Independent authors have the option to sign up for a huge number of services to help them get their books out into the world. Authors can work with companies on jacket design, promotion, editing, distribution, and more.
While each individual author’s goals and budget will determine which services are most important to invest in,there are still some best practices for authors to figure out which company or service is worth their investment.
Before signing up for any service, ask plenty of questions. Feel free to request case studies or examples of previous work the service has rendered. Then you’ll be able to get a better sense of what you can expect for yourself.
Read online reviews. If it’s a well-known company, other authors will be talking about their experiences using it somewhere online. While there are always going to be some outliers, you will be able to see broad trends or early warning signs from these reviews.
Before hiring services to help manage certain parts of your book’s publication, think about your skills and your network.Maybe you don’t need to hire a company to run social media for you, for example. You might find that you can do it yourself, or that you already have someone in your personal or professional network who you can work with. However, remember to think strategically about your time.
Consider your bandwidth. While you might have the ability to manage your own social media accounts, will the time it takes be time better spent on other tasks?
And finally, remember that no publishing or marketing service is a magic bullet. No single service will turn your book into a bestseller or land it a movie deal, but it will hopefully make it a better product available to a greater number of readers.
Multi-tiered marketing, strategic cover design, and Read Now access helped readers find this debut novel
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re hearing from Jayne Allen about her debut novel, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted.
Allen used a multi-tiered, timely marketing strategy to help Black Girls Must Die Exhausted keep finding new NetGalley readers throughout its lifecycle on the site. An intriguing title and visually enticing cover helped the book find an audience looking to see themselves reflected in the characters they read about — including book clubs whose members became some of her biggest advocates!
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted became available on NetGalley shortly before its pub date and stayed up after it went on sale. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley primarily as a post-pub tool and why that works for you.
Allowing the book to be offered for sale during the NetGalley window worked best for me because it allowed NetGalley reviewers to post directly on the Amazon sales page as a consumer review, which meant more early reviews for the book, and it allowed us to start recouping the editing and production investment much earlier. At first, I was concerned that being on NetGalley might somehow erode sales, but the simultaneous window actually served to increase sales and start Black Girls moving up the charts much more quickly.
Additionally, Jayne Allen is a new pen name for me for fiction. I truly started fresh with this book. I had no email list and told none of my personal network about my novel. On Instagram, @JayneAllenWrites started with not even 30 followers, and there was no website and no Facebook page. All of the early momentum was about the substance of the book itself and the strength of the honest reader response. Thankfully, the NetGalley community responded positively to the work and passion that went into Black Girls Must Die Exhausted and created the early lift that has allowed this project to fly forward.
You ran several marketing campaigns with NetGalley – two Category Spotlights in September, when the book published, a Featured Title placement the next month, and then two more Category Spotlights in February. Tell us about the strategy behind your on-site NetGalley marketing. Why was this combination and timing the best fit for your unique goals?
While I am a passionate advocate for an increase in the volume of diverse and multicultural books in the publishing landscape, the lower number of books in the category as compared to “mainstream” fiction did work to my advantage for visibility on NetGalley. Based on the early response, it was clear that NetGalley readers are hungry for more fresh perspectives and cultural narratives. Still, the NetGalley platform is a popular destination, with new titles being added regularly to all categories. After the initial arrival of Black Girls Must Die Exhausted, the title wasn’t as prominent as before.
I used the Category Spotlight at the beginning to ensure visibility because I felt that the uniqueness of my protagonist and the diverse character mix would be a strong draw for people looking for something new and different in the realm of multicultural narratives. The early reviews were positive, [so] I used the Featured Title placement to expand to a broader range of readers. As February is Black History Month, I felt that there would undoubtedly be many more readers looking for black cultural perspectives, and I wanted to make sure that they saw Black Girls Must Die Exhausted and had the opportunity to make it part of their Black History Month experience.
