Happy Friday!! Thanks to TLC Book Tours and author Daniel Maunz for sending a copy of Questions of Perspective, available now!
Paperback: 243 Pages
Publisher: Black Rose Writing (May 14, 2020)
Synopsis: No one knew it at the time, but April 19, 2011, was the most important day in the history of the world.
After his only friend and colleague, John Manta, disappears without a word, Dave Randall further entrenches himself in the humdrum life of an unenthusiastic lawyer. But once he begins to understand what happened, he embarks on a journey to uncover the deeper meanings and implications of John’s fate.
Accompanied by Peaches the cat, Dave uproots his life and reinvents himself in the midst of his search. Along the way, he is haunted by his piecemeal understanding of John’s fate and what it means for his existence. Little does Dave know, his journey of self-discovery will have ramifications that extend far beyond the borders of his own little life.
Welcome to the blog, Daniel Maunz!
I am a better writer than I am a salesperson.
I do not intend that, in any way, as bragging about my writing prowess. I simply mean that my journey as an author stemmed from a belief that I have stories in me that are worthy of putting to paper and sharing with others. The secondary question of whether I could convince people to actually read those stories … that did not pop up on my radar until it was way too late.
By way of background, I set out to write a novel in mid-2015, after a change in careers left me with the time and energy to finally do some creative writing on the side. I spent two years writing whenever I could, whether it was jotting down notes while taking the train to work or staying up late to write after my wife had gone to bed. Progress was slow, but the development of the story was always on my mind. It was a wonderful project for an introvert – an excuse to languish in my own head for hours at a time. Idle moments that would normally allow anxiety and depression to seep in were replaced with creative energy: Should that be the end of a chapter or just a section break? How would that character react to being called out as a fraud in that manner? How can I wrap up that other character’s arc? Writing a novel was a joyful experience that transformed the way I viewed the world and guaranteed that I would not have to deal with a moment of boredom until the story was finished. I relished any time I found for myself where I could just type away, playing with words until the vision in my noggin’ came out the way I wanted on the page. A true introvert’s dream.
I frantically finished what came to be titled Questions of Perspective in 2017 after learning that our first child would be arriving in December of that year, anticipating (correctly) that the presence of a new baby would not be conducive to writing. After months of querying and editing, I finally found a publisher for my novel – Black Rose Writing – who agreed in mid-2019 to publish my book, with a release date of May 14, 2020. And all was wonderful with the world.
Reality seems to have a way of dragging me back down to earth when I am flying too high, and that happened last December – about six months before the release date – when I received four boxes of advance review copies (or ARCs) ofQuestions of Perspective with the expectation that I would find reviewers to actually read and discuss it. Although writing can be nirvana for an introvert, finding people – predominantly strangers – and convincing them to read something I wrote did not seem like something that would mesh with my inherent shyness.
After staring helplessly at my boxes of books for some time, the fear of allowing a novel I had worked on for nearly four years to gather dust, unread, prevailed over my social anxieties, and I set out to try to find participants willing and able to give my book an honest look. I believe the technical term for the marketing strategy I ultimately adopted is “floundering.” I operated under the (possibly naive) belief that if I found people willing to read my book, then (1) a good chunk of them would like it; (2) those people would tell others about it; and (3) word of mouth would spread. All I had to do was get that ball rolling. As it turned out, it was not a “ball” at all—it was a boulder. One that apparently had to be pushed uphill.
I first started by offering fifteen free copies of my book to interested readers via a giveaway on Goodreads. I sat around excitedly for over a week, eager for the winners to be announced so that I could ship copies of my book to eager readers. When I finally received the list of winners, with their addresses, I stayed up late into the night, putting together packages containing a copy of the novel with handwritten notecards for each winner, thanking them for their interest in the book and asking them politely to consider leaving a review after reading it. The next day I raced to the post office with an armful of bundles to mail and, after waiting in a long line of customers shipping Christmas gifts, finally sent my book out into the world. From there, I would regularly and anxiously checked online for any mention of Questions of Perspective – a review, a reference to the pretty cover. Anything.
Finally, a Google search revealed something new: a listing offering to sell a “new” copy of Questions of Perspective for the listed cover price.
A few weeks later, I was at my in-laws’ house, randomly checking Goodreads, and I noticed that there was finally one published review for Questions of Perspective. A woman, who was one of the winners in the Goodreads’ giveaway, had left the first review (and a five star review at that!) She mentioned in her review being a bit reluctant to read a random book from an unknown author, but being moved (somewhat out of pity, it seemed) to do so in light of the handwritten note that I had included for her. Having made clear that her expectations were appropriately low going in, the reviewer went on to say that she “loved” the book.
