Today’s Seasoned Authors blog is geared toward those of you still aiming for your first contract. I’ll bet you think all you have to do is write a good book, right? How do I know that? Because it’s what I thought, too. I know better now, but unfortunately, being unprepared for my first contract left me scurrying to catch up with the rest of the published world.
You can do yourself a favor by getting organized now. Yes, you need to write that awesome book, but you’re going to need a few more things, like a web presence, blog topics, etc. Prospective agents and publishers will Google you. Show them you’re serious about a career in writing.
Plan to worry about it when the time comes?
When you land your contract (and you have to believe you will, because if you don’t believe, who will?), you will be swamped with edits, marketing, interviews, and writing your next novel.
Our Seasoned Authors would like you to know what you should be doing now, before you land your first contract. Feel free to click on their names to learn more about them.
Collette Cameron is an Amazon bestselling (3 times Amazon Kindle top 100) and award-winning author of Regency and Scottish romance. If that’s not enough to convince you she knows what she’s doing, how about this? She won the 2013 Sneak Peek Contest, was a 2014 RONE Nominee, a double RONE Finalist in 2015, Aspen Gold Finalist 2015, and 2015 Wisconsin RWA Write Touch Reader’s Choice Winner. At this time, she has nine books under her belt with contracts for four more. She self-published a series, has four group projects already published and two more coming out in early 2016.
Tema Merback ‘s first book was a National Jewish Book Award Finalist entitled “In the Face of Evil,” the story of her mother’s survival of the Holocaust. It took her four years to write, but it was worth it, as it continues to be one of the highest rated books on Amazon and Goodreads. With her hot romance and suspense, she went the self-publishing route. She also writes under a nom de plume, Belle Ami.
Tina Susedik writes romantic mysteries, children’s books, and history books using her real name and erotic romance as Anita Kidesu. Her novel, “Riding for Love” was a finalist in the 2014 BTS awards. She has eleven books and two short stories in print, with two more on the horizon.
Catherine Castle writes sweet and inspirational romance. She has published one novel under the pen name of Catherine Castle and three as a coauthor with her husband. Her books consistently win awards, including the 2014 Beverly Hills Book Award Winner for Inspirational Romance, and a RONE in 2014 for inspirational romance. She was a finalist in the 2014 EPIC awards for an action/adventure romance and was a 2014 Carolyn Readers Choice Award finalist.
Ryan Jo Summers writes romance she calls “a mishmash of inspirational, time travel, shape shifting, paranormal, mystery, any and all combinations of the above.” She has three novels out now and another three coming in 2016. She blogs at http://www.summersrye.wordpress.com
Stacy Hoff writes contemporary romance. She has two anthology stories and three full-length novels to her credit, along with a 2015 “Rising Star” nomination from BTS emag’s Red Carpet Awards.
Jessica Jefferson is a bestselling author of historical romance. Her fifth novel is about to hit the market.
Samanthya Wyatt is a Golden Rose finalist. She writes both historical and contemporary romance, and has four books out at this time.
Petie McCarty is the author of five books, with the sixth coming in December. She writes contemporary paranormal romance for Desert Breeze and Soul Mate Publishing.
What should writers do before publication (other than write the best book possible, of course!) Should pre-pubbed writers have websites? Blogs?
Collette: A website is a must. It’s the hub for where readers, etc. can find you. Pre-pubbed authors need a few social media outlets too. How else will you begin to build a platform and following?
Tema: Yes, writers must have websites, a blog is helpful. Author’s must have pages on websites like Goodreads, and Book Movement, but most important are those reviews by bloggers, book sites, and media.
Tina: I’ve been trying to convince my unpublished friends in my writers’ group to start blogging and getting a website now, before they’re published. Because I was published with my history books before my romances, I already had a website. I hadn’t blogged, but I wish I had well before the books had come out. My friends wonder what they have to talk about since they’re not published. I keep telling them they should blog about anything they want to, to gain a following. Blog about your writing process. Blog about how your characters are driving you crazy. Blog how you had to dump the first 10,000 words you wrote. (Something Jude Deveraux did.) Blog about your dog, cat, kids, husband, birds, etc. pestering you while you try to write. Blog about a trip you took. Anything to get people interested. Then when you get a contract, blog about the excitement, the editing process, your new cover, etc.
Catherine: I think pre-pubbed writers should have their social media stuff in place before they hit the ground running with a book. I didn’t, and I’m still playing catch-up with my social media-except for my blog. I had that under my belt when I sold my first book. I had a hellacious social media learning curve for everything else while I was trying to get my book edited and marketed. Because of that, I made some mistakes.
Ryan Jo: Yes, set up the blogs, websites, pages, etc… before the book comes out. You can start with the basics and add to it as more evolves. But you want to start promoting your release 4-6 months before it comes out if possible. Book cover launch, giveaways, teasers tweets/ teaser posts, there are tons of things you can do to drum up routine interest in a book months and weeks before the book is available. So definitely yes.
Stacy: I would recommend pre-pubbed writers having websites and blogs. I didn’t and when I suddenly found myself published I had a heck of a time playing catch-up.
Samanthya: A website is necessary for any author. How else can someone learn about you? If you don’t have a lot of money for someone to set you up with a nice site, you can do your own. Workshops are offered all the time. SAVVY Authors have offered a ton of workshops, RWA chapters offer many workshops, and any author can create a website.
Petie: Everybody has their own opinions on how to market on social media, but I think most authors would say that having an informative web site with pictures and excerpts, etc. is a must-have for a pre-pubbed author. The first place a reader will go after reading and enjoying a new author is to Google to search for them. I do it, and I never cease to be amazed when I find an author without a web page.
Everybody has their own idea on what works with social media, but I can tell you I have changed my mind in recent months. I have sold way more books using Twitter than Facebook or Pinterest. Twitter is a two-way street though, and you can’t just tweet ads about your books or no one will retweet your posts or follow you, which builds your tweet possibilities. Each book promo tour I have done has added 75-100 Twitter followers.
Here’s a bonus interview question for all you aspiring writers . . .
Seasoned authors, are there any how-to books you recommend for fellow writers?
Tema: I keep trying to convince myself to purchase some of those “how-to sell a million books in a week” books, but the thought of actually reading them gives me a headache.
I do read blogs and articles about self-promotion, marketing, blogging, and advertising.
Tina: I don’t really read the how-two books, but I do subscribe to several writing blogs. No matter how much you’re published, there is always something to learn or re-learn. There are a couple of books I go to as I write. One is “The Romance Writers’ Phrase Book” by Jean Kent and Candace Shelton. The others are by Angela Ackerman and Becca Puglisi. They also have a blog called “Writers Helping Writers” that is excellent. The books are: “The Emotion Thesaurus,” The Positive Trait Thesaurus,” and “”The Negative Trait Thesaurus.”
Catherine: Deb Dixon’s Goal, Motivation and Conflict. Anything by James Scott Bell or Donald Maas. I’m also a firm believer in the Hero’s Journey. It’s helped me solve some plot issues.
Ryan Jo: Chicago Manual of Style. AP Handbook of Style. A great thesaurus and dictionary. Those are basics. Books written by people who write your genre. I also like ‘Talk up Your Book’ by Patricia Fry because she covered things I have trouble with—namely talking to others about my books.
Petie: The greatest how-to writing book I have ever read is Stephen King’s On Writing. Though it’s part autobiography, the fiction master shares his pearls of wisdom on what worked for him and what might work for you. I’ve read the book three times.
Are you working on the next great novel? Tell us about it!
Up Next Week . . . Ego: how important is it?