Reviews are really the gold bullion currency of book sales. Nothing beats social proof other than direct word of mouth endorsement. NetGalley’s community of avid and engaged readers provided that during the critical post-publication period. The first four months of the marketing plan and budget for Black Girls Must Die Exhausted solely focused on NetGalley and Amazon advertising, nothing more than merely soliciting reviews and point-of-sale exposure. Until the reviews reached a critical mass, I did no author platform building and was not active on social media.
Reviews are truly the most vital asset to have. As an independent publisher, you have to be careful to do things in the correct timing and order so as not to waste precious resources by starting promotions or marketing efforts that are premature, especially as a debut author.
Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why?
I knew that the uniqueness of the Black Girls Must Die Exhausted title would allow the audience for the book to define itself. The readers interested in multicultural works were the most active, but at its base, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is very much chick lit, albeit with a social conscience. You have a typical 30-something professional woman who just wants what we all do at the root of things – to be loved. Only in this book, she also happens to be black with a cultural perspective not often seen in chick lit. As I observed from the reviews and response on NetGalley, black female readers were so happy to finally see themselves reflected in such a multi-layered way in fiction, with their “blackness” written into the experience without overpowering it. Non-black readers were excited to find that they could relate to a story that was culturally authentic but not exclusionary. It was a beautiful thing for me to read many of the reviews from both of the segments that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted reached – Multicultural Interest and Women’s Fiction.
We heard that you’ve been working with book clubs. How has NetGalley fit into your book club outreach?
The book clubs found me! Several book club representatives accessed the title for evaluation over the period that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was on NetGalley. It appears that book clubs use NetGalley to source new and interesting titles for their groups. I had no idea that my book had been selected until I received the emails asking for discussion questions, and one asking if I would participate in their meeting to discuss my book via live stream. Since then, several of the book club members have become some of my most engaged connections on social media.
Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was available to any interested member as a Read Now title. Tell us about why you chose that availability setting.
This was my first experience using NetGalley directly. The prior time, my nonfiction book Regroupwas managed by my PR representative, Smith Publicity. At first, I was concerned that the Read Now setting would lead to a “free for all” without quality reviews from engaged readers who were genuinely interested in reading the book. Ultimately, I decided that it was more important, at least at first, to reach more readers than less, especially with a debut novel from a new voice in fiction. I told myself that if there seemed to be an issue, I could always quickly change the setting. Over the course of the entire NetGalley window, I never did. It worked out wonderfully, and I was happy to give newer reviewers the opportunity to build their reviews on the platform as well.
38% of members with access to the title listed the cover as a reason for request. What message did you want to send to potential readers when you were designing the cover?
My professional background is in branding and marketing. It was essential to me to design a cover that was as delicious as possible to the eyes. I wanted to send a signal of the deliberate quality that went into every nook and cranny of the work. As a visual symbol, I wanted to represent the vibrancy and the richness of life, which is one of the underlying themes of the book – living life to the fullest. The title Black Girls Must Die Exhausted is a little cheeky, so I let the cover tell more of the actual story. Perhaps most important, I wanted the cover to make women feel gorgeous holding the book and for them to feel proud of what they were reading.
46% of members with access said that the description was their reason for request. How did you think about drawing in readers with your copy?
For black women, I just knew instinctively that the title would speak a truth to them that they would want to explore within themselves. For non-black women and men, I believed that the title would signal an honesty and depth of perspective that would be a rare opportunity to experience outside of one’s own culture.
It was all a bit of a risk, but I’m glad that I took it.
How have you been interacting with members who have access? Have you followed up with them via email?
I try to be extra judicious with my email communications and only send a message when I have something positive and important to share. For example, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted had been on NetGalley for a couple of months already when we finally received the Kirkus review. Even though it was favorable and exciting, I didn’t share the news via email until Kirkus informed me that their editors selected their review of the book for inclusion in the print version of Kirkus Reviews magazine, a distinction that less than 10% of independently published books receive. That was email-worthy! Still, I waited until it was also a reasonable time to remind the readers of the NetGalley window to make sure they didn’t miss the book in their long queue of reading.