I was ecstatic. I ran around the house with my phone, trying not to show any impatience at my in-laws’ struggle to read the small font of the review. I felt a bit guilty at feeling such joy from another’s validation; that seems like a bad habit to get into in general. It is just that while I obviously set out to write the best novel that I could (one that I would enjoy reading myself), I was too close to the story to really be able to gauge its merit (or lack thereof). I had no hopes that the novel would be universally adored – I don’t think it is possible to craft a story that will earn unanimous praise – but it was extremely cathartic to finally get confirmation that it was possible for someone to connect with the story. Is one person an absurdly small sample size? Sure. But still – it was someone.
In a perfect world, this first reviewer would have been one of the most popular people in the world, and word of Questions of Perspective would have spread from there. But that was extremely unlikely, so I set out to do something very much against my nature: contact reviewers and ask them to read my book, while trying to maintain some semblance of dignity in the process.
The good news is that there are a lot of people out there who are more than happy to discuss books they’ve read on blogs and Instagram. Unfortunately (at least, for the purposes of finding people to read my novel), there seem to be even more authors floating about, looking to accumulate reviews for their own books. So the question I faced became: “How do I convince strangers to read a random book from a debut author?”
My strategy, once again, was a bit of floundering. I knew I could not send soliciting emails ranting about how wonderful my book was. That seemed analogous to creating a Match.com profile with the headline: “Trust me! I’m not creepy!” I have also seen (and heard about) some authors simply playing a numbers game, by essentially spamming hundreds (if not thousands) of reviewers with a cut and paste request to read their book, in the hope that even a small response rate would generate a significant number of reviews. I was not comfortable with that approach either. My self-esteem isn’t always great, but I do long to be more than “spam.”
Setting out to be fairly selective in who I reached out to, I proceeded under the assumption that reviewers with literary tastes similar to my own were the best place to start. I tried to customize my review requests to each particular reviewer, which was fairly time consuming and required a great deal of time studying the “About Me” section of various blogs. It was an interesting challenge, trying to lay out why a stranger should feel compelled to give my book a try. “I noticed that you adored Life of Pi; my novel is also a bit of metaphysical fiction you may enjoy.” Or: “I noticed your really coolGolden Girls shirt – the protagonist of my novel is also a huge Golden Girls fan!” (that one did not work). I explained to one reviewer, operating under the moniker of “The Backpacking Bookworm,” that there was an entire chapter in my novel where the narrator doesn’t do much except hike and read; I later realized that I had probably just described the most boring chapter ever written in the English language.
In the course of soliciting readers, I could not help but shake the fear that I was being somehow intrusive or pushy. Most of my emails ended with some form of apologetic language: “I”m sure you must be bombarded with these requests, but …” or “I know you must have a ton of books lined up to read, so I completely understand if you’re not in a position to take on a new one.” What I was doing – asking strangers to read my book – seemed incredibly nervy, but I did not see anyway around it.
Even though my customized solicitation approach did not yield a tremendous response rate, some reviewers were kind enough to give it a read with an open mind. I’ve noticed that there is a wonderful subset of reviewers who love to read indie books, or books by debut authors, in the hope of discovering a fresh voice in the literary world, and those were the reviewers I set out to find. I received my first such review from a blog called “Oh Just Books” early in the morning before I was about to embark on a move with my family from New York to South Carolina, and the beautiful write-up kept me fully charged mentally over the course of a fourteen hour drive with two cats and a two year old in the backseat. Shortly thereafter I received another positive review from Amanja Reads Too Much, who had stood out to me for her always insightful takes on books, and I took comfort in the fact that there appeared to be at least a possibility of there being some potential audience for my book.
Now, a few months out from my publication date, I am still trying to get the word out about this novel. The process is well outside of my comfort zone, but I do feel a drive to help the book find whatever audience it ultimately deserves (which is an open question). I don’t know whether the book’s fate is to one day make a best seller list, or only to generate a few hundred sales. But at the end of the day, I will be ok with whatever happens.
The one nugget of wisdom that I earned throughout this period where I was forced to shake off my introverted instincts and try to market a book is that success should not be defined by factors outside of my control. I ultimately can’t control whether a dozen people, or a thousand, choose to read Questions of Perspective – I can only account for my own actions. The simple act of writing a story, and actively setting out to have others read it, feels like success. So I will keep encouraging people to read it.
And, I dare to dream, hopefully maintain some semblance of dignity in the process.
Thank you to The OC Book Girl for inviting me to submit this guest post.
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