Signing a contract with a publisher only means that you have moved on to Phase Two of your work as an author—marketing. In my situation, there was a relatively short amount of time between the agreement to publish and the release date. Six months would have been plenty of time to prepare my marketing campaign if I had actually started on it when I had the chance. Instead, I waited until my publication date was about three months away before I got rolling with it.
Had I known what I know now I would have approached the upcoming release date differently. Hopefully, all of you can benefit from my mistakes and avoid them in your own journey as published authors. Here is how I would do it now.
Celebrate – Let’s be reasonable. Signing with a publisher is a significant goal for any author. Take a couple of weeks to soak it all in. Consider it a vacation from your work as an author and be prepared to get back to work when you are done with it.
Go back to school – Up to this point the education you have received as an author has been related to the writing craft. That’s great and it needs to continue, but then you need to learn how to market your book. No matter how good your publisher is at promoting their titles they will never be as passionate about the book as you. Pick up a couple books on marketing and spend the first month studying them. That doesn’t mean to just read them. In order to successfully market your book you need to understand how the information you read applies to your specific work. I found Jump Start Your Book Sales by Marilyn and Tom Ross to be the most helpful of the books I studied.
Create a plan – After you finish your marketing studies take a couple of days and make a list of all the tasks that you will need to do to market your book. Don’t be surprised if some of these tasks cause you to add more items to your list.
For example, book signings seemed a simple enough step when they sat innocently on my list. Then when I looked into what I would need to do to make my book signings successful I realized that there was a lot more to it than I had thought. I needed to find locations to hold the signings and decide which ones were best for my particular book. I needed to contact the locations in advance so that I had plenty of time for them, and myself, to prepare for the event. I needed to come up with a way attract customer attention to my table, to devise a creative way to entice them to purchase the book, and to develop items to pass along to those customers who weren’t quite ready to buy the book. This went from being a single item to one that had over a dozen tasks associated with it.
Get busy – Once you have a plan, start working it. There are definitely some things that will need to be done before you can move onto other tasks on the list. Items like creating an author bio and a list of book related interview questions will need to be done before you start questing for media interviews. Then there will be plenty of research to find actual newspapers, radio stations, and television shows for you to contact.
All of this may seem too much. At times it does to me. But if I want my book to succeed and if I want people to read it then this is what I have to do. One of the pieces of advice I received along the way is to do five things every day. I can do that. I can write and answer five interview questions in one day. I can contact five newspapers about whether they would like to interview me. I can send out five e-mails to companies inquiring about forming a strategic alliance.
So don’t sweat it. Five items. Every day. They add up.