After months–maybe years–of writing and polishing your manuscript, there were the dreaded rounds of finding a publisher who would express an interest in your hard work. Every writer’s gone down the road of receiving stacks of rejection letters (yes, even the most famous best-selling authors had their share at one time), and experienced the dark feelings of hopelessness, wondering if all their efforts were worth it.
Then it happened.
When we least expected it, or contemplated to just give up and burn that manuscript (or delete the file, as it were, since most modern authors use computers), an offer arrived. Something in your query letter sparked an agent’s interest or your manuscript caught a publisher’s attention to the point they thought, “We need to get this in book stores or at least on Amazon!”
Sometimes, it’s a huge contract with all the bells and whistles, or–in more common cases– we received a general, yet solid, offer. There was something in your book they saw and took a chance. It’s happened; how do you think the Twilight phenomenon started?
The feeling that someone noticed our hard work–whether it’s a major publisher or big-name agent, or a small, independent company or new agent–gives us a sense of euphoria that a first-time author can only experience. It’s difficult to explain, but let’s just say the initial reaction is you’ll want to shout the good news from as many rooftops as possible, especially to the naysayer crowd, “I told you it could be done!”
However, getting an agent and/or publisher doesn’t guarantee best-seller success. Though that can happen, it’s a small percentage, so don’t think about quitting your regular job or put a rush on how you’re going to spend potential royalty checks just yet.
For those of you who are about to be published, it’s not the time to sit back and rest on your laurels. An author’s work isn’t done the moment they obtain an agent or get a publishing deal. Don’t expect these people to do the work for you.
Authors need to continue promoting. Whether it’s setting up your own website (and keeping it updated on a regular basis), having a social network account such as Twitter, being a guest blogger on literary sites, granting interviews on book sites and related radio programs, making public appearances, or even join discussions on other authors’ books, the more effort you put into generating interest in your upcoming book, the more likely the agent/publisher will take notice. Give them plenty of reasons to be both enthusiastic about having you as a client and willing to invest both valuable time and money.
Promoting is fine, but spamming isn’t. If you participate in a group or site on a regular basis, an occasional plug or updated news on your book should work well; however, if you discuss it in every other post, whatever potential reading audience you could’ve received will be driven away. Also, don’t just join sites to promote your own work. It’s just gauche and poor taste. You’re likely to be better received if you take an equal interest in the work and news of other authors. Author-based websites are also excellent places to trade valuable resources, so keep your eyes and ears open for other opportunities.
Another aspect to consider (even if you don’t have an agent or publisher yet) is to have a professional public demeanor at all times. Beginning or participating in petty arguments (though a good, mature literary-related debate is fine), putting down colleagues and/or their work (other than constructive criticism, of course), being openly biased for/against someone because of your personal feelings, speaking on controversial subjects, incessant cursing, and starting/spreading unsubstantiated rumors and gossip are among some examples of unprofessional decorum.
Your online activities should also have the same considerations. We have no idea who’s reading our social network pages, and the wrong Facebook status, Twitter post, etc. could break a promising writing career before it begins. After all the effort of finding an agent and obtaining a publisher, would you want to sabotage your dream within two seconds by tweeting something that could be looked upon with disfavor by certain parties?
You may be one of the most splendid new writers to cross an agent or publisher’s desk to date, but if you develop a reputation of being “difficult,” chances are good your contract won’t last very long. As the old adage goes, “Think before you act/speak.”
Should you share your book online? Until you’re officially published, I don’t see the problem of posting some sample chapters on free sites such as BookBzzr or even Slush Pile Reader. On the other hand, do not put up the entire manuscript on such sites–a set amount of chapters to give readers an idea about your book is enough. Otherwise, where’s the motivation to buy your book when it’s published? Both you and the publisher lose money, and neither is a good thing.
Once you go into publication (even electronically, such as Smashwords or even Kindle), all free online samples should be removed. It sounds callous, but such a move will direct more people to the actual location of your work, and wouldn’t you rather be seen on a site (or in a book store) such as Barnes & Noble, rather than a free reader site? We all know the answer to that question.
If you’re reading this and just received an offer of representation or a publishing deal, congratulations on your latest achievement. If not, don’t be discouraged. Keep working, keep sending queries, keep learning new ideas. You never know when the payoff day will happen!