Chasing Sylvia Beach by Cynthia Morris
A self-published book launch is no easy feat. Beyond the people you know and meet, who will buy your book? How will you get more people to know about it and share your creation, your passion, your ideas, your fire, your baby with the world?
Cynthia Morris decided to get personal.
It was a lot of work, but it was worth it. Her journey started in 1995 when she was working as a bookseller in an independent bookstore in Denver, Colorado. Having had a life-long interest in Paris, Cynthia learned about a young bookseller of the 1930s named Sylvia Beach, who opened and ran an independent bookstore in Paris during the height of a tormented and tumultuous literary era. Cynthia dove in and learned everything she could about Sylvia. What interested Cynthia most was how a young America expatriate survived as a businesswoman in the face of extreme uncertainty; Sylvia was a heroine to Cynthia.
At first, Cynthia thought she would write a play. A movie. But it didn’t work out. She switched to a novel format and went through 17 drafts and trips through Paris and Europe to find the inspiration and motivation to write. She even suffered a scare when her computer died right after completing the draft she needed to send to her agent!
A caveat: Cynthia is an interesting author because in her other life, she is a full-time writers’ coach. Her audience was already primed with budding artists not unlike herself and she relishes teaching her clients based on personal experience. She only uses models in her practice that she has tested on herself. And yet, it was hard for Cynthia to write this book. It took her 13 years. There were A LOT of drafts. There were times when she wanted to quit. And she isn’t afraid to admit it. She serves as inspiration to other authors to persevere, whatever it takes. Not unlike her heroine. In effect, Cynthia became the modern-day Sylvia Beach.
Back to the book launch. So, after many ups and downs, sheer grit and incredible determination, Cynthia had a novel. Unfortunately, her agent wasn’t able to find her a publisher, so she opted to self-publish. Better to have it under her control anyway.
It was very clear to Cynthia that the reason she had made it through the past 13 years, reached the moment where she could hold a physical novel in her hands, say she was an author and novelist, was because of the support of her close friends. And she had many. So it was important to her to show gratitude and get personal. She started her launch by giving. To increase interest in her novel, she gave away the first five chapters online through her website and promoted through social networks such as Facebook, Goodreads and LinkedIn. If people started reading, she hoped they wouldn’t be able to stop; they would have to buy the book!
The giveaway led up to the limited edition launch. But ordering the limited edition didn’t just mean you got the book in your hands earlier than everyone else. It meant you received a hand-wrapped and stamped book in the mail, complete with an invitation created by Cynthia herself to join a reading at Shakespeare and Company in Paris, 1937. Cynthia took you back in time, creating an aesthetic around the book that mimicked the setting of the words themselves. She wanted to make you feel like you were there. Like you were a part of it. She wanted to take you inside her world, to connect with you.
To let people know about this special VIP treatment, she posted pictures on Facebook. She created a timeline on her Facebook page that took people through her journey writing the book, which was appropriate for her audience of writers. She documented her day-to-day leading up to the public launch to keep people in the loop. She exuded excitement and transferred that authentically to her fans. She wanted them to be a part of it all because they had been a part of it all along. She created a limited edition so irresistible, there was never any reason not to buy. Price wasn’t even a factor, because you can’t put a price on creativity, passion and love.
At Cynthia’s launch party, she mentioned how the independent bookstore environment inspired her. She sees it as a place to not only escape, but also connect, learn, grow and be happy. So she created her own bookstore environment, combining her artistic talents with her grand vision.
And guess what. She sold out her limited edition.
What was interesting about Cynthia’s launch was that she did not meet her Facebook fan goal. But what she did meet was a loyal tribe building around her that was interested in what she was doing and willing to support. There might not have been 1,000 of them, but they were all right there with her, just like she wanted. They helped her spread the word, increase the reach of her message and sell more books. They helped her just like she helped them by inspiring.
You see, it was never about the book. It was about embodying the qualities of one Ms. Sylvia Beach and serving as an inspiration to writers in the modern-day chaos of publishing, living and thriving as an artist, creator and generous, loving human being.
Full Disclosure: Cynthia Morris is a client and friend.
Photo credit: Rich Wagner