Writing and releasing a book that actually has a market feels very different

My book, We Are Totally Normal, is starting to be out there in the world! It’s not being released until March 31, 2020, but review copies are already available to book bloggers, and we had the cover reveal a few weeks ago. So far the experience has been pretty different from the similar stage for my last book.

My last book was a lead title from Disney, meaning it got a pretty big marketing push. It got plenty of press and was well-received. But I don’t know that readers actually responded to it. I think that at the time we were at the end of the thriller wave in YA, and we were at the height of the craze for anti-heroes in prestige TV (Breaking Bad was entering its final season), and my publishers felt like maybe Reshma would meet the same need in teen readers that anti-hero characters (including the numerous sociopaths that populate the recent spate of domestic thrillers) fill for adults.

This was not how I viewed the book at all. I never thought of Reshma as an anti-hero, for one simple reason: I just don’t think cheating in school is that bad. I mean, cheating in school is like slacking off at your corporate job instead of doing your work. One can make the theoretical case that it’s wrong, but in actually you’re just a tiny part of a massive machine, and you owe absolutely nothing to the forces in charge.

Needless to say, few agreed with me. The most charitable readings saw this as being akin to a crime novel. A tale about someone with some admirable traits who at some point went wrong.

Anyway, that’s beside the point. What I’m saying is that when Enter Title Here had its cover reveal, people were intrigued, but approximately nobody was like, “I NEED TO READ THIS BOOK.”

With We Are Totally Normal, the response has been much stronger. People are like, I need this, I want this, this is the kind of book that I look to read and to buy. It’s nice!

I didn’t write the book the book to market. But it’s nice to know that there is a market!

And I think that, if anything, when readers actually open the book, they’ll find that it really does fill a yearning inside them. I think there are a lot of teens (and adults!) out there with complicated feelings about their own sex and gender, and that my book gets at those things in a way no other book has. The thing I love hearing the most from readers is that it feels like I’ve writing about them, as if I’m narrating their secret feelings, the things they’ve never told anyone.

Readers have told me about almost the sense of embarrassment that comes from the sense that the book is reading them, and that they are now exposed on the page. I love that! If there’s anything I go for in my books, it’s to write down the things people already knew, but didn’t know they knew. Because there are so many things like that!!! Sometimes it feels like we’re all engaged in writing pastiches of other stories, when, in the world around us, literally almost every story about the human heart still remains to be told.