For most of us, it’s a long climb and there’s a lot of waiting involved. I’ve faced these challenges, and thought I’d share some lessons I learned during my own climb.
|Abingdon, May 2015|
. They’re interested in your career as a writer. It takes time to get a contract offer, and by the time my first one came along, I had already written a draft of my second book. By having it ready, with the skeleton of a third sketched out, I landed an additional two-book contract before my first book ever saw the light of day. Even while you’re editing that first book, work on the second. Try to stay one book ahead. Editors will love you for it.
Build a platform before you need it. We may not like the word—I prefer “name recognition”—but whatever you call it, writers need a platform. If you wait until you have a contract to build one, you’re already behind the curve. Blogs were important when I started, but now it appears that Facebook, Twitter, and Goodreads are taking their place. Establish yourself in each of these places. Get your name before agents, editors, and potential readers now, not later.
Start marketing yourself. You may say, “I’m a writer.” You don’t know anything about marketing. Besides, doesn’t the publisher handle that? Perhaps that was once true, but in the modern era of publishing the author has to take an active role in marketing their books. How do you do this when you don’t have a book published? You begin by marketing yourself, not just to potential readers but to agents and editors as well.
In addition to your own blog and a presence on Twitter and Facebook, visit other blogs. Leave comments, but avoid making them self-serving and promotional. If an agent or editor sees your proposal and already has a mental image of you as someone who follows the blogs they do and makes intelligent comments, what can it hurt?
Cultivate the guardians of the books. Make the acquaintance of librarians and bookstore managers. Let them know who you are. Leave a card. Offer to do a signing after your book is published. Do this so that when that big day finally comes, they’ll know who the person behind the cover picture is.
When your book is published, give a signed copy to your local librarian. They are asked for recommendations all the time. Do the same for the bookstore managers you’ve already called on. Buy and offer stickers that say, “Local author.” Many bookstores and libraries love that designation.
Spread your net. At my first writer’s conference, I was in awe of the published writers on the faculty. But as I got to know them, I discovered they were neat people, and I formed a number of lasting friendships. Later, many of those authors provided blurbs and endorsements for my books. I didn’t set out with that goal and neither should you, but it turned out to be a wonderful benefit of networking with other writers.
Get to know agents and editors. I don’t mean you should stalk them, far from it, but take advantage of opportunities to interact with them. One of the editors I met at my first conference rejected my manuscript, but we seemed to hit it off. Now she’s my agent. In this business, you never know.
Keep going. And most important, keep writing! Sir Edmund Hillary didn’t turn back, didn’t give up, and he ended up at the top. I wish you the same kind of success in your climb.
|Dr. Richard L. Mabry|
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