I’ve had two book launch events in the last two weeks: one in Chicago, one in New York City, both at indie bookstores. Both events had delicious cakes that looked like the book cover.
This book – Fag Hags, Divas and Moms: The Legacy of Straight Women in the AIDS Community – is very different than the Friend Grief series I wrote. It’s longer and more complicated, being published almost five years to the day after I first got the idea for it. My production team – editor, cover designer, interior designer – was different. I hired a publicist, for the first time ever. Like I said, very different.
But the biggest difference is that so many people were invested in this book. Starting on that Saturday night in September, 2015, when I first posted a tentative request on Facebook, people have come forward to offer any help they could. Some of them were women willing to be interviewed. Others were friends and strangers – so many strangers – who felt the book was long-overdue and offered research assistance. Some donated money to my crowdfunding campaigns. Others put me in contact with women to interview.
Writing is a solitary activity, but writing this book has been anything but solitary. All along the way, I’ve been fortunate to have those people with me. They encouraged me when I encountered serious roadblocks – a broken writing hand, my mother’s death – that stopped my progress on the book for months. From a wide variety of backgrounds, they offered critical feedback for my manuscript when I was just too close to it to be objective.
A lot of them showed up for my book launches. Six of the women in the book showed up – one in Chicago, five in New York – to celebrate. There were lots of smiles, lots of hugs and even a few tears. The tears were mine, because that’s how I respond when someone I admire says, “I’m proud of you.”
This book took a lot out of me, both physically and emotionally. And for the first time since I started writing, I worried what people would think about it. I wondered if the women in it would be proud or embarrassed.
So far, so good. The response has been positive, to put it mildly. It debuted as the #1 New Release in AIDS on Amazon. It’s getting attention offline as well, with invitations for speaking engagements.
My publicist has done a great job getting the book out there, but now it’s my job to keep it in the public eye. My marketing plan is a long-term one, not just the first couple of weeks. I’ll be popping up in interviews, freelance articles and guest posts over the next few months. My blog will feature the women I interviewed who did not make it into the book, so in the coming months, you’ll meet them, too.
It’s hard sometimes to enjoy what you’ve accomplished because you keep obsessing about what’s still on your to-do list. At least it’s hard for me. So I’m trying to take some time now to remember the hugs and smiles, to accept the compliments, to enjoy what has taken me five years to do: write a book that fills a gap not just in the history of the epidemic, but women’s history as well.
As for what’s next…I have no idea. For now, I’m just going to enjoy this and keep telling stories.