Welcome to an entire month of Top 5 Tips for Authors!
Every day this month my friends and I will bring you a new set of Top 5 Tips to help you along on your author journey. 2017 was a year of change in the Indie author world for sure. So many happenings. So many new things to learn. So many old things that didn’t quite do what you’d hoped. Well, every day is a new day. And every year is a new year. So we hope that this month’s worth of tips will get you the kick start you need to make 2018 your best yet and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
JA Motherfucking Huss is the NYT bestselling author of 321 and has been on the USA Today Bestsellers list eighteen times. She writes dark shit that isn’t for everyone but once in a while she gets a joke in her that comes out as a romantic comedy. She’s a workaholic who lives on a ranch in Colorado. (This is her blog, BTW, so her links are all over the goddamned place so I’m not gonna post one here.)
So you’re writing a book? Congrats! It takes a lot of patience, skill, perseverance, and sacrifices to write a book. But writing the end isn’t the end of your journey. Because if you want people to read your book you have to actually publish it. Which means you have two options.
You can query agents to find an advocate that will shop your book to publishers.
Or you can self-publish that book and skip the middleman.
Either way, you’re going to have to all of what I’m listing below, yourself. That’s just the nature of the business. Very few authors get major marketing packages as part of their book deal.
Sooo… now what?
Now you launch. Here’s top 5 tips to help you do that.
Yes, you need them all. You need a website, you need a Facebook profile, you need a Facebook author page, you need a Twitter, you need an Instagram, and you *might* need a Pinterest. Pinterest might be optional.
Set up means: You have a cover photo on all those pages, you have your profile filled out, you have an author picture, and you have been posting a few times a week (at least).
When I say early, I mean MONTHS in advance of your intended release. In fact, the second you start writing your book, you should set this stuff up. Then you won’t have to post so much. You can post once a week on each, maybe. But if it takes you a year to finish your book, that’s 52 posts for each platform.
I tell you to do this early so that you have a social footprint for your author name. If people are interested in your book they’re gonna be interested in you too. They’re gonna go look that shit up. They want to SEE you. They want to read a short biography. They want to know you are real and you have something to say.
So get social, and do it early and as often as you can.
2 Unless you’re on the run from the fucking FBI, or you’re in the witness protection program, or you never intend on becoming *famous*, get over the fact that people are “gonna look you up”.
Look, no one hates the fucking spotlight more than me, OK? I get it. But listen, “If one wants to be a financially successful creative, one usually has to “become famous”.”
You’re not alone. I hate it too. My writing partner, Johnathan McClain, and I, just hired a swanky PR person to represent us. And that night we did that he asked me, “Are you ready to be rich and famous?” I’m like… “Well… I mean I don’t mind the rich stuff…” And that quote in the paragraph above is what he said to me. Exactly. Get over it.
I know some people use a pen name. For lots of very legitimate reasons, too. But look, what he said is true. If you want to be a financially successful creative you gotta be known. And secret people can’t be known. So decide how you’re gonna handle that early.
3 Either teach yourself how to do everything or commit to the fact that publishing requires an upfront investment.
Personally, I do it all myself. I make my own websites, I make my own graphics, I format my own paperback and eBooks, I upload everything, I make my own covers, I do my own ads. EVERYTHING. So I save quite a bit of money doing all that stuff. (I’m kinda of a control freak, which is why I do it all myself). The only thing I don’t do myself is editing – because, duh.
But most authors won’t be able to do it all themselves. Most of you will have to hire someone. So understand that going in. Choose which way you’re gonna go. If you want to do it all yourself, while you’re writing your book, teach yourself how to do all those things if that’s how you want it to shake out.
Just make sure you present a professional product. It doesn’t have to be perfect, just close to perfect. And by perfect I don’t mean the story. I mean the presentation.
OK, you’re ready to hit publish. Now what?
4 Talk about your book on all those social platforms
Hopefully you took my advice in #1 and set up your social sites. And hopefully you’ve been posting to those sites for a while now. And hopefully that got you a few like-minded friends, or maybe even some interested readers. I mean, being social is the whole fucking point of social sites, right?
4a DO NOT just post a link to your book. No one gives a shit about your book unless you give them a reason to. So don’t just throw up links everywhere and say, “Buy my book!” Because it doesn’t work that way. You have to SELL your book. And that means writing clever copy. But hey, the good news is, you’re a goddamned writer, right? Now’s the time to prove it.
4b Come up with your one sentence premise. i.e. describe your book in one sentence. This should be clever, snappy, and everyone who reads it should know your genre. That way they can decide right away if your book is gonna be “their thing”. Don’t trick people into thinking your book is “their thing” when it’s not. It’s pointless to do that. They’re gonna figure it out real quick and you’re gonna look stupid. Plus, they won’t trust you next time. So own what you did, describe it honestly, and then work your magic with words that sell.
4c Unless you know a lot about Facebook and Amazon ads, the marketing plan for your first book doesn’t include ads. It’s all hand-selling, you guys. It’s not easy. Getting “discovered” is an entire year of online blog posts. You just gotta find your way through the fray and make yourself standout.
4d Your first-book marketing plan should include a blog tour with reviews, or a release day blitz, and an online celebration on your social sites. Very few people kill it on the first book and most of those who do are not actually publishing their first book, they’re using pen names and they have friends and know what the fuck they’re doing. So find a company that can set up a blog tour for you. I use Xpresso Reads and Give Me Books, but there’s lots of places out there that do them.
5 Keep your expectations realistic and persevere.
It doesn’t matter how many copies of your first book you sell. The only thing that matter is that you keep going. Quitters get nowhere in this business. And maybe that’s true for other businesses, but it’s especially true for creative businesses. You can mentally check out of your boring office job and still get paid. You can’t EVER check out of your creative job. Because YOU are the product. Your book is the tangible product, sure. But your book is an extension of you. So don’t check out. Find your fans. Interact with your fans. See my tip on finding your fans (link below).
And most of all…
6 START WRITING THE NEXT BOOK
And author is a body of work. One book is a body of work, but most people will not make a career off one book. You might be Harper Lee and your one book might end up on the reading list for every high school in America for decades, thus ensuring you’re all set. But chances are, you’re not her and you didn’t write To Kill a Mockingbird.
You will be judged on your collection of books. So make sure you have a collection.