“Now That My Book is Out, What is the First Thing I Should Do?”

A newly published author asked me an interesting question today: “Now that my book is ‘out,’ what is the first thing I should do?” I ought to know the answer to that since I was in the same position not that long ago and will be again next month when Daughter Am I is released, but I’m still a bit mystified about how to promote effectively online.

So much of book promotion on the internet depends on social networking sites, which means that one’s promotion efforts have to start long before the book is ever published because you need people to promote to. That was the big lesson I learned during my first months as a published author. The internet is so vast that any message thrown casually out into cyberspace has about as much impact as a child’s balloon set free to drift on the wind. If you hand a child a balloon, however, at least one person for sure will see it, maybe even two or three. If you have “friends,” on social networking sites perhaps a few of them will see the messages you post on your profile and be glad for you. Or at least they will pretend to be glad for you since chances are they are promoting a book, too, and responding to such messages is part of their promotion campaign.

(Do I sound cynical? I don’t mean to. I am a bit disappointed that promoting on the internet hasn’t had the impact on my sales that I’d hoped, but on the other hand, I’m having a wonderful time meeting new people, discovering new books, rediscovering old friends, creating new relatives. In essence, I’m developing a whole new life, which is a thrill in itself.)

Some new authors send email messages to all their contacts, but unless you know the people personally, I don’t think it’s such a good idea. I’m hearing through the grapevine that spamming generally doesn’t have much impact on sales, and it only irritates people, which might cause a backlash. On the other hand, status updates on MySpace, Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter are good, especially if you link the update to a blog article that tells about your struggles to get published or something else of an equally personal or helpful nature.

The secret to social networking is to be social. I admit I don’t do the one-on-one thing that well. I have a huge list of people I owe blog comments to, but somehow the days pass, and the list keeps getting longer. I’ve started responding to comments on my blog, though, which is a big step in the right direction. I used to think it was better to give commenters the last word, but recently my blog readers have convinced me they like a bit of dialogue, if only to let them know I read and enjoyed their comments. And I do. Read them and enjoy them, I mean.

I’m starting to ramble a bit here.

The point is . . . heck, if I knew what the point is, I’d be sitting back and counting my millions. Still, I have learned one thing — websites, blogs, tweets and status updates all work together to create something more than the individual parts. Who knows, that something may eventually turn out to be book sales.

Daughter Am I will be released by Second Wind Publishing, LLC in October, 2009

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The Art of Perseverance

My guest blogger today is Gina Robinson, author of Spy Candy, who persevered, and is now a published author. Congratulations, Gina!

The Art of Perseverance
by Gina Robinson

With the release of my debut novel Spy Candy ( Zebra Romantic Suspense, $3.99, ISBN 978-1-4201-0472-1)just weeks away, I’ve been asked to be a guest on a number of blogs. Because it took me years and years…and still more years to become published, talking about perseverance has become my theme. But as I was thinking about perseverance the other day, I realized that I don’t want people to get the wrong impression. To reach the goal of publication, a writer can’t give up. That’s true. Who knows when the call will finally come? But more than that, they can’t stay the same, either.

Persistence is not revising the same manuscript over and over and over, even when it’s been rejected all over New York. Persistence is also not stalking the same editor or agent from conference to conference, query to query, trying to sell them on that same tired old manuscript. Persistence isn’t trying to convince the world that you’ve written the next great bestseller and certain classic and berating the world when they don’t realize it. That’s insanity.

The art of perseverance requires growth. The writer must start a new manuscript, taking what’s been learned on the first and building on it to write a better novel, to discover their unique voice. The writer must look at the market objectively, broadening their search to include new agents, new editors, to take new chances.

Perseverance is a far greater thing than banging on the same door again and again. It’s believing in yourself, your own unique talents and skills, your worth as an individual, and your passion for storytelling. It’s writing for the sheer joy of it, even when it feels like publication will never happen. When you write for the joy of it, magic happens. You’ll feel passion, not frustration. And whether or not you’re lucky enough to ever publish, you’ll be content and have the drive to never give up on yourself. You will truly persevere.

Gina Robinson’s debut novel, Spy Candy, will be available everywhere books are sold on November 4, 2008.

The Very First Book. The Very First Time.

