Writing A Book About Suicide Is One Thing: Getting People to Read It Is Quite Another

It’s not a summer read that you gobble down in a matter of hours while you lounge in the sun, sip your drink of choice, and, if you’re under 40, work on your tan.  (Actually, I see a lot of “older” women out there with the goal of turning a golden brown.  They’ll be sorry.  Trust me.)

I digress.  Maybe it’s my attempt to make a serious subject into a lighter one.  But there’s no way.  Teen suicide is serious: dead serious.  Whether we like it or not, our kids are attempting suicide and, sadly, completing suicide at record numbers.  Suicides among girls ages 15 to 19 reached a 40-year-high in 2015.  That number doubled between 2007 and 2015.  We can never know for sure, but the best estimates show that 5,240 teens attempt suicide every day.  More than 5,000 in grades seven through twelve die every year.

 

www.newshelves.com

When I hired NewShelves to help me promote Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide, head honcho Amy Collins (She’s the best!) was straight up with me: Bookstores are not your best bet.  Really?  I thought such an important topic at a time when teen suicide is rocking thousands and thousands of families, friends, and communities would be a bookseller’s must have.  “No,” said Amy.  “People just aren’t comfortable going into a bookstore and buying a book about suicide.”

 

I was sure she was wrong; sadly, she was not.  Libraries, she said, are the home for Dead Serious.  Again, she’s proven to be right.  Now, I don’t get the difference between taking out your library card and checking out a book or standing in front of a bookstore salesperson and buying a book.  I mean, neither knows you and is probably too busy multi-tasking to pay much attention.

But in this age of everything Amazon (or Kobo, Barnes&Noble, Kobo and the like), a reader can order a book online and either have the eBook format downloaded to their Kindle or other reader or have the actual book mailed to their home.  There is complete anonymity in such transactions.  (Maybe that’s why Dead Serious has been ranked in the Top Ten on Amazon in the Books > Teens > Social Issues > Suicide category since its publication at the end of January, 2018.  Yea!)

 

At this point, I’m going to plug away.  I’ve decided to focus on main libraries in major cities rather than market to a zillion smaller towns around the country.  NewShelves sent me an Excel sheet a million miles long with contact information for librarians who buy books to add to their collections.  It would take me the next year to get in touch with each one.  A Herculean task I’m not about to undertake.

No, teen suicide is not a happy subject.  Reading a book on the subject can be a challenge.  But Dead Serious revolves around the stories of teens in their own words, all kinds of strategies for breaking the cycle, song lyrics, and new chapters on bullying, LGBTQ teen, successful suicide prevention programs, and more.

Authors assume their work is done once they’ve birthed a new book and put it out into the universe.  The hard truth: their work has just begun.

 

 

 

THE NEW BOOK TOUR (For Us Mid-List Authors)

 

The Not-Quite End of the Book Tour

In 2015, author Noah Charney wrote a piece for The Atlantic in which he declared the author book tour gasping for air but not quite a relic of the past.

https://goo.gl/fs4eM3

In recent years, and especially since the recession of 2008, when author advances shrunk and publishing had to tighten its collective belt, one of the first things to go were book tours (not to mention the all-but-extinct beast called the “book release party”).
Charney was one of the “lucky” authors who still got to be sent on tour by his publisher.
But in this new, more austere era, publishers only regularly pay to send authors who are compelling public speakers, authors with large established audiences who are guaranteed to sell well and therefore cover expenses (the James Pattersons, Gary Shteyngarts, J.K. Rowlings, and so on), or authors with a high profile that extends beyond books (such as actors, athletes, comedians). Publishers might send the odd debut writer, in hopes of more media coverage, but it’s no longer a given.

Well, I, along with my fellow mid-list authors, don’t fall into the first, second or third category.  (Back in the day—I’m talking the late 1980s—I did do a book tour to promote the 1st edition of Dead Serious, a book for teens about teen suicide.  But I’d hired a publicist who picked up where the 20-something in-house publicists left off.  “Left off” is putting a positive spin on the work they did—or did not do.  These new college graduates were overwhelmed, asked to juggle a ton of books.  While they tackled their job with youthful enthusiasm, they didn’t know what the heck they were doing; hence, the necessity of paying for one’s own publicist.)

