Over the past couple of months I’ve been riding the crazy rollercoaster that is today’s publishing environment. As a relative newbie to the world of published authors – my first book, Seal of Destiny, was published with Crimson Romance in January 2013 and the second book in the series, Seal of Surrender, released just this week—I can say the journey has been quite a learning experience.
There’s a lot of advice out there for the fledgling writers, those who are polishing that first manuscript and getting ready for submissions, but not so much for those who’ve achieved the goal of authors everywhere, securing the first contract.
So today, I thought I’d share some of what I’ve learned in my short time in the published author realm in hopes of helping anyone else that might be mired in the complexities of what to do after your baby—your firstborn novel—is off into the big, bad literary world without you.
1. Get to work on the next project. Now! Don’t make me come over there…
One thing I encounter all the time when I talk to authors is a sense of relief that the huge process is done and their work has been accepted. But there also seems to be a misguided conception that this book will be “The One”. This manuscript will be the end all and be all of literary fame and fortune and they’ll head off into the proverbial sunset with a bazillion dollars and loads of other NYTBA friends and sit of the beach drinking Mai-Tai’s until their next glorious idea arrives.
Hey, it could happen, right? Um, yeah…
I wouldn’t go off and buy my ticket to Tahiti just yet. The name of the game these days is backlist, my friends. Want to get to the top of the bestseller pile and stay there? You’ve got to be disciplined enough to sit down and write several books a year. With the opening of the literary floodgates and self-publishing on the rise, the only way to keep your name in readers minds and your books selling is to keep producing good work. Keep putting out more stories people want to read and build your audience. Yes, it takes time. Yes, it involves effort and marketing on your part. And yes, it’s a requirement if you want to be successful long-term.
2. Reviews are golden (even the bad ones).
I read a quote once from an author who said if everyone loved your work, you were doing something wrong. I agree. When people read my work, I’d like them to have a reaction, good or bad. Bland is not what I’m going for. Bland is the kiss of death.
Today’s writers must cultivate reviews from professional reviewers and fans alike. Send those ARCs out to anyone willing to read and provide a legitimate review of your work. It’s hard and it’s nerve-wracking and it’s downright painful when someone doesn’t absolutely love what you’ve written as much as you do. But you know what? Some people will adore it. They will see themes and ides in your work you weren’t even aware of. This is how you develop those vital relationships to spur your career forward.
Some reviewer didn’t like your book? Don’t send work to them next go-around and for goodness sake don’t respond. Let it go. Everyone’s entitled to an opinion. Another person thought it was the greatest thing since sliced bread? Congratulations, you’ve scored yourself a devoted fan. Cultivate those precious connections and guard them with care. You never know when the next film producer or agent of your dreams might be lurking on their site that day or Google-ing the very subject you’re writing about.
Plus, when you pull up a book page and every single review is 5-stars, aren’t you a tad skeptical? I know I am. Next time you’re on Goodreads or Amazon, search for one of your favorite authors and check out the rankings of some of their bestselling books. I’ll bet you find reviews with all different ratings—from ones to fives. If they can weather a few bad reviews, so can you. Those one and two-star reviews are a rite of passage. Consider yourself a true member of the published writers community.
3. Marketing is a must, especially if this is your first book.
No one is going to care about your book more than you, the author. It’s up to you to build your audience and fan base. Writing a good book is the first step. Keeping that book out there and getting it in front of new readers is the next. It’s an ongoing process and it’s a matter of finding out what works for you and what doesn’t and yes, it’s time consuming. But if you’re serious about making writing your full-time career, it’s an absolute must. So whether it’s keeping up a regular presence on social media or hiring a company to do a book tour, do something to make your presence known. Marketing. Live it, Learn it, Do it.
4. And finally… Have Fun!
That’s why we got into this whole writing business to begin with, right? Fun, imagination, excitement and wonder. Don’t forget to take time to enjoy your accomplishments and share them with those who’ve helped get you to this point. It’s easy to get weighed down by all the deadlines and pressure to produce and drives to push forward to the next step in your career. But don’t let daily triumphs pass by uncelebrated. Reach a certain number of likes on your fan page? Announce it! Get a great review on Goodreads? Share it with the world! It’s the small steps that propel us forward and we should remember to savor those whenever possible.
Cheers! And here’s wishing you all Happy Writing and Happy Reading! ☺