The average publishing industry email open rate is around 14%, and mine was 51% for my first email and 38% for the second. That is a pretty favorable demonstration of the overall engagement and enthusiasm of the NetGalley community for books and the publishing industry as a whole.
How have you been leveraging your NetGalley listing outside of the site? Have you been including it in emails, newsletters, or trade ads?
NetGalley has been an excellent avenue for providing review copies of Black Girls Must Die Exhausted to fulfill media and book club requests.
It was so much more efficient and secure than blindly emailing copies. Also, for many of the requesters, referencing NetGalley seemed to send an additional signal that Black Girls Must Die Exhausted was a book to be taken seriously and be meaningfully considered.
What’s your top tip for other independent debut authors?
I would advise making sure that you have a substantial base of reviews before moving on to other marketing efforts, ideally at least 25 to 30. It is ok to focus 100% of your efforts on garnering reviews at the beginning to ensure that you get the performance and return you’re hoping for when you do eventually direct resources toward other paid marketing efforts.
Bio: Jayne Allen is a black girl from Detroit who smiles widely, laughs loudly and loves to tell stories that stick to your bones. Her debut novel, Black Girls Must Die Exhausted touches upon contemporary women’s issues such as workplace “impostor syndrome,” race, fertility, modern relationships, and mental health awareness, echoing her desire to bring both multiculturalism and multidimensionality to contemporary fiction with dynamic female protagonists who also happen to be black. When she’s not writing “chocolate chick lit with a conscience,” you can find her discussing the publishing business at Book Genius, hosting the Book Genius Meetup in LA or simply spending time with her colorful friends and family, keeping one ear open for her next saucy tale.
Interviews have been edited for clarity and length.
Read the rest of our case studies, featuring authors, trade publishers, and academic publishers here.
As a Senior Agent at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency, I’ve read and reviewed thousands of queries. Yes, thousands,and possibly tens of thousands! Since my query inbox first opened, I’ve had the opportunity read some amazing queries, and some that could have benefitted from the following these tips on polishing and personalizing your query.
1. Send individualized queries
It will take more time, but this is an important relationship. You are hopefully going to be partnered with an agent for years, so just like with any other long term relationship you want to build strong foundations. This means at the very least addressing the agent by their name with the correct spelling and with the correct title if you choose to [address them by their] surname.
Additionally, if you happen to typo, that’s okay, it happens! Feel free to follow up with a quick correction after you hit send. Or if you’re querying via a portal, you should have the ability to withdraw your submission and then re-submit with the corrected form of address.
I promise you it will be worth it.
2. Read lots of query letters
To the Google!! Authors writing in all kinds of genres have shared their query letters, and agents have also shared sample query letters. Find them. Read them. The more you read the more you’ll be able to sort out what format would work best for your book and your genre.
Also note that while their are similarities between fiction and nonfiction queries, they are different.
3. Query letters are like the writer’s version of the middle school five-paragraph essay Here’s a quick cheat sheet of what each of those five paragraphs can contain. Remember, you can shorten as you see fit and [be sure] to personalize it.
Introductory Paragraph: This should introduce yourself and your work. Be sure to include genre and word count.
Three Body Paragraphs: You don’t have to have three, but I find it’s a solid set of paragraphs for you to talk about your book. Try to hone this “about section” think of it as similar to the text you can find on the back of a book’s cover or on the flap of a dust jacket.
Conclusion Paragraph: This closing paragraph is where you can share a bit about yourself. Think of it as your bio. Feel free to include any accolades for your writing that you might have, any professional writing organizations, or fun facts. Also include how you can be contacted if you haven’t included that info in a signature block, or some submission form.
