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Monday, July 19, 2010

What's The Plan?

Many of us go along for years, writing, learning all we can to improve our craft, and dreaming of the day we hold a book in our hands with our name on it. But even after we've done the best work we can do and that magic moment comes and the contract has been signed, how many of us are truly ready to be published?

I will be the first to admit that I was not prepared for what happens after the contract is signed.

First of all, I had to come up with a web site. Since I didn't have any excess money lying around and hubby had just lost his job, I sat here one night until the wee hours and pored over lists of hosting sites, looking for the best deal and one that was user friendly for a non-techie like me. Namely, one that required absolutely no knowledge of html. Once I settled on a host, I quickly went to work and threw together a site. It was not pretty though, at the time, I remember thinking it was the greatest thing since peanut butter. This speaks to my state of mind during this time of unbelievable, rapturous joy brought on by the fact that I was getting published at long last--I was not rational. Not even close. I've since relocated to a better host that uses the absolutely genius Intuit software, which is a vast improvement.

Second, be prepared to edit your precious darling. I had no problem dealing with this one, but I feel it's worth mentioning because I am aware of a few individuals who freaked out when their editors sent back their manuscripts with the first round edits on them. Just be aware that, unless you self-publish (and I don't recommend it), you will more than likely be asked to change a few things. Maybe even a lot of things.  

Third, I needed a marketing plan. How the heck was I supposed to get the word out to promote my book once it was released? Chats, blogs, and loops, oh my! Until my first live chat, I'd always considered myself to be somewhat of an articulate person--at least on paper. Ha! My most embarrassing moment came when I took part in a live chat with complete strangers. The first question the moderator asked was, "What's your book about?" Simple question, right? I mean, I wrote the darn book and I, of all people, should have known the answer to the question. But, guess what. I froze. Froze! I stumbled and fumbled so badly, the mod ended up passing it over completely and moved on to something easier like, "What is your hero's name?" I wanted to dig a hole and crawl into it. Lesson learned-- be ready to encapsulate your entire story in a line or two at the drop of a hat. Figure it out, write it down. Write it on the back of your hand, if that's what it takes.

Once your book hits the shelves, virtual or otherwise, be prepared to answer questions. About your story. About your writing process and your inspirations. Any halting or fumbling about for words is not acceptable. People start to give you strange looks if you do this. An air of self-confidence is a must when trying to promote yourself. Too bad so many of us writers become tongue-tied when you drag us from behind the keyboard and actually force us to speak.

Fourth point--and this is a biggie--once you publish your first book, readers expect more. Gasp! For most of us, this is a no-brainer. But for some--like me--we spend so much time writing, revising, polishing, and shopping that manuscript around NY that it never even occurs to us that at some point we need to move on and do it all over again with something new. I can tell you from experience that the question most frequently asked of a new author is, "When's your next book coming out?" It's a real wake up call, especially if you have nothing but a bunch of half-baked partials waiting in the wings. My advice to anyone who seriously aims for a career at this writing stuff is, don't publish unless you are prepared to publish again, and again. Otherwise you end up with a long, long stretch of nothing where you're trying to figure out what the heck your next move should be. Lesson learned (from my perspective, anyway)--don't submit unless you're prepared to cover your butt with solid follow-up material.

One final thing I want to mention. All of the above can happen at dizzying speed if you publish with an electronic press. In my case, I went from contract offer to book release in the space of two months. If that sounds like plenty time to make the adjustment and deal with all the details inherent with going from unpublished to published, trust me, it isn't. My biggest mistake was accepting an offer to edit when I'd barely finished signing the contract for my own book. The whole publishing experience kind of passed me by because I was up to my ears in queries and other people's manuscripts.

On the bright side, I've learned some really good lessons which--hopefully--left me better prepared for the future. It took a while, but I'm now looking forward and dreaming those big dreams again of tossing my hat into the publishing ring. And ain't it about time!

Happy writing!


  1. Thanks for sharing your experiences and insights. I imagine it is a whirlwind... and it's good to have some knowledge ahead of time. I'm glad you're dreaming those big dreams again!!

  2. Thanks, Amy. I'm always glad if I can give someone the benefit of my experiences and I hope that it will be helpful in some way. Unfortunately, most of us have to travel our own path and experience things for ourselves before the lessons sink in. One of the things I've learned lately--and it was the harshest lesson of all--is that we're nothing without dreams and aspirations.

  3. Lessons learned--ouch.

    BUT. This is great news, Devon! I know I'm late in reading it, but just as excited for you.


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