After a long, tortuous, 520 days on submission, my debut novel, What The Valley Knows, will be published by Black Rose Writing in early 2018. It feels like I’ve won the lottery.
This is it—my chance to break through, to turn my dreams into a reality—to be a working author. Please don’t let me mess this up! As a result, I’ve polled (okay, maybe hounded) successful writers on Facebook, Twitter, and in person at conferences, trying to pick their brains.
My frantic question being, “If you could give one piece of advice to a debut author, what would it be?” Again and again, I get the same answers:
Enjoy the moment! Deep down, you knew the book was good. Still at times, your resolve wavered and the rejection became overwhelming and soul crushing. Take a deep breath and pause at this juncture of validation. Don’t think about the next step quite yet. Savor this time—mark your phenomenal accomplishment. Buy a special memento or write a congratulatory letter to yourself. You will never be an unpublished author again. Celebrate that you’ve made it this far in the journey and then . . .
Make your manuscript perfect! Appreciate the people who are helping you do this: your agent, your editor, your copy editor, and your book cover designer. If you’re at a small press with a limited budget that doesn’t provide these services, hire out—YOU CANNOT AFFORD ANY SLOPPINESS! This was my recurring mantra!! A writer’s battle cry! You must make the book perfect. Reader and reviewers will eviscerate you otherwise. Once you’re satisfied that your book is foolproof, it’s time to . . .
Treat your book launch as if you’re launching a business. Yes, a business. This advice came from small press Indie authors as well as those writers at big houses. Unless you are a lead title at a large publisher, prepare to do most of your own promotion. Know that you will have to spend money to make money. When a new store opens, the shop owner doesn’t expect customers to pour in without any effort. No, he or she has a plan for profit. You should too. Your book is a beautiful, phenomenal product, a worthy novel that should warrant sales, so . . .
Write a Marketing Plan! Do this immediately. Don’t wait until a month before your book’s release to start thinking about how to advertise your novel—nobody can read a book they don’t know exists. Here are several crucial points to work into your promotional strategy:
- Create a press release (if your publisher doesn’t do this, do it yourself)
- Make a list of your local media. Set up a press conference for your release and have it double as book signing. Invite everybody.
- Make a list of local bookstores, gift shops, libraries that might carry your book. Send the press release. Follow up with a phone call.
- Get out on social media far in advance of your launch. Think about which platforms your readers will frequent. Is it Facebook? Twitter? Instagram? Create the same username across all platforms. Post. Post. Post. You need to build a readership. Remember, you need to give people a reason to come into your shop. “I wrote a book,” is not good enough. 600,000 other want-to-be-bestselling authors also wrote a book this year.
- Start a unique blog (click here for some of the best) and then start funneling your energy into . . .
Building your email list! Again and again published novelists say that their email list is the most effective piece of their marketing plan. Send your subscribers excerpts of your books, pre-order links, contest offers, your blog posts, photos of your writing life behind-the-scenes, recipes, fashion tips, anything that offers value! Think outside the box and . . .
Figure out the story behind your story. Study current events and link them to the themes, settings, and characters in your book. Write an article and pitch it! The more op-ed bylines and magazine essays you author, the more your name, bio, and links to your book will be out in the world. Free advertising is a beautiful thing! And then take time to . . .
Find your tribe. Engage with other writers. Make a list of ten authors you love and follow them on social media. Practice the Golden Rule and write a glowing Goodreads or Amazon review of their latest book (make this a foundational principle of your literary citizenship). Build relationships. Surround yourself with supportive people and be helpful to others. Bury any envy! There are enough readers for all of us!
While you are building these critical relationships, writing your marketing plan, savoring the moment and so on, don’t forget to do the most important thing you can do for your debut book launch. Drum roll, please! Every published author I polled agreed that the most critical thing you can do to ensure a successful debut book launch is to . . .
Write your NEXT BOOK!
Heather Christie grew up in rural Pennsylvania and, at age seventeen, took off for New York City in hopes of becoming a movie star. Flash forward several decades, a couple degrees, a bunch of cats, two kids and one husband later, she’s back in Pennsylvania writing her heart out and chasing dreams again. She loves to read, run, drink tea, and make Sunday dinner. Her debut novel, What The Valley Knows, will be released January 25, 2018. Follow her blog at www.HeatherChristieBooks.com and say “hello” on Facebook, Twitter, and Instagram.
About WHAT THE VALLEY KNOWS
Millington Valley is a quintessential small Pennsylvania town: families go back generations. Football rules. Kids drink while adults look the other way. High school is a whirlwind of aspiration and rivalry, friendship and jealousy.
When smart and pretty Molly Hanover moves to town and attracts the attention of the football team’s hero, Wade Thornton—a nice guy with a bad drinking habit—longtime friendships are threatened and a popular cheerleader tries to turn the school against Molly.
The young couple’s future is shattered when Wade, drunk, wrecks his truck and Molly is thrown through the windshield. She wakes from a coma to find her beauty marred and her memory full of holes. As she struggles to heal, she becomes sure that something terrible happened before the accident. And there is somebody in the valley who doesn’t want her to remember.
Category: How To and Tips