We’ve got a real shot in the arm from Dawn today – she learnt the hard way that if you act like Diva, you soon run into trouble, so she’s offering her tips and insights up so we can learn from her mistakes and observations. Thanks Dawn!!
1) Listen to your agent/editor
So, you’ve sold your first book. Rejoice! Drink lots of bubbly! Tell everyone you know! Once the hangover wears off, it’s time for a long conversation with your agent (and/or) editor. This is your chance to list the questions you have.
- What’s expected in the relationship?
- What does s/he want you to do with the work they’ve just said they love and want to send out there into the wilds of the publishing world?
- What kinds of help will they give you?
Make your list of questions, ask them, then shut up and listen. Take notes. If something’s not clear, ask again. Then listen. Don’t open your mouth. Listen. Do not argue. Do not complain. As Yoda says, “Do or do not. There is no try.”
If they tell you they want a book “just like this one,” then take your book apart, analyze the pieces, put in different characters and circumstances and produce it. By the deadline.
Learn from my mistake: I wanted to write what I wanted to write. When my publisher said, “We’re going to make you a star,” I thought it meant I had free reign to write whatever I wanted. Not so. They wanted a “book just like this one.” But I didn’t listen, and I grew a very large diva head. Got bossy. Want to know what happened? They took that next book I wrote, which wasn’t “just like this one” and asked me what pseudonym I wanted to use on it. Huh? Want to guess what happened next? Nothing. That’s right. They dropped me. Learn from my mistake, people. Do what the editor/publisher/agent tells you to. MORE: Making It As A Writer: 25 Reasons You Haven’t Yet
2) Connect with other writers
If you’re not listening to other writers or reading magazines for writers or joining writers groups, you should be. Find the published writers in your area and buy a cup of coffee for them. Ask them how they manage their time, what kinds of conversations they have with their agents, how they deal with the changes editors want to make on their manuscripts. Ask them what the best books about editing are, whether you should use the latest marketing program, what they think is the one thing they would do differently.
If you become friends with one or two, recruit those writers to read your ARC (advanced reading copy) and provide a book jacket blurb for you. Secret: if they don’t have time to read the book, summarize it for them, earmark a couple of chapters that will give them the flavor, and offer a quick ‘book report’ for them to review. Plenty of blurbs are written for books that the author of the blurb did not read from cover to cover. Make it easy for them. They have their own writing to do! MORE: Connecting With Other Writers
3) Market your own work
Yes, some publishers send their authors on whirlwind tours, but 90% don’t. Be prepared to market your own work and to spend a lot of time doing so:
Connect on social media with everyone from your Great Aunt Tilly to that cute barrista at your local coffee shop.
Find the bloggers who are writing about books and befriend them (long BEFORE your book comes out!). Send them free copies to review.
Work on your Facebook, Twitter, Instagram, LinkedIn, Pinterest, Snapchat, Vine, and the social-media-of-the-day sites DAILY in order to convince people to (1) read your book, (2) review your book, and (3) talk to their friends about your book. Then follow up! And do the same for them.
If you know of others who are publishing, the first thing you need to do is get off your ass and offer your help. Review their works. Post those reviews on your blog, on your Facebook page, on Goodreads, Amazon, Huffington Post, Barnes and Noble, all your independent bookstores’ websites, Weread.com, and any other book sites you can find. Once you’ve posted, then link the posts to an author or book page. Your friends will love you, others will read your reviews – and when you are marketing a book of your own, they’ll review yours. You gotta give some to get some. Remember that.
Three months before your book is published: brainstorm ideas for promoting your work. Be creative! YOU are the one who knows your book best.
Remember you have lots and lots of competition, so if you don’t get yourself out there and in people’s faces, it’s your fault. I knew a writer whose book was about having a fetish for guys who wore tasseled loafers (yup, I’m not kidding). Her way of getting people interested? She held book-signings at pubs and cocktail lounges and gave away chocolate loafers. I have no idea who made them for her, but years later, I still remember those chocolate shoes as the best gimmick ever to sell a book. Did she become famous? No, she didn’t, but she did sell more books than her publisher had planned!
If your book is set in a certain town, go there and hold court. Do readings at the library, at the local coffee shop and bookstore. Visit the schools. Do it for FREE. Free = book sales.
If your book features a dog character, volunteer for the local dog shelter and ask whether they can feature your book at one of their events. Then go to the event and step out of your comfort zone. If you belong to a writers’ group, offer to do a lecture on the craft or a seminar on your genre. Talk to everyone! In other words, do not be a wallflower. Now is not the time to act like a writer and hide behind the laptop.
And let your publisher know (in digest form, not in separate emails sent once a day) what you are doing and where you are going. That gets you points you would not normally get. Your eye should now be on the prize, and the prize is a second book contract. The only way you get the second contract is by making good on the first. MORE: 10 Tips For Authors Promoting Their Books Online
4) Meet deadlines
Simple. If the editor says, “I want the book by October 1,” then have it to her early. Period.
No excuses on this one. MORE: Creative Ways To Edit Outside The Box
5) Smile and say thank you
You may not realize it but everyone’s focus will be on you at those readings/meetings/events. Even if you ‘think’ you are being friendly, you might not appear that way to the shy book-nerd who gave up her Wednesday night to come see you. Unless you make contact (eye contact with a solid handshake and a SMILE), you may not build the image you wish to. Use the person’s name. Ask something personal about them. Make small talk. If you’re not good at this, practice beforehand. Believe me, those people who make time to come to the book-signing WILL talk to their friends and those are the people who will buy your next book. Smile – and thank them! A little bit of sugar impacts books sales in a big way. MORE: Give them what they want and get what you want
6) Keep writing
Do not sit on your laurels. (What are laurels? They are the moments when you realize that what you’ve written IS getting read and people do like it – or, at the very least, are talking about it.) This is not the only book you’re going to write, so by the time you’re out promoting it, another story should be already burning up in your laptop.
The best way to keep your career going is by talking about your next work when you’re selling your first one. Write a log line that easily rolls off your tongue. What’s a logline, you ask? It’s a one-sentence summary of your story. Here’s an example:
Shakespeare’s Romeo and Juliet: “It’s the story of two young lovers whose warring families want to keep them apart.”
Get it? Do it for yourself. Once you think you have one written, run it by your friends and family. See if they get an image of the story. If not, back to the drawing board. Your logline CANNOT be longer than a line. It’s created for that moment when a person is standing in front of you (with a long line of other people behind them anxiously waiting to meet you) and s/he says, “I can’t wait for your next book. What’s it about?” You have 15 seconds to tell him/her. One sentence.
And, hey . . . good luck! Look me up when you make it to the bestseller list! MORE: Loglines Are Not Tagline
BIO: Dawn Reno Langley’s published works include 29 books (novels, children’s books, and nonfiction); dozens of pieces of creative nonfiction, short stories, and poetry in literary journals; hundreds of articles in commercial publications; and dozens of theater reviews for Triangle Arts and Entertainment. Her blogs include one on writing and another on living with her Shichon, Izzy. She is currently at work on a novel entitled ELEPHANTS FOR DANNY. She holds an MFA in Fiction from Vermont College and a PhD in Interdisciplinary Studies from The Union Institute and University and is dean of general education and developmental studies at a small college in North Carolina.