So you’ve secured that elusive deal! Congratulations! But have you ever wondered what you should be or could be doing next to give your book the best chance of success?
I asked Rebecca Colby, author of ‘There was a wee lassie who swallowed a midgie’ (illustrated by Kate McLelland) and ‘It’s raining bats and frogs,’ (illustrated by Steven Henry) for her top tips on what to do next.
If you’re anything like me, you probably thought getting a book contract was the last step in achieving your lifelong dream of selling a book. And like me, the only other things you planned to do were to announce your big news to the world, celebrate, and watch the sales roll in.
Boy, was I wrong! Take my advice. Don’t break out the bubbly too soon. Or at least, don’t break it out all at once because you’ll want to celebrate again after the rest of the hard work is done. If you’re self-published, it should come as no surprise that the hard work is just beginning. But if you’re traditionally published, it might just come as a shock.
After signing my first book contract, I began reading debut author stories, and as I read more and more of these stories, it slowly dawned on me that most of the onus would be on me to market myself and my book. Now was not the time to put my feet up. So I got to work—again.
Here is a list of some of the things I recommend doing after signing your book contract:
1. Build your author platform
It’s never too early to start building your author platform. In fact, it’s one of the first things you should do—preferably before you sell your book.
There’s two things to appreciate when building your platform: Firstly, don’t focus solely on growing your social media followers. You need to work on establishing a connection with your followers, rather than just gathering as many as you can. Secondly, your platform should consist of more than social media. Other things you should consider investing time in are: setting up a website, creating Amazon and Goodreads author pages, getting professional photographs made, writing a bio, build a mailing list, and the list goes on and on. (I told you the hard work was just beginning!)
2. Write a marketing plan
This is a must, and it’s not solely a task for self-published authors. All authors should treat their career as a business, and businesses generally benefit from strategic action plans.
When my Scottish publisher sent out an author questionnaire five months before my first book released, it was a real eye-opener. The questionnaire had a strong marketing focus. As was the case after reading the debut author stories, it brought home to me how much work I needed to put into promoting my book.
In addition to asking things like who I saw as my readership and requesting a list of my local bookshops, I was forced to think about where review copies of my book could be sent, what relevant human interest stories there might be around myself and my book, and what on-line marketing and in-person events I was prepared to do. This questionnaire became the blueprint for my marketing plan which I developed further after reading several “how-to” articles on-line. I suggest if you’re serious about your career as an author that you do the same.
3. Produce educational materials
On the other hand, this is not necessary but it goes a long way in ensuring teachers take notice of your book and use it in the classroom. As a former teacher and librarian, I may be biased, but I truly believe there’s no better way of giving your book a stronger advantage of getting it shared in schools, than by producing free supplemental educational resources. And if you want some tips on how to write a teacher’s activity guide to your book, I’ll be posting on this topic later this week and next at the Teaching Authors blog. http://www.teachingauthors.com/
4. Plan your book launch party
I don’t care how many books you publish, each one deserves a celebration. But the type of celebration you choose may vary from book to book. For my first launch, I wanted a cozy affair with family and friends at the local library where I worked for 10 years. For my second launch, I chose to organize a group launch with other picture book writers, and invite mostly fellow children’s authors. When my third launch happens, I’m hoping to launch it at a school with hundreds of children in attendance.
You may choose a completely different type of launch, but in the end, the preparation for it will be much the same: create a budget, book a venue, choose who to invite, ensure books will be on hand, organise the catering, find a photographer (and it need only be a friend with a reliable camera), invite the press, and plan an entertaining reading. And as a fun bonus for the people attending, you might also want to throw in some giveaway prizes. Speaking of giveaway prizes…are you participating in the scavenger hunt? If so, today’s answer is Winnie.
5. Stay visible and be of benefit
Once you tell everyone you’ve sold a book, you want to stay visible. But that doesn’t mean tweeting every 5 minutes about your book. That only gets annoying. Why not promote other authors instead? They’ll take far more notice of you if you do, and if you’re lucky they might promote you as well.
Also, I believe in paying it forward and being of benefit. I’ve been on the receiving end of so much helpful advice and career assistance since joining the kid lit community. Consider paying it forward. Whether it’s your conference notes, or news of a pitch fest, or submission guidelines for a new agent or publishing house, or something else entirely, don’t keep it to yourself. Share with others and they’ll share with you. And when one of us benefits, we all benefit. I know it’s hard to believe in these benefits when everyone around you is getting agents and book deals, and you’re not. But trust me, what comes around, goes around, and your day will come. In the meantime, help others if you can.
6. Have fun
And lastly, have fun! Otherwise, what’s the point? For most of us, writing for children is a labour of love. Try to remember that when the tedious, non-writing aspects of the job take over. Remember why you’re doing this and embrace the gift you’ve been given—the gift of bringing joy and happiness to children. Personally, I can’t think of a better way to have fun.
Before I finish, I want to say thank you, Clare, for inviting me to guest post on your blog today! And congratulations on signing your first book contract–I can’t wait to read “Aerodynamics of Biscuits!”
Thank you Rebecca, what excellent advice! I’m off to write my marketing plan…!
If you want to read more wisdom from Rebecca, she’s doing a blog tour, visiting the following sites: 18th August – Marcia Strykowski, 19th August – Teaching Authors Part 1, 23rd August – Picture Book Den, 24th August – Teaching Authors Part 2, 25th August – Christina Banach, 27th August – Laurie J. Edwards, 28th August – GROG
She is also running a scavenger hunt, which you can find out more about here.