4. Less is more
I know it may be tempting to share as much as possible about your work, but I always say that if an author could share everything they wanted in a pitch about their book then why would they then write an 80,000 word novel? So, know that we want to get to your book and your pages. Don’t keep us hostage in your query letter! Instead, use your query letter as a springboard for us to dive into your book and/or submission materials. Your pitch should pique interest and lead the reader (agent or editor) to you pages! Ultimately your book, your work, your story is what’s most important.
5. Have a friend, family member, or colleague read your query
Be open to editorial feedback. It is helpful to have someone familiar with the querying process to proofread your query letter. But, no matter what, another set of eyes will help catch the small things like the typos that our brains like to gloss over. And then, thoughtfully consider their feedback. Ultimately, you have to make the final decision on what you are going to send out, but most of the people you ask for help aren’t making suggestions just for the sake of it. Really consider their edits, and be sure to appreciate and value the time they’ve taken out of their day to spend on reviewing your query letter.
6. Ask a critique partner to help you draft a query letter
Oftentimes it’s difficult for an author to synthesize their work into a one-page pitch. If you have a trusted critique partner, they can sometimes help draft a few paragraphs to get you started. Of course, you might then owe them chocolate or whatever delicious treat they might desire. But this is an option I’ve had several of my authors mention they used when querying me! Seeing how others frame your work after reading and working on it with you might be helpful. You should never pressure or guilt critique partners or beta readers into helping you draft your query. Ask. And if they decline, that’s okay!
There are also freelance editors out in the world that might also offer these services, and you can totally pursue those options as well. But when money is involved and exchanging hands that’s a personal choice. And always make sure you vet any freelancers you might choose to work with. Do your research, folks!
7. Make sure that when you’re submitting to an agent that they do indeed work with the type of projects that you’re sending
While an agent might seem really cool in interviews or on social media, you’ll be wasting their time and your time by querying them with a project that they do not work on. Save yourself!
Sarah E. Younger, Senior Agent, at the Nancy Yost Literary Agency began her career in publishing at Press53 in Winston Salem, N.C. after receiving her undergraduate degree from UNC-Chapel Hill. She later attended the University of Denver’s graduate publishing program where upon completion she moved to New York City. Sarah joined the Nancy Yost Literary Agency in the fall of 2011 and has since cultivated a diverse and talented list of authors including a variety of commercial fiction and select non-fiction titles. She is specifically interested in representing all varieties of romance, women’s fiction including chicklit and romantic comedies, adult science fiction and fantasy, and very select non-fiction. You can find her on her personal Twitter @seyitsme. Learn more about the Nancy Yost Literary Agency including how to query Sarah by visiting the NYLA website.
How Anyta Sunday incorporated NetGalley into her post-pub strategy to give her astrological romance a longer tail
On NetGalley Insights, we highlight the successes of NetGalley publishers and authors, and share some of their strategies. Today, we’re talking with Anyta Sunday about her 2018 MM romance Pisces Hooks Taurus, currently available on NetGalley.
Learn why Anyta Sunday lists her titles on NetGalley after they publish, how she generates keywords for her books, and why it’s important to tell romance readers exactly what kinds of tropes they can expect in one of her books.
Our audience of publishers and authors is always eager to learn more about how others are planning their publicity and marketing efforts on NetGalley. Your current title listed on NetGalley, Pisces Hooks Taurus, began its lifecycle on NetGalley at its pub date. Tell us how you came to use NetGalley as a post-pub strategy and why it works for you.
I work with a PR agency to organize blog tours around the release of my books, also handling distribution of ARC copies to interested bloggers and reviewers. These bloggers typically already know me from previous books, while NetGalley allows me reach new audiences.
Which segments of the NetGalley community have been most important to you and why? How do you go about reaching them?
Most requests for my books come from Reviewers. I post about new titles available on NetGalley via social media and in my newsletter. [You can see an example of this] for my older release, Scorpio Hates Virgoand on my website.