Claire Collins, author of Fate and Destiny and Images of Betrayal, writes across many genres. She loves reading when she gets the time around her family and her work schedule. Collins, my guest blogger, speaks of how it feels to hold your published book in your hands for the first time:

The very first book…
 
Years of hard work, my heart and soul translated into words on a page, open for the world to see. This is the leap of faith for a writer. A manuscript is a very private thing until I let that first person read it. After the first person, I allowed other eyes to see my words. With encouragement and tons of edits, my private world that I created is sent out into the world. I almost cried when it made its debut on Amazon. I hadn’t even seen a copy of the book yet and I couldn’t control myself. Before I even knew what I was doing, I was clicking the “Complete order” button with overnight shipping. I paid full price plus expedited shipping for a book that I would soon receive multiple copies of thanks to my publisher. My friends laughed at me sympathetically but they all nodded with understanding. Most of them would do the same thing.
 
I was at work when my skinny little box arrived from Amazon. My family could hardly contain themselves as they waited at the front door for me to come in the house. They presented the box to me like it was a priceless family heirloom, meant to be handled with care. I tore the box open and held my book in my hands. A tear slid from the corner of my eye, but I was laughing at the same time. Those were really my words on the pages I flipped through. That was my title, my photo, my blurbs. This was my book. My husband was downright giddy watching me hold my book. It was better than Christmas. He got the camera and took a picture of me holding my book. In the quiet evening after the excitement died down and the children wandered off, I sat looking at my book, flipping through the pages. What if people hated it? Then again, what if people loved it? Since I am a first time author with a small publisher, most people will never even see my book or know it exists. Maybe when I write the fiftieth novel, people will be clamoring to own these first novels. I don’t know what the future holds in terms of book sales. I only know that nothing will ever replace the feeling of opening the box and seeing the very first copy of my book.

Claire Collins’s books are available from Amazon and Second Wind Publishing.

A Classic Catch 18

Agents, editors, and fellow authors keep telling us unpublished writers we need to be better than published writers to get noticed, so any debut novel that is published should be spectacular. Not so.

I just finished reading Alafair Burke’s first novel, and I was unimpressed. The words were strung together in a readable manner, but it was filled with clichés and generic characters, something you and I could never get away with. But then you and I are not the offspring of well-known authors. (She is the daughter of James Lee Burke.)

Perhaps she and her editor have not read enough fiction to realize that her characters were typical of those in the lawyer mystery genre, but there is no excuse for her use of cliches. Within a couple of chapters I found: “keep your nose clean,” “nip it in the bud,” “a hundred and ten percent,” “hot and steamy sex,” “keep the eye on the ball,” “going down in flames,” “get her ducks in a row,” and “cut and dried.” Uninspiring, to say the least.

Maybe I’m being unfair. Maybe there really are no editors any more. Maybe all that counts is who we are and who we know, not how we write. I wonder if, in today’s market, a book like Catch 22 would ever get published. I don’t know what the editor saw in it, but it must have had some spark that inflamed her into cutting apart the manuscript sentence by sentence and reassembling it into its present form. The title certainly didn’t capture her attention. Originally called Catch 18, she changed it to Catch 22 because Leon Uris had come out with his book Mila 18, and she wanted Joseph Heller’s book to be different.

I know I keep attacking the system’s lack of editorship, but I lose out twice — once as a reader and once as a potential published writer. I always thought one of the benefits of finally getting accepted by a publisher was being able to work with an editor, but it seems as if that is a rare occurrence. And the consensus regarding my works is that they need a good line-editing.

So the problem is that I need to be a good enough self-editor to get the attention of an editor, but the only way I can do that is to have an editor help me.

Sounds like a classic catch 18 to me.

The Blue Jeans Philosophy of Life and Writing

Last summer at Art in the Park, the realization struck me that everyone in my field of vision was wearing blue jeans. Men in basic, straight-legged jeans. Boys in baggy jeans that hung to their knees. Girls in cut-offs or low riders. Sophisticates in designer jeans. Heavy women in pleated jeans with elastic waistbands. Arty women in skirts fashioned from jeans. I’m sure they all thought they were dressed uniquely, but I saw the sameness: blue denim.

That’s when I came up with my blue jeans philosophy of life: be an individual — like everyone else.

Last night I extended this philosophy to include the publishing industry. I was reading a debut novel written by James Lee Burke’s daughter, and it was no different from thousands of others I have read. It was written well enough, but there was nothing unique about it. And, if by chance, it had been unique, I’m sure the publishing industry would have pulled her into line and edited out anything that was different. It seems as if what they are looking for is a high level of mediocrity: books that are original — like all the rest.

If you can understand this philosophy and put it into practice, there is a good chance that you will succeed in life and in your quest for publication, but there is no hope for me. I have never owned a pair of jeans, never even worn a scrap of denim.