7 Things I've Learned So Far, by Elizabeth Richards

4. Buy lots of swag. You’re going to need it! Bloggers, readers, bookstores, other authors, book groups, librarians and schools will all want some, so you better make sure you’ve got plenty to go around. If you want to keep costs low (and I do!), I highly recommend you just order bookmarks, as they’re cheap to produce, they look awesome, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg to mail (and trust me, it all adds up, especially if you’re posting internationally). GIVEAWAY: Elizabeth is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Rebecca Harwell won.)
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This is a recurring column I’m calling “7 Things I’ve Learned So Far,”where writers (this installment written by Elizabeth Richards, author of the young adult debut, BLACK CITY) at any stage of their career can talk about writing advice and instruction as well as how they possibly got their book agent -- by sharing seven things they’ve learned along their writing journey that they wish they knew at the beginning.

GIVEAWAY: Elizabeth is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Rebecca Harwell won.)

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Elizabeth Richards is an award-winning journalist, who spent her
early career reviewing videogames before making the bold (or crazy)
move into travel writing, despite suffering from terrible travel sickness.
In her spare time, she ran a successful lifestyle website aimed at teenage
girls, where she got to interview many of her favourite bands, go to gigs
and basically blag loads of free swag all in the name of ‘research’.
Elizabeth lives in Buckinghamshire, England, with her husband. Her
debut novel is BLACK CITY (Putnam Juvenile, Nov. 2012), a story about
pair of star-crossed youths set against a dystopian backdrop. Connect
with Elizabeth on Facebook, Twitter, or Goodreads.

1. Don’t be afraid to ask questions. Like any new job, it takes a while to learn the ropes, so don’t be scared to ask questions! Your agent, editor, publicist and writer friends are all there to help you through your debut year, and nobody expects you to know everything straight away, so just ask.

2. Join a writers’ group. Immediately after signing with Putnam, my editor suggested I join the Apocalypsies – a writers’ group for YA authors whose debut novels were coming out in 2012 (members include Leigh Bardugo, Marissa Meyer, Gennifer Albin, Kiera Cass, and Veronica Rossi, to name just a few). I ummed and ahhhed about it for a few days, as I wasn’t sure I had time for it. However, it was the best decision I ever made. Their friendship, support and advice have been invaluable, and got me through my debut year. Plus, when it comes to marketing, it doesn’t hurt having 100+ authors at the ready to RT your tweets.

(How successful should a blog be before agents/editors will take notice?)

3. Be selective. You only get a limited supply of ARCs, so it’s best to hold them back for competitions, blog tours, or to give to bloggers that you’ve formed a close working relationship with. It’s also a good idea to have one or two copies put aside, in case you get approached by journalists closer to publication date. I leant all this the hard way! Obviously, you want to make sure as many bloggers as possible get to read your book prior to publication, so find out from your publisher what their general marketing email address is, and direct people to that, so they can request a review copy directly from them.

4. Buy lots of swag. You’re going to need it! Bloggers, readers, bookstores, other authors, book groups, librarians and schools will all want some, so you better make sure you’ve got plenty to go around. If you want to keep costs low (and I do!), I highly recommend you just order bookmarks, as they’re cheap to produce, they look awesome, and they don’t cost an arm and a leg to mail (and trust me, it all adds up, especially if you’re posting internationally).

5. Get online! In this day and age, it’s pretty much inexcusable not to have some sort of online presence, especially if you’re writing for young adults. Not only is it a good way to promote your book and generate buzz, but the relationships you form online can open up a world of opportunities for you—it’s how I got my film rights optioned for BLACK CITY (a blogger I’d been emailing sent her ARC of Black City to a studio executive she knew, and they contacted my agent shortly after!). So get on Twitter and Facebook, make sure you have a blog / website, sign up to Goodreads, and if you write YA fiction and have time for it, get on Tumblr, Instagram, and Pinterest too. Basically, make yourself accessible, network, find fun ways to engage with bloggers and readers, and promote yourself!

(Looking to attend a writers' conference? Start here.)

6. Get offline! I know this is contradicting the last point, but don’t forget you’re actually a writer, so occasionally you have to use your laptop for things other than checking your Twitter feed. However, the internet is always trying to lure you away from work, so invest in some software like Freedom, which blocks your internet connection for a set period of time, or Write Or Die, which isn’t for the fainthearted but you will get a lot of words on the page. Then once you’ve completed your set period of writing, reward yourself with some time on the Internet.

7. Give yourself a pat on the back. It’s easy to get bogged down with deadlines, marketing, sales, rankings, reviews, and all too often you’re so busy comparing yourself to other authors that you forget you’ve done this amazing thing: you’ve got a book published! So take a moment to congratulate yourself. You deserve it.

GIVEAWAY: Elizabeth is excited to give away a free copy of her novel to a random commenter. Comment within 2 weeks; winners must live in Canada/US to receive the book by mail. You can win a blog contest even if you’ve won before. (Update: Rebecca Harwell won.)

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Other writing/publishing articles & links for you:

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