Now That You’re Published... What Next?

You’ve written the book. You've gotten an agent. A publisher has accepted it, and you’ve worked your derriere off making revisions to your editor's specifications. Time to sit back and relax, right?

Well, no.

There may have been a time when that was true, but it no longer is. Today, authors (people whose preference is to simply sit in a room and write) also need to be promoters (people who are good at making and working contacts, at speaking in public, and, most of all, are good at sales). Not fun. But a necessary part of your work.

Here is a checklist of what you will need to do, along with some (hopefully!) helpful hints about how to do them:

Public Speaking: You’re going to do a lot of it. If you were ever a teacher in a former life, you're ahead of the game—and you know how easy it is to lose your audience's attention. If you have no public speaking experience, or if you’re afraid of speaking in public, now is the time to make your life a little easier:

  • Join the local chapter of Toastmasters. Seriously. These people know how to teach you the fundamentals and get you accustomed to being in front of an audience. This is time extremely well-spent.

  • Buy some clothes. You are a businessperson now, and no one is going to be impressed with the ratty jeans and pilled sweater you like to work in. Look the part of a successful author—but be sure to buy shoes for comfort, not looks. I bought a pair of Kate Spade's for a television appearance that were gorgeous—and ended up on eBay.

  • Along with the above suggestion, remember that content and humor are far more important than looks.

  • Practice, practice, practice! In the shower, if necessary. People have to hear you, and understand you. Most Americans give the impression that they're trying out to become ventriloquists: move your mouth when you talk, slow down your usual speech rate, and think of talking to the person who is in the last row. Don’t stick your nose into a paper or book.

  • In fact, don’t read from a book at all. Even your own book. Type what you have to say onto pages, 14- or 16-point, with two spaces between each line. Buy a slender loose-leaf notebook and put the papers in plastic sleeves in it. This way, you can look up from your reading, make eye contact with the audience, and resume reading without losing your place. Try and have as much memorized as possible so you’re not glued to the paper with your eyes (and mouth!) down.

Start a blog. They’re free, and it’s a great way to promote your book. Set up a conversation around the book, its message, its characters, and then visit other literary blogs. Include the address of your blog in your signature line, and after a while, people will visit yours, too.

If you do not already have a website, get one. Put links in it to places where visitors can buy your book. Some authors run their blogs off their sites, some run contests, others simply record books, reviews, appearances, etc.

Put together a media kit, and make it accessible from your website. A good media kit should include:

  • Press releases about your book

  • Info on publisher, pub. date, etc.

  • Your biography

  • Pictures of you

  • Pictures of your book's cover

  • Any advanced reviews

  • A synopsis of the book

  • How to reach you (essential and often overlooked)

Put together a P.R. plan. You may think that it’s up to your publisher to do this, and they may be doing so, but a plan of your own will supplement their efforts and make sure that the word gets out. Promoting a book takes people, money, and effort. The less you have of any one of these components, the more time and energy you will need to devote to the others. The reading public needs to hear or see a product name (and your book is most certainly a product) at least seven times before it really sinks in. What you will need, therefore, is a road map and a budget with which you can live. Not every person you reach will buy your next book, but what you want to do is establish a steady fan base that will eventually do some of your marketing for you by word-of-mouth recommendations.

Have postcards or bookmarks made that include title, your name, ISBN, and some content that will make people want to buy the book. Give these away, leave them everywhere, tuck them into your bills along with you check. You cannot send enough of these out.

Use your writing skills! Most magazines and newspapers will not allow blatant self-promotion, but if you can write an article that fits in with the theme (or even a subplot) of your book, and get the book mentioned—even if only in your bio line—then you're reaching even more people who will want to buy your book based on your scintillating prose! Does your protagonist belong to any group or organization? Write something for their newsletter and mention why you chose them for your character. Where does your book take place? Many states and cities have their own magazines; write a piece on what fictional characters live there, including your own. You get the drift.

Send out press releases. Several online services are free; others ask for a fee. You'll also want to contact local publications with ARCS of your book and a press release. Always note that you are a local author; that is definitely the foot in the door with local newspapers, more so than your topic or publisher.

Get extra copies of your book for promotional purposes, and give a signed copy as a thank you to everyone who interviews you. Make a list of people not necessarily in media whose opinions might influence others—teachers, local religious figures and/or politicians, bookstore owners and booksellers, and leaders of community organizations. Send a free copy of the book and your press kit to these people.

Finally, talk about your book. All the time. With everybody you meet. Make sure you don’t annoy people—you can do this by getting it down to one or two sentences: “My new book is about...” and keep reiterating it, again and again, on the bus, at the hairdresser’s, at the gym. Remember that word of mouth starts with you!