When you're launching a book, your job is to find readers, engage with readers, write good books, and sell the heck out of said book(s). Here are a few rules from the world of startup businesses that will make the investment of time and energy worth your while.
Let’s be clear: I’ve done a lot of dumb stuff on my quest to launch as a debut novelist. A lot. (We’ll get to that.) But in a world that has so dramatically changed—aka publishing—we're now looking at a LOT of combined efforts to get a book to superstar status: your internal publicity team, potential outside publicist, and a ton of blood, sweat, and tears from Y-O-U. The key?
You have to stop thinking of your book as your precious infallible baby and instead take it for what it is: a product.
When launching a book, your job is to find readers, engage with readers, write good books, and sell the heck out of said book(s). If you’re like every other writer in the world, the idea of pushing your own book, becoming a sales pro, a social media maven, or a publicity junkie makes you want to become even more introverted than you probably already are.
We are writers for a reason, but none of us have the luxury of hiding anymore. The game has changed and if you want to play, here are a few rules for launching a book that will make the investment of time and energy worth your while.
6 Rules Launching a Book and Starting a Business Have in Common
1. Treat your debut as a start-up.
While it might feel dreamy and magical to land a book deal, writing a book is the easy part. What comes after—the interminable waiting, making financial ends meet, the edits, the self-doubt, the self-pity, the uncertainty while watching your book go into the world and have other people comment on and review it—that’s the scary part. But it’s no scarier than every other entrepreneur who takes a risk and opens a business, sells a product, or has to learn the ropes. Writing is your business. Sometimes you succeed. Sometimes you fail. Take the emotion out of your book and look at your career as a whole. This is just the starting point. Figure out what foundation you need to lay so you won’t be a one-hit wonder.
2. Make the right investment.
While I landed a two-book deal with my dream publisher in New York, instead of squirreling away the first part of my advance, I decided to essentially “spend” it on an outside publicist. I spent a LOT of money on a 10-month campaign for my debut. While I tried not to have a mini-heart attack at the sticker shock and the absolute reality that PR is not a guarantee of anything, my publicist reminded me that this is an investment. This is my business. And promoting books is her business. When I compare it to every other entrepreneur out there, the money I spent is small potatoes. I didn’t take out a loan. I didn’t drain our savings account. I worked extra gigs to pay it in full. And I hope to hell it pays off.
3. View your book as a product.
Though being a novelist can feel like having no freaking clue what’s happening as everyone keeps you in the dark until something exciting happens, I also secured a movie option deal pre-publication. And my team had a hell of a lot to do with that. When I view my book as a product, I realize my most important job is to raise reader awareness and facilitate an environment that will help sell my book. And you can’t do that alone. Having the right team in place is critical to your book’s success.
4. Don’t quit your day job.
Yes, there are some people who go all in and quit their jobs to write full-time. (I’ll get there.) However, in the beginning, do not put that unnecessary pressure on yourself to make money as a novelist until you are making money as a novelist. Writers get paid on a much more sparse schedule than stable jobs with biweekly paychecks. And at first, the money can be very slow to come. By having a day job, I only get to complain about not having enough time to write. I do not complain about figuring out how I’m going to pay the bills. Because my day job is writing for other people, I am flexing my “business” muscle and also providing for my family.
5. Know your audience.
I must admit, I kind of shy away from writer events. Open mics. Writing workshops. I’m not a whiskey-drinking intellectual or a spoken word pro. I write books, yes, but I am avidly into health, wake up early, do yoga, spend ample time in front of Netflix, drink too much coffee, am a slight hypochondriac, am obsessed with typewriters, don’t like most people, and can beat you in a pull-up contest any day of the week. And luckily, in my foray into social media, I’ve found my “readership” on Instagram with people who like to hear honest stories and look at pretty pictures of typewriters. Find your audience, the ones who will not only read your book but wait eagerly for the next one. Make sure you are “selling” to the right tribe.
6. Keep working.
Okay, more dumb stuff. The amount of time I have spent googling my book, my name, popping onto Goodreads and Netgalley every five seconds to see what new reviews are up (she said what? she only gave me how many stars? did she even read the book?) is pointless. Spend any amount of free time you have pre-launch writing your next book. Better yet? Have your second book finished before you ever pitch your first book, so you can wait for book launch with a smug satisfaction and not suffer the inevitable death of the second book blues.
No matter what stage you're at for your own book launch, remember that this is a business. Everything you do now is setting the stage for book two, three and beyond. Do as much work as you can so you have less to do down the road. Flex your resilient muscles.
And realize that this writing thing? It’s a long-game.
Rea Frey is an award-winning author of several nonfiction books. She lives in Nashville with her husband and daughter. Not Her Daughter is her debut novel. Website: reafrey.com | Facebook: @reafrey | Instagram: @reafrey | Twitter: @ReaFrey_Author
Take your writing career to the next level at indieLAB, a new conference for entrepreneurial authors.