On your Title Details page for Pisces Hooks Taurus, you list the tropes (friends-to-lovers, slow burn, will-they-or-won’t-they) and genres (new adult, light-hearted contemporary gay romance). It’s a great way to give prospective readers a quick snapshot into what the can expect from the book. Describe your strategies for your Title Details page to drive requests and reviews.
I try to optimize the NetGalley Title Details page in the same way as the sales page for my book on retail channels like Amazon; a snappy blurb in the same style and voice as the book, followed by a clear description of what the reader will get. This is particularly important in the romance genre where readers are often looking for specific tropes (and trying to avoid others). Romance is a big genre with many new publications, so communicating clearly what readers can expect helps a book to stand out. Also, if the book is part of a series, I mention whether you need to know the previous books or if it can be read as a standalone.
How did you engage with members who requested access? Did you follow up with them viaemail?
I make use of the Approval Email feature on NetGalley to engage with members who requested access. In this mail, I thank the reader and encourage them to crosspost their reviews. If the book is part of a series, I also offer the other books for review.
Tell us more about how you leverage your NetGalley listing outside the site.
I mention the availability of the NetGalley listing in my release publicity, and feature it on the book’s detail page on my website.
Your Signs of Love series, of which Pisces Hooks Taurus, is the fourth installment, taps into the current spike in public fascination with astrology. How do you use this to your advantage when finding new audiences?
I use astrology-related keywords in the advertising around the Signs of Love series to reach new audiences. I focus on Facebook and Amazon ads at the moment, and for both the targeting is key. Besides reaching fans of gay and MM romance by using related keywords, I do the same for astrology-related keywords.
What is your top tip for authors listing an individual title on NetGalley?
I find that customizing the approval email is a powerful way of following up with members requesting a book, so I would encourage using this to maximum effect: trying to connect with the reader, thanking them for requesting your book, and potentially offering other ARCs. For Pisces Hooks Taurus, I let readers that request the ARC know that there are three more books in the series and have received multiple requests for these older books as well.
Anyta Sunday is a BIG fan of slow-burn romances. She reads and writes characters who slowly fall in love. Some of her favorite tropes to read and write are: Enemies to Lovers, Friends to Lovers, Clueless Guys, Bisexual, Pansexual, Demisexual, Oblivious MCs, Everyone (Else) Can See It, Slow Burn, Love Has No Boundaries. She writes a variety of stories: Contemporary MM romances with a good dollop of angst, contemporary lighthearted MM romances, and even a splash of fantasy. Her books have been translated into German, Italian, French, Spanish, and Thai.
Getting people talking about your book before it goes on sale is crucial to a book’s success. But, without a professional publicity team, it can be hard to know where to begin. Galleys are a perfect place to start to get your book into the hands of people who will build its pre-publication buzz.
Publishers can always attach PDFs to emails, but this tends to look less polished than sending along a digital galley or a printed galley Plus, PDFs are not trackable or secure, which means that they can be shared widely without your knowledge. The industry standards for sending review copies are to send either printed galleys or digital galleys through a secure site, like NetGalley.
Digital Galleys via NetGalley
Listing your title on NetGalley lets you make your title available for request to our community of hundreds of thousands of book influencers (including librarians, educators, and media). You can also use tools like the widget to include pre-approved links to your title via NetGalley. With NetGalley, you have control over who has access to your title, and reports available to you within your account to title activity and history. Digital galleys tend to be quite cost-effective once you have committed to them. They can be sent to as many people as you like, meaning that you can send your title to a wider pool of reviewers and influencers than you could with just printed galleys. Plus, they are environmentally conscious!
Sending out printed copies of your book is a classic and effective way to build pre-publication buzz. Reviewers or media professionals might prefer printed galleys if they work in an office that is more traditional, where an editor may be assigning the book to the final reviewer, or if they just prefer reading printed books rather than digital ones. Printed galleys are particularly helpful when submitting to literary awards. However, printing costs, packaging materials, and shipping costs are important factors to take into consideration when thinking about how you will incorporate printed galleys into your marketing strategy. They can be quite expensive, so it’s important to be strategic when thinking about who should receive a printed galley. For the budget-conscious, printed galleys should only go to readers or awards who have specifically requested printed galleys, and who are likely to review your title.
