If sponsoring the Seattle Review of Books were a novel — starring you — how would it read? Maybe a bit like the chapter below, where debut novelist Angela discovers that the terror of the blank page is nothing like the terror of self-promotion.
Whether you're just building a public voice, like Angela, or looking for another tool to add to a successful marketing package, sponsoring SRoB will connect you to some of the most highly engaged readers and writers in Seattle's literary community. We've recently released a new block of fall and winter sponsorship opportunities, so move quickly to reserve the ideal spot for your promotion.
We love that this program brings Seattle's writers, readers, bookstores, and venues together — connecting people to books and events they're passionate about, and helping us bring great writing about books to our own readers every day.
Check out a sample chapter from our imaginary novel, The Sponsorship, to see just how good your book can look here. Then sign up for a slot before they're gone!
It was the best of tweets, it was the worst of tweets. Angela wrote and erased one after the other. Her first book, The Sighing (the name was a battle the publisher won after rejecting the title Gifted with Fidgets; the pre-release announcement was released on her 39th birthday, and ever since, her best friend Mika had started calling it The Sighing of Lot 39) was hitting shelves in four weeks, and she was paralyzed by fear of tweeting.
"Listen, you have to build up your social following," her agent told her. As a young author wannabe, Angela always figured her agent would be old and wise, with a beehive hairdo and aquiline nose, cat-eyed reading glasses on a gold chain perched at the end, but in fact, Rachel was young and beautiful, and her enviable Instagram account made her life appear straight out of a Beyoncé video, replete with a few hundred thousand followers. "You need buzz, buzz, buzz. You need to tweet. Just go be brilliant!"
Sounds easy. 140 characters of brilliance, on command. The novel took her six years, on and off, and not a word in it was considered less than a dozen times. But these (just under) twelve times twelve characters, which apparently are the key to her worldly success, were harder than her opening sentence ("If summer was a speed bump to Dierdre, as during school it seemed to be, then winter was open arms waiting to catch her after she fell through fall"). Which, she sussed by taking her ARC off the shelf and counting, was too long for a tweet. It was, though, exactly one dozen times one dozen characters. Maybe that's what they should have called the book. Exactly One Dozen Dozen. Or The Sighing Dozen.
Most of the tweets she wrote sounded, in form, like Seinfeld jokes — "Have you ever noticed that ... " — but were not clever enough to be humorous. Pictures of her food seemed vapid, and selfies with authors she admired, and occasionally had studied with, seemed self-aggrandizing. Was there no way she could publicize her work without it feeling shallow, commercial, or like outright begging?
She had set a goal of four tweets a day, two before lunch, and lunch was about to show up, thanks to Mika, who had a hankering for Paseo. Angela retweeted a link to a Margaret Atwood profile in the New Yorker before her friend showed up, and then tidied up her already ordered apartment to pass the time (and to keep her from seeing if she gained any likes, follows, or additional retweets).
Over a pork sandwich so messy that Angela laid out pages from the Seattle Weekly to protect her tablecloth, she told Mika of her trials.
"Well, it is writing, you know," Mika said. "And you did want to be a writer."
"I want to write novels. This is like writing bad jacket copy, and you only have one sentence."
"Then promote your book some other way! Look locally." Mika dropped her sandwich, nearly gone, and licked her fingers before sipping on her soda. "Doesn't the Seattle Review of Books have some kind of sponsorship program?"
It turns out, they did. For a pretty reasonable price, you could get a full chapter of your novel on the site for an entire week. The page had a nice design that was actually put together with reading online in mind. For a whole week, your book showed up next to all of their columns, their notes, their reviews. You weren't fighting with other sponsors — you had the whole site to yourself. And it was so easy to set up! You just paid up, and they took care of putting everything together. All Angela had to do was send over a copy of the first chapter, a bit of the promotional material her publicist had already pulled together, and where she wanted the sponsorship to link to. They took care of the rest.
The best part? Her sponsorship paid for the content she was appearing next to. It paid to hire columnists like Nisi Shawl and Daneet Steffens. It paid for the Poets in Residence, and it paid for the reviewers. It paid to keep the pixels lit, and it paid to keep the site operational. She was contributing to the book culture in her city, and in return, she was telling the people that made up that culture about her book.
But she still had to tweet, of course. She even dreamed about it. In her dream, she was an adult, but the size of a child, and she sat on an oversized gray microfiber couch. Next to her, on a giant's scale, was her Uncle Jake. He wore a brown nylon shirt with wide lapels, and his greased combover, exactly like she remembered it, ran his shiny head.
Bill was showing her a magic trick where he'd take a duck and close his hand around it to turn it into a pig, and he'd say "you can write a tweet about this, right?"
Then he'd take the pig and set it on fire, and it went up like flash paper, and he'd say "you can write a tweet about that, right?" And then he stood and tap danced, and said "you can write a tweet about tap dancing, right?"
It was so absurd she woke laughing. Jake was a lovely man. He was funny and kind, and even let her drink a beer with him when she was sixteen — and it wasn't creepy or weird, it was just...well, kind. It paid attention to what she was going through at the time, and what she could handle.
She picked up her phone, and before she could even think about it in the haze of waking, she tweeted "Had a dream about my dead Uncle Jake, a union welder, tap dancing and doing magic."
She got up and took a shower, and when done she was surprised to see five likes on the tweet. It wasn't even about anything. She wasn't pointing out something revolting about the president, or anything witty or clever. It was just a moment about her.
Okay. Moments about her she could handle. Not trying to be clever she just checked in during her day. "I cannot slice Manchego thin enough," she said. Boring, but who cares? It was an authentic moment. That one garnered no likes, but it did raise the count of tweets in her stream by one. More importantly, it freed her from the need to be perfect. Boring? She could do that. She could do better than that. She could be, at least, mildly interesting.
Maybe it wouldn't sell books, but the kind of people who liked the kind of tweets that best portrayed who she was would probably love her writing. If she was occasionally funny, or interesting, all the better. Maybe it's better to build authenticity than to build some sheen of falsity.
Once, a while back, she had told Mika, "I was walking down Pike this morning and I saw this girl with the most amazing handbag." Mika had replied, "I'm so glad my best friend is such a rich storyteller." So maybe she had to raise her game a bit, but starting with feeling real was a way into being interesting.
"My first book comes out in a month," she started one tweet. "And I want you all to love it." And then, as if it were an Everest she had to summit, she posted a picture of her lunch.