A Mouse can Dream
What does it feel like to have a first book out? Well, great, of course. But maybe it would have felt greater if I’d done a better job at managing my hopes and expectations for Mousenet before it was published, in November, 2011.
Yes, there were times in the run-up to publication when I thought the book might sink without trace. But at other times I couldn’t help giving way to “What ifs.” Couldn’t help noticing how some books by unknown authors rocket up in the charts. Couldn’t avoid seeing that word ‘debut’ in rave reviews. At Costco I even found myself visualizing Mousenet in their book section, selling in the millions–but why stop there? I imagined it boxed in a gift set with all its sequels, just like The Hunger Games.
It did nothing to dampen my hopes when a half-page article about me appeared in the San Jose Mercury News. It helped even less when the Merc reporter e-mailed to say that a Hollywood studio had been in touch with him, trying to find me.
And I had an extra reason for thinking my book might perhaps cause more of a stir than most. My mice, who have evolved and become computer-literate, slow down the rate of climate change. Shouldn’t that have got the book banned in a few southern school districts or libraries? And launched me into, say, an interview on NPR, or denunciation by right-wing commentators?
Fame, I was ready for my close-up. As one of my characters says, ‘A mouse can dream.’
It didn’t happen. No NPR. No attacks by Rush Limbaugh. No reviews in the mainline press. No movies (Hollywood decided it was too like Ratatouille.)
True, I had an excellent fifteen minutes of fame locally, finding at my launch party that I loved talking to a roomful of people. I wanted more–but more was hard to come by. For one thing (after saying, ‘we think this will be a big book for us’) Hyperion-Disney did nothing that I could detect in the way of promotion or publicity. Local children’s bookstores weren’t interested in hosting an event for an unknown. And schools? It took more than a year to arrange for a couple to invite me.
Mousenet sold quite well in its first Christmas season, then settled down to ‘chug along,’ as my editor put it, heading into a steady decline over the next year.
True, that year did bring experiences that were priceless. I was invited to make a few appearances–mostly in front of other writers–which helped me realize how very lucky I was to have a book out at all. Then there were the comments from kids themselves, who don’t hold back. Nineteen exclamation points. Seventy six. The best book ever. The second best book ever. If you haven’t read Mousenet you haven’t lived. Kids telling me that they were in pain, aching for a sequel.
This enthusiasm renewed my desire to push my book out there, to get it under the noses of more readers. If it had been my real child, instead of a virtual one, this was the point at which I would have paid for tutoring. For a book, that translated into trying to create a buzz on the Internet.
Not that easy, as I found out. I did try my hand at tweeting, and collected a few followers (two of whom tweet in Norwegian). I also found my way onto some climate-change sites, which gave the book nice reviews. But after a nice little spike in sales when the paperback came out, Mousenet resumed its steady decline.
I was on vacation in the Middle East when–without any help from me–Mousenet went off to Florida, made friends with people of influence, and got itself nominated for the Sunshine State Young Readers Award of 2014. And this, as Ginny knows, is a big deal (she won the YA award this year with her great Lost in the River of Grass). Weekly sales of Mousenet immediately shot up to more than twice what they’d been at the launch.
So let’s hope thousands of Floridian third- through fifth-graders read Mousenet, and send me emails or Facebook posts covered in exclamation points, and realize that they don’t have to wait for the sequel because Mousemobile will be out in October, and they’ll buy that book too, and maybe write to their uncle in Hollywood about how there could be a great movie and. . .
I shall school myself not to expect too much of Mousemobile (or Mouse Mission or Mouse Menace, which I hope will follow) so that whatever happens will be wonderful.
Prudence's last blog post for me was her rescue of a rat named Fido.