While long-published authors put my meager knowledge to shame, I did learn a lot in the last year. Needless to say, getting attention for a novel with all the competition for attention is a tough assignment. Here are the most important things I learned during the process of getting my first novel published.
The writing is the fun and easy part. Right now, I am still promoting my first two books, editing my third, writing my fourth and partnering on a non-fiction project. There is so much work involved in all these that has nothing to do with writing—there’s a web site, social media (see below), PR plans, book events and planning, essays to help promote the books (you are reading one), “tip sheets” to help sell your book; meeting with book clubs……I could go on and on. You must use every skill you have—and develop new ones—to promote your book to the widest audience.
It’s a year-long process after writing your book. Lots has to happen from the time you finish your book until it is published. For me, the process began when I sent my final manuscript to my publisher in December, 2015. There are two windows for traditional publishing: spring or fall. As time was short to accomplish everything, we chose the fall cycle for my first novel. Even with that, the final title of my book had to locked down by March 1 with the cover design well underway. I know more about the cycle now and released my second book in August of this year because the timing fit perfectly with the PR plan. Choose the most advantageous time to publish your book.
Summarizing your book in one paragraph is the hardest thing to do. I failed at this, miserably! My friend and established author, Kris Radish, stepped in to help me. It is so hard to tell the story of your book in so few words without giving away key elements, but it is exactly this summary that attracts readers to your book on every platform there is, especially Amazon (more on that below). Work hard to create the fewest words to describe your work. Your short book summary is its biggest selling point.
Amazon is the big gorilla. I certainly knew this before becoming an author, but I now have personal experience with the biggest name in books. I learned that establishing an Author Central page on Amazon was critically important, and I did this by “claiming” my book as part of my page creation. My husband is English and we have tons of family and friends in England, so I wanted to make it easy for them to purchase my book, so I claimed my book on Amazon UK as well. Amazon can change the price of a book any time they want, and they did bring the retail price down on my book as part of the pre-sale. Amazon is king, so take advantage of it, but understand how it works.
Social media is king. As publishing is so fragmented, using social media to get the word out about your book isn’t a “nice to do,” it’s a “must do.” This means as a writer you must develop new platforms on Facebook, Twitter, Pinterest, LinkedIn, etc. and connect your own web site to social media tools. Luckily, I knew a bit about social media through professional and personal experience, but I learned a ton more because of my book. Get familiar with social media and use its power to promote your book every day.
Friends and family rule. They know you and want to help, so give them the tools. I did mailing lists of all the folks I know in cities where I did book events; I sent a customized email to key friends and family about the book and how to buy it; I asked a few friends for their early thoughts and asked them to review my book on Amazon or Goodreads. I used Facebook, LinkedIn and Twitter to keep contacts informed of good reviews and awards and issued calls to action. You’ll be surprised at some of the folks who step up to help you. The people who know you well are best suited to help promote your book.
Be bold. To get your book out there, you have to take some risks. Unfortunately, many don’t work out, but if a few do, you may hit the jackpot in promoting your book. I sent my book to some well-known authors, reporters and others in the movie industry, and this hasn’t paid off in a big way yet. A few months before my book came out, I sent an email to a small, local magazine about publishing a notice about my first novel. They did a whole story with a sidebar about the book, and I ended up on the cover! Make a lot of shots on goal in promoting your book, as you never know which one will result in great exposure.
Incorporate what you know and love into your book promotion. I spent more than thirty years in corporate communication, so I wrote an essay that was published in an industry newsletter about how my career helped me become an author. I love to cook, bake and travel, and, of course, write, so I incorporate all of these into my book promotions, connecting across social media platforms. Make promoting your book fun for you.
It’s never enough or totally done. Here’s the bad news: promoting your book is never over, you just move on to the next one. Here’s the good news: my publisher tells me that it takes two or three books before an author can get established, so each subsequent book brings attention to earlier works, which can result in additional sales. Never give up on bringing your work to the world as your efforts today could pay off well down the road.
It’s all on you. Whether you are working with a publisher or self-publishing, you are the one who needs to do the lion share of the work to get your book out there. You must do something every day to bring your work to the world. I was lucky that my publisher had great people who taught me about the book business, but at the end of the day, it was up to me. Quick story: I had my screening mammogram recently and got into a conversation with the technologist, and she bought my book! She asked me to talk to her son, an aspiring fantasy writer, and I did. Engage and put yourself out there; you are the best ambassador for your work.
Phyllis Piano spent more than 30 years working in Fortune 500 companies, serving as an officer and chief communication officer in several. Her first novel, Hostile Takeover: A Love Story, was published in October 2016, and received the Gold Medal in Romance at the 2017 Independent Book Publishers Association Ben Franklin Awards and first place in Fiction: Romance at the 2017 Independent Press Awards. Her second, Love Reconsidered, was published in August, 2017, and was a finalist in the 2017 Best Books Award.