Most review sites and reviewers have specifications for how they would prefer to receive galleys, which we advise you to consult before submitting your titles to them for consideration.
However you choose to get the word out about your book pre-publication, make sure that you are giving your book the best possible chance to succeed by providing advanced copies to reviewers and influencers.
In the book marketing world, getting your name out there is crucial. If someone casually browsing for their next read recognizes your name, they’re far more likely to take a closer look, and hopefully purchase.
Since writing is your craft, one of the best ways to get your name noticed is to write. So, write! It’s natural to want to write exclusively about your book as a way to promote it, but you should also consider writing about topics related to your book. For example, if you write Civil War romances, pitch a column on a women’s cultural interest website about the hidden histories of women in the United States in the 19th century. You can access a wider audience than you could otherwise, and demonstrate your expertise about your chosen field of interest.
You can also write in more casual settings; like a blog or a newsletter. Many authors and cultural critics send out periodic newsletters that describe what they are reading, listening to, and thinking about. Newsletters and blogs are a way to stay top-of-mind for your audience, and to help your readers develop a more personal relationship with you and your work.
This kind of tactical writing can increase your visibility and the visibility of your titles in the marketplace. But, as with all kinds of marketing efforts, quality is more meaningful than quantity. First and foremost you should write and pitch content that you would be interested in reading, and the readership will follow.
The Internet is a social place. It’s where readers find their next book, where authors stay connected to readers, where publishers keep abreast of new voices, and industry newbies hunt for their first jobs in the field. “How to use…if you’re…” breaks down best practices for literary social corners of the Internet for different players in the publishing industry.
So, today we’ll be looking at how independent authors can use Wattpad to sharpen their own storytelling skills, connect with other authors, and grow a community of dedicated readers.
Using Wattpad as an Author
Wattpad is a great place for authors to experiment with serial storytelling, and to connect with passionate readers from all over the world. Authors can use it to hone their voice, get immediate feedback from readers, and expand their audience.
What is Wattpad?
Wattpad is a socially engaged and enthusiastic community of writers and readers. With a global community of 70 million members, and over 565 million story uploads, the platform is a vibrant place full of passionate readers and emerging writers. Most of the stories on Wattpad are geared toward young women and tend toward YA, Romance, Sci-Fi, and Fantasy, although other genres have devoted followings as well. The website is free to use, for both writers and readers.
Some Wattpad authors have even transitioned their Wattpad stories into traditionally published novels, or turned into TV shows or movies. Others have worked with companies to create branded content on the site. Huge successes like this may be outliers, but even if Wattpad doesn’t turn into a star-making vehicle for you, it is a place to grow as a writer, and to connect with an audience that is invested in your voice.
Hone your voice
Because Wattpad writers publish their stories serially, you have some flexibility to play around with your style. If you realize after a few chapters that the way you’ve been formatting dialogues is clunky, shift gears. If you intended your story to end with the heroine falling for her shy best friend, but realize that the femme fatale is a better fit for the story arc, you can reshape the plot as you write. Wattpad lets you change direction without having to rewrite your whole story.
But as you experiment, don’t forget about the reader! If a reader is clicking through several chapters at a time, they will likely be frustrated if you are making huge structural changes, like switching from third person to first person or turning your dystopian YA story into a sweet teen romance. If you do decide that your story needs a dramatic change, try starting a new one entirely.
Be sure to check out Wattpad’s Writer’s Portal, for both inspiration and practical advice.
Get feedback from readers
One of Wattpad’s most exciting social features is the line by line commenting. Readers leave comments on Wattpad stories, and can even comment on a particular sentence, showing precisely where they are having an intense reaction. You can see what readers are loving and what is drawing them in. You can also learn if your writing is registering with readers in a way that you don’t intend.
