I’ve spoken to hundreds of authors over the years… new, old, mid-career, famous, struggling, you name it. One thing we all have in common is that we were all once where you are. We know how it feels to submit your first work and wait with high hopes by the mailbox (or email inbox) for that special editor’s reply. We know about declines and how sometimes they seem so crippling, you don’t even want to continue. The other link that many new writers have is they are timid and shy about their careers and marketing the “way the pros do it”. Well here are some Baby Steps to get you started.
1. Convince yourself you are an important writer and have something valid to say. If you haven’t read my other post “Three Ways New Authors Sabotage Themselves”, do it now. Once you’ve accepted your fate as a writer and know you have no choice but to follow your dreams, it will be easier to chip away at making those dreams a reality.
2. Start a List. Lists are your best friend for brainstorming promotion ideas. Carry a little notebook with you to brainstorm while waiting in lines, at the doctor, sitting in the car wash, or while stuck at stoplights. Use every spare moment of the day to work on your craft. Remember, you are a writer. Think of it as a real job. A job you enjoy and will succeed at if you keep working on it. Plus, since most of us have day jobs to pay the bills, this daily brainstorming will keep you inspired to continue your writing career and less frustrated with day-to-day mundane tasks.
3. Research your genre and other authors that you admire to find places you might list your book or things you may provide on your own website to draw readers to your site. It is fine to review or discuss other writer’s work on your own blog in hopes of drawing a crowd of those sorts of readers to your blog, but make sure you are always respectful to the other writers you are speaking about. Also, chat with visitors to your blog. The longer discussions you have, the more people may pitch in. Make sure these are subjects you like and can geek out on yourself. It’s okay to have fun!
4. Schedule time to work on your craft every day. If for some reason your life is too crazy for everyday, make it every week, but do it. Don’t let other things get in the way. Don’t cancel and don’t let others make you discount the importance of your writing ritual. Think of it as a job. If you were at work, you wouldn’t necessarily call in because your friends wanted to meet for cocktails.
5. Network with other writers. Even simple discussions in a Facebook group could lead you to a contact who knows other contacts who will help you advance your career. Don’t go into the conversation with the goal to use people to get ahead… just go and chat. Let the networking happen naturally. If you act like a spammer, bot, or used car salesman, you will be tuned out automatically. You also need to tend to your social needs. We all need to feel like we have partners in this crazy career. Count on others online to fulfill that need if you can’t or don’t feel comfortable chatting with writers in person. Try to go outside your comfort level and chat about everyday events in your writing career with others who are going through the same thing.
6. Don’t get discouraged. We’ve all heard, “If at first, you don’t succeed, try, try again.” Get back on the horse and keep at it till you’ve amassed lots of tries. At least one out of three will be productive. When you aren’t good at putting yourself out there and communicating with people you don’t know, it may seem debilitating, but keep telling yourself it will get easier, and it will.
7. Start a blog to practice writing to your future readers. Who cares if no one reads it right now? If they buy your book and start reading it, they will go back to read your old posts. They will be interested because your book interests them and soon you will have someone to geek out on your book with that loves it just as much as you do. Readers love to see where an author started and how far they’ve come. Don’t deny your fans the experience of traveling with you.
8. Be good to people. Don’t be a jerk. Treat them as your friends, because hopefully, they will be. I’m not saying invite them over to your house for pizza, but you can be personable to them. Some of my favorite writers respond to their fan Facebook messages or Tweets. The more accessible to the readers, the more they will be interested in your work. You don’t have to put on a fake personality (unless that is your shtick) to gain readers. People respond to real. Just like they tell us to write what we know, you should chat about what you know and what you like.
Baby Step Sample Plan
Now you can make your own schedule that works for you, but here I have laid out a sample plan for those of you who don’t know where to start. I have broken it into two groups. Those that have something to pitch and those that are still working on their craft but haven’t published anything yet.
For the new writer who is has nothing to sell yet, but is working on it.
For those of you not done with something to send out, keep writing and finish it. You will never get published without a complete project to pitch when the time is right.
Week 1: This week, scout out 3-5 places where you can link into writers or people who enjoy what your book is about. Example: Writer chat groups on Facebook, forums discussing your book topic, blogs that are writing articles interesting and connected to your book.
Week 2: Start a blog this week. You can get one free at WordPress.com. Start posting at least weekly about your research. You don’t have to share story plots and details, just share what you are researching. Example: “Romantic poetry. A character in my book is a poet. Thankfully I don’t have to be one, but here is what I’ve learned about romantic poetry in the 19th century.”
Week 3: Work on your writing this week. Really push. If you have an hour, make sure it’s a tough, no breaks, no interruptions hour! Get something down on paper.
Week 4: Research this week. Look up your top 5 favorite writer’s websites. Take notes. Write down what you like and don’t like about their websites. Find things that they have done to pitch their work. Make more lists! Brainstorm ideas to push your brand as an author. Example: Are you writing a book series about frogs who fall in love? Ask yourself… what will the website look like? If you were sitting at a fair booth, what would you have on the table as freebies? Toy frogs? Lily pads?
Week 5: Plunge in this week. Pick one story/novel you are going to pitch and research the places you might sell it. Are you going to self publish? Start charting out the steps. Will you get an editor? What will the cover art be like? Do you need a formatter? How much of a budget do you have?
Week 6: Make sure your social media is in check. Do you have a Facebook page? Do you have a Twitter account? Send out messages, make friends, search for people with like interests.
For the new writer who is ready to pitch.
For those of you already published, but are having a hard time drumming up the business you’d like. It is presumed that you have already done all the steps above.
Week 1: Scout out 3-5 places where you can place an ad or message about your book without spamming. There are sites that will list you willingly.
Week 2: Take this week to build your exposure on Facebook and Twitter. Share your life. Not intimate details, but pick something you like to talk about and talk! Example: If your book is about fairies, post links about fairies. Tweet: If I had fairy wings, they would be purple. How about you?
*I suggest that unless you are someone huge like J. K. Rowling, you stick with the normal personal Facebook profile. Making yourself a celebrity before you truly are one by creating a “public figure page”, distances you from fans and makes the readers feel more removed from you. Once you hit the too many friends amount, then you can think about upgrading.
Week 3: Work on your sequel this week.
Week 4: Research to find 3-5 reviewers. Most take digital copies now. Email and make plans to send out your book with the understanding that reviews can take months to post. You are laying the groundwork and hopefully setting up a place where you can return and submit your sequel.
Week 5: Find 2-3 friends or other writers/artists/bloggers/musicians you admire and ask if they would like to swap guest blogs.
Week 6: Research and email 3-5 podcast/radio shows that you can come on and talk about your book.
I believe you can do it. Do you?
Emerian Rich is the author of the Night’s Knights Vampire Series and Sweet Dreams Musical Romance Series. She is the Horror Host for the international podcast HorrorAddicts.net and the Queen of Lists! To find out more about Emerian, go to her website at www.emzbox.com