Today marks ONE DAY until the release of Lush Money, my debut romance novel. I’ve wanted to publish a book my whole life and I’ve been writing romance for 19 years — this is a dream long in coming (you can head to my FB page to see my reaction when I finally get to hold my book).
Alongside all the dreaming, many practical skills have been learned as well. So as I count down one week until the launch of Lush Money, I will offer seven tips — a tip each day — for other authors in the space I’ve been in for the last year-and-a-half: between a finished manuscript and the launch of a book.
You are the only one who can tell your story
Writing is hard. Sitting down, every day, getting down the words that will eventually create coherent imagery in other people’s heads, is really hard.
Writing to publish is harder. When you’re writing stories to be publicly consumed, there are so many voices warning you about the wrong ways you’re doing it. They want to tell you how NOT to craft, what topics NOT to write about, what subgenres NOT to write in if you want to publish.
But the only voice that will truly say what is right for your writing is your own.
Look, I have a ton of caveats for the above statement: Learn the craft. Practice it. Write a ton of words before trying to publish. Be aware of your implicit biases. Educate yourself about the people and topics you’re writing about. Stay on top of what’s happening in your industry.
But, as you do all of that, listen to your gut. Absorb what feels useful and reasonable. Reject what doesn’t speak to you.
Because with a billion storytellers out there, the only thing that will make you stand out in the market and bring joy to the process when you sit at your desk is your voice.
No one has it but you. No one has had your life but you. No one has your unique perspective on a million topics, and no one but you can breathe that one-in-a-billion perspective into a story.
Value your voice. Treasure it. Protect it. Stand up for it.
And I hope, when you’re on eve of your book release, you’re ready to let your voice sing.
Connect with those who can connect you to readers in your community.
While many people want to write a book, few pursue it. So if you are writing or have written a book, you’re a rare bird and your local community wants to support you when you publish.
So go introduce at your local bookstore and library BEFORE you have a book to promote. Buy and check out the books. Attend the events. Follow them on social media. Make yourself a real-world supporter of these mighty voices that you hope support you.
I shopped at my local indie bookstore, One More Page Books, and – after some deep-breathing exercises – commented gently on the fact that they didn’t have a romance section. Well, lo and behold, I got into a fantastic conversation with the book buyer about how they were about to launch a romance section. A few months later, I moderated their first romance author panel and, in November, will host my book launch party there!
There’s nothing like seeing your book in the wild and that’s a lot more likely to happen if you have the support of your local book sellers!
Actionable tip: Go to your local bookstore or library this week and have one conversation with an employee while you’re purchasing or checking out a book.
One link can send book buyers to all retail outlets
You know how author’s social media posts are full of links for the various book retailers? Usually it looks something like:
Buy my lovely book!
My Indie Bookstore: XXXXXX
Barnes and Noble: XXXXXX
Apple Books: XXXXXX
Rather than junking up your posts and running into Twitter’s character limits, there’s a way to gather all the retailers under one link. Use Linktree.
Linktree allows you to offer a bunch of “where to go next” options under one link. It was developed as an answer to Instagram, which only allows you to show one link in your bio.
I decided to use it to gather all the places a reader can go to purchase Lush Money. There is a free version. The $6/month paid version allows you to name the page, brand the page with image and colors, and a couple of other things that I can’t remember. I went with the paid version because — you know — DEBUT BOOK!! But I’ll probably go for the free version for the other books in the series.
Actionable tip: Click on the image above to explore how I used Linktree.
Be prepared when you get “the call.”
Imagine getting "the call": an agent calls and offers to represent you. After you scream and cry and run around the house, what do you ask the agent to make sure that this is the person with whom you can entrust your career?
This is a blog I wrote in January 2018, two months before the amazing Sara Megibow of KT Literary offered to represent me. I have been in her caring and capable hands ever since and have never felt anything but blessed.
I did have a good series of questions to ask her when she called. 😉
This design tool is free, easy to learn, and allows everyone to make great-looking graphics.
You know how you see those authors who have beautiful and informative graphics on their social media and website? And you wonder how many thousands of dollars they’re paying a graphic designer to create them?
Most likely, the author – without a drop of graphic design experience (me!!) – is creating them for free on Canva.
Canva is a website design tool that allows you to put together graphics as easily as putting together a Word document. It’s intuitive, relatively reliable, and dummy proof. Want to create a graphic for Facebook? Click “Facebook post,” choose one of their many templates, and fill it in with your own words and images. Download and post. Simple.
One thing I did early to bring continuity to my graphics was to pick two colors and three fonts that would define my “brand.” If nothing else, the colors and fonts give me a starting point whenever I design an image.
Actionable tip: Choose two colors for your brand colors. Then got to canva and create and post two graphics this week.
RWA and your local chapter are a ready-made source of craft and industry knowledge
I’ve been a member of the Romance Writers of America since 1998 and a member of my local chapter, the Washington Romance Writers DC, since 2004. WRW DC has been INVALUABLE in teaching me the craft of writing, providing easy access to intimidating industry professionals like editors and agents, and helping me build a tribe of friend-authors.
As an aspiring writer, there was no better tool for keeping me writing. Now, on the verge of being a published author, I have this group to thank for my understanding of the publishing process and for cheering me on during this debut year. I’ve never felt alone.
These groups have had their controversies in recent years, especially in providing a welcoming space for writers of color. But both organizations have shifted massively as they seek to do better. At the heart of RWA and WRW DC are a group of people who give without expectation, who believe that we rise together, and who welcome new writers.
Actionable tip: Join RWA and then look to see if they have a chapter in your area. If they don’t, you can always join an online chapter.
It’s never too soon to start marketing
Just sold your book? It’s not too early to set up your website, social media, and newsletter. And if you’ve just finished your manuscript or are writing a book or thinking about becoming a writer — it’s not too early.
Here’s the truth: Ninety to one hundred percent of your marketing will be your responsibility. You will not be the rarified writer who defies this reality of publishing. You will have to do the work to get your name out there and connect with your readers. And learning how to manage your website/social media/newsletter is a steep learning curve. SO START THAT LEARNING NOW.
I’ll say it again. START THAT LEARNING NOW. Learn how to effectively manage these marketing tools in the calm before the storm of a publishing contract.
Don’t bemoan what you don’t know — no one knows what they have not learned. Don’t cry about how uncomfortable it is — we are writers, not marketers. It’s uncomfortable for everyone. And don’t pine for the good ol’ days. Those days are gone. You’re doing the hard work of writing the words; make sure you also can do the work so as many people as possible can read them!