This time around, my enthusiasm was tempered by the sad reality that, to hire a media specialist who’d focus primarily on a book tour, was both too expensive and a shot in the dark.  Even though the timing for a 2nd edition of Dead Serious couldn’t have been “better,” I knew that without an M.D. or PhD. behind my name, I didn’t stand a chance of  making a media splash.  (Now if my mother were still alive, she’d probably have coughed up the necessary funds, convinced that surely the sister of her dead son had a lot to say and a big audience that would listen.)

So, what’s a mid-list author to do?  Give up?  Nope.  Not me.  I may be a realist but I’m not a quitter.

I searched the Internet, talked to other authors.  The solution: one of the unique online programs that, for a price far, far below what it costs to hire a publicist, arranged a virtual book tour:  “It’s not just a blog tour. It’s a social media experience.”

http://www.pumpupyourbook.com/

Hmm . .  . I don’t know about the “social media experience” deal, but over the course of a month, I guest blogged, had my book reviewed and/or had feature interviews on 16 book/author blogs.  In truth, Pump Your Book had the blog contacts and did the leg work.  I, on the other hand, spent a chunk of time writing unique guest blogs and answering interview questions.

When I started the “tour”, the paperback version of Dead Serious ranked #2 on the Amazon  Books > Teens > Social Issues > Suicide key word string.  The Kindle version ranked #6.

For a day or two during the “tour,” the book reached #1 and never ranked below #6 again.  Today, almost two months since publication, the book stands tall at #2.  (In truth, the  raking can go up based on the sale of a single book.)

So, was the “tour” a success?  I’d have to answer “yes.”  It sustained interest when many books lose their readership after the blush of initial success.

Now, the trick is to figure out how to keep those cards and letters coming.  Stay tuned.

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT TEENS

I spent a year talking to teens (and teachers and experts, too) about their lives—what makes them tick, the stresses they face, their “take” on the world in which they live.

All of this talk as I revised and updated Dead Serious: Breaking The Cycle of Teen Suicide. 

Since the publication of the book in late January, I’ve done a fair amount of guest blogging, media interviews in both print and radio, and a lot of posting and tweeting.  I worked with a PR group that charged too much money for what they accomplished.  And I’m currently working with NewShelves, a marketing group that specializes in marketing to libraries and bookstores.

http://www.newshelves.com/

Oh, and PumpYourBook.com set up a virtual blog tour.

https://www.google.com.mx/search?q=pump+up+your+book&rlz=1C1MKDC_enUS771US771&oq=Pump+UP+Your+Boo&aqs=chrome.1.69i57j0l5.9729j0j7&sourceid=chrome&ie=UTF-8

In an interview posted on She Writes, I was asked what I learned about teens during the research for Dead Serious.  The question caught me by surprise for a brief moment.  It shouldn’t have.

https://www.shewrites.com/blog/view/2841380/a-conversation-with-jane-mersky-leder-one-out-of-five-teens-have-thoughts-of-suicide

5 THINGS I’VE LEARNED ABOUT TEENS

  • Today’s teens live in what some have dubbed “The Age of Anxiety.”  They face stressors that their parents and many young adults didn’t face: extreme academic pressure, social media, bullying from which there is no safe place to hide, pressure to grow up fast (more significantly for girls) and magically be as emotionally mature as the way they look. 1 out of 5 teens have severe problems with self-esteem, feelings of failure, alienation, loneliness, lack of confidence, and thoughts of suicide. (CDC)
  • I learned about the additional obstacles LGBTQ teens face.  On top of all the normal challenges of adolescence, gay teens may be forced to deal with physical and emotional abuse, rejection by family, increased drug and alcohol use, homelessness, unwanted outing and, yes, a suicide attempt rate 4 times that of “straight” teens.
  • I learned how teens can help other teens by listening, showing that they care about a friend’s problems.  Most importantly, teens should be encouraged to seek a trusted adult who can help connect a troubled friend to a trained professional.
  • I learned how important and effective it can be for schools to adopt proven suicide prevention programs.  The most successful work from the ground up with students paving the way.  These programs train peer mentors who are “on the job” for at least a year.
  • I learned how resilient today’s teens can be.  With the support of parents, teachers, therapists (sometimes medication) and friends, they have the inner goods to pull back from the brink and understand that things do get better.  It’s just a matter of time.

https://goo.gl/3WYf84

https://www.kobo.com/us/en/ebook/dead-serious-4

https://www.barnesandnoble.com/w/dead-serious-jane-mersky-leder/1127865718?ean=9781946229533

https://itunes.apple.com/us/book/dead-serious/id1320643627?mt=11

https://www.goodreads.com/list/show/14872.Best_Books_That_Deal_With_Suicide