Besides the writing of the world’s best novel, there are a few things to consider before that novel makes it to print.
Create a pitch. When I spent my years writing novels before I published my first medieval mystery, I also spent a lot of time planning what would happen when one finally was published. And part of that planning was, of course, the nuts and bolts of completing a manuscript. Not only do you need to have it finished, but once it is, you need to sit down and complete the business aspect of the writing and write a synopsis. You’ll need the 25-word pitch, the paragraph, the one page, and then the full. All of these are handy to have. The pitch is for queries and for networking when you answer that inevitable question, “What’s your book about?” Know it. Memorize it. Use it.
Guest column by award-winning author Jeri Westerson, who writes
the critically acclaimed Crispin Guest Medieval Noir novels. Her brooding
protagonist is Crispin Guest, a disgraced knight turned detective on the
mean streets of fourteenth century London, running into thieves, kings,
poets, and religious relics. Her fifth in the series is BLOOD LANCE
(Oct. 2012, Minotaur), available in bookstores in hardcover, e-book,
and audio book. When not writing, Jeri dabbles in gourmet cooking,
drinks fine wines, eats cheap chocolate, and swoons over anything British.
Think marketing. Once that’s all done it’s time to think beyond the writing stage and start thinking about the marketing stage. When you sign a contract these days, very often the publisher wants to see a marketing plan from you.
Marketing plan, you say? Didn’t I already do the hard part and write the bloody novel? These days, that is only the beginning.
Part of that marketing plan is, of course, your online presence. Do you have a blog? Do you have a website? Are you on Facebook, Twitter, Goodreads? Are you keeping up with the ever-changing industry?
First, let’s talk blog and website. But if you’re not published, what would you have to put up on a website or a blog? True, a website won’t have much more than your bio, maybe some short stories you wrote, and perhaps a few awards. But even if all you have is a bio, it’s a good idea to get that all important domain name (places like GoDaddy.com can help you with that). As for content, tell us about your series. Give us an excerpt of the first chapter. It’s a chance to create your public persona. Are you going to be outgoing and open? Funny? Mysteriously aloof? Once the book is published it’s almost too late to get that presence on the internet, so start getting that presence well before you even finish the manuscript.
And as for your blog, please don’t give us another newbie blog on “how I’m working hard to get published” with stories about your cat and your Aunt Sadie. Unless your Aunt Sadie is a famous actress or explorer, leave her out of it. In fact, get used to being a professional. Lose the personal Facebook page or blog. Do you really want your family, your kids splashed all over the internet? Frame your blog on your book series. Is it about a detective who quilts? Then let it be about quilts. Is it a thriller set in L.A.? Then become the expert on the down and dirty of Los Angeles. Mine is about history and mystery. You are the expert on whatever it is you write about.
Speak freely. And speaking of being an expert, you will want to get yourself speaking engagements at your local and not-so-local libraries, at professional organization luncheons, at any place they want to have you. And so you need to prepare some presentations, something that says a little about you and a little about your books. You can’t always do a reading of your book and, let’s face it, a lot of authors are pants at reading aloud. Have something interesting to offer by way of a presentation. I talk about medieval history. And I bring props, my medieval weaponry. You can bet that gets an audience’s attention. Word gets out that your talk is interesting and fun. You will get asked to a lot of places. Again, remember you are the expert in whatever it is you are writing about. If you are writing a cooking mystery, then get ready with that hot plate and start talking.
(Public speaking is all part of building your author platform.)
Is all this part of your marketing plan? Yes, it is! Include your marketing strategy the places you plan to go to talk about your book and what that presentation is. Do you have an email list to announce about your book release? You should be working on amassing that. Goodreads friends? Friends on Facebook? Do you Tweet? Do you have followers? These are the places to start on now before the book is in print, the things that should be on your marketing plan.
Buckle up and enjoy the ride. Is it a lot of work? Yes. Is it rewarding to have your book on bookshelves and in people’s hands, in audiences that have come to hear you talk? You bet it is. But it happens because you are prepared. Prepared to hit the ground running.
Check Out These Great Upcoming Writers’ Conferences:
- Feb. 11, 2017: Writers Conference of Minnesota (St. Paul, MN)
- Feb. 16–19, 2017: San Francisco Writers Conference (San Francisco, CA)
- Feb. 24, 2017: The Alabama Writers Conference (Birmingham, AL)
- Feb. 25, 2017: Atlanta Writing Workshop (Atlanta, GA)
- March 25, 2017: Michigan Writers Conference (Detroit, MI)
- March 25, 2017: Kansas City Writing Workshop (Kansas City, MO)
- April 8, 2017: Philadelphia Writing Workshop (Philadelphia, PA)
- April 22, 2017: Get Published in Kentucky Conference (Louisville, KY)
- April 22, 2017: New Orleans Writers Conference (New Orleans, LA)
- May 6, 2017: Seattle Writers Conference (Seattle, WA)
- May 19-21, 2017: PennWriters Conference (Pittsburgh, PA)
- June 24, 2017: The Writing Workshop of Chicago (Chicago, IL)
- July 22, 2017: Tennessee Writers Workshop (Nashville, TN)
- Aug. 18–20, 2017: Writer’s Digest Conference (New York, NY)