair and my hands on the keyboard. “Making the Lists” for the first time is truly inspirational for a writer who’s been in this game a very long time….

 

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