Where Angels Walk: Keeping Your Book in Print

Joan Wester Anderson

This month one of my books, Where Angels Walk, is celebrating its 20th year in print.  I wondered if this was a rare occurrence, and asked a fellow ASJA member.  She promised to look into it, but also suggested I share some of my successful writing tips with our membership.  

Successful tips?  At first I couldn’t come up with any. Basically, I’d become a writer because I couldn’t think of another way to earn a second income.  If my five children had stopped eating for a week (or even an afternoon), if our “handyman special” house had come with a handyman, I might have chucked the whole idea.   Instead I committed myself to one daily writing hour for one year, no matter how loudly the kids pounded on the back door. (and that’s the first tip—commitment. )  Here are a few more:

No sale is too small.  My first literary attempt was a guest column in our local paper. It paid me a $25 savings bond ($17.25 if cashed right away which I certainly did).  More bonds followed, as did articles on potty training.  Better to keep busy, I decided, than to wait for the perfect proposal.

Include the Kids.   Depending on your accountant’s opinion, you may be able to put a kid or two on the family payroll, to shop for computer supplies, pick up pizzas or drop you at the airport. (A day later, someone will ask, “Where’s Mom?”)  You can also teach the kids how to rearrange bookstore displays so Mom’s covers all face front.

Build a mailing list.  I threw away nice letters from readers before realizing that these folks were my most faithful buyers.  Now I keep in touch via email announcements.  Takes time, but when you’re sitting at your autograph table with only the maintenance man to talk to—-and then several of your readers burst through the front door, excited about meeting YOU!—there’s no feeling like it.

Develop Side Specialties.  I wrote family articles and books, then sent resumes to women’s clubs for possible speakers’ dates, an obvious spinoff.  Later, I taught occasional publishing classes and even had a proofreader gig, jobs originally suggested by experts in the fields.  “I can do that!” I’d say, then race through research to learn what “that” was.

Years of mediocre accomplishments passed, and when the last child graduated from college, and I placed what I thought would be my last manuscript, I had no illusions.

But something was different this time.  Where Angels Walk unexpectedly ushered in a wave of popularity; it mushroomed into an eight-book series, and stayed for over a year on the New York Times bestseller list.

Was it perfect timing?  Computers?  I’ll probably never know.  But I do believe that what goes around comes around.  And that may be the best tip of all.