Grow your audience
With Wattpad’s huge global community, you can find kindred spirits, both as readers and fellow writers. Joining message boards, called Clubs, can help you become more involved in the Wattpad community. Industry Insider is geared specifically towards authors, and full of threads about the nuts and bolts of the publishing industry (from copyright to cover art) and general community encouragement. You can also join communities of readers who are reading stories similar to the ones you write, or the ones you like to read. See what readers are saying, and jump in on the conversation!
You can also engage with readers and other writers on profile pages. All member profiles, both writers and authors, include a Conversation section for members to chat with each other. Get to know writers whose work you admire by commenting and striking up a conversation. And when readers comment on your profile, make sure to respond! It’s a great way to cultivate a dedicated community of readers.
Check out more tips and strategies for independent authors here, and be sure to subscribe to NetGalley Insights so that you don’t miss a post!
Getting your book sold into a bookstore can be one of the most daunting parts about being an independent author, but also potentially the most gratifying. Seeing your book in a brick-and-mortar store, next to a curated inventory of other books is an accomplishment for any author.
Booksellers are pitched thousands of titles per year, so the competition to get your book carried by a store can be fierce. But, with some forethought, you can set yourself up to meet this challenge head-on.
Make sure to schedule an appointment with a book buyer rather than showing up to a bookstore unannounced, with copies in hand. Booksellers will appreciate your professionalism and the respect for their time. Plus, it gives you both an opportunity to prepare. These meetings tend to be short, so prepare a succinct pitch for your title. Give a quick introduction to your book (no need to give a full synopsis, just enough to pique their interest), and three good reasons why your title is a good fit for their bookstore and clientele.
Let the bookseller know what kinds of promotions you are doing, either in your local area or online. If you have reviews or feedback, be sure to leverage that as an indicator of enthusiasm for your work.
Hopefully, the bookseller will be impressed and take a few copies of your title to sell in their shop. But, if not, gracefully accept their decision. You’ll want to leave a positive impression on them so that you can hopefully build a strong working relationship in the future.
In addition to selling your title to bookstores, consider other places who might be interested in buying some copies of your book. Local museums, libraries, archives, and record stores are great places to start. Be creative!
Personal connection is a huge part of any successful marketing campaign. To build a personal connection between author and reader, it’s important for authors to meet face to face with their audience and to use live events as a way to grow that audience. We know that it can be daunting, especially for authors who are introverted or just starting out, but it can make all the difference.
Look for reading groups, book clubs, literary open mics, and library events in your local area. See if you can connect with these groups by giving a reading or participating in a Q&A. And be sure to think broadly–if you write historical fiction, look for a historical society that might be interested in your research methods. If you write political thrillers, pair up with a film group to discuss some classic films in the genre and how they influenced your work. Spend some time researching what kinds of special interest groups and literary clubs exist in your city or town, and connect with them!
You can also look for other authors who are publishing a book around the same time you are, or who are also just starting out. Think about how you can support each other, perhaps by joining forces for a combined book tour. Use connections you have to authors in other cities and towns, perhaps authors you are friendly with on social media, to help organize a small book tour. Ask where you should read, and see if your far-flung author friends would be interested in interviewing you at their local bookstore. And, of course, offer to return the favor!
Finding ways to engage with new audiences, both in your local community and beyond, is crucial to building a dedicated and connected community of readers.
Today we’re talking to Myfanwy Collins. Over the past 25 years, Myfanwy Collins has written and published three books, numerous freelance articles, advertorial, web content, newsletters, blog posts, book reviews, short fiction, and essays. She has also worked as a ghost writer, editor, and creative writing teacher to continuing education students. And, Myfanwy just happens to be the office manager at Firebrand Technologies, NetGalley’s parent company.
How do you set your goals?
I’ve always been goal oriented so I truly like to make goals and stick to them. I have different goals for large projects than for small ones. For instance, I will say to myself that I’m going to finish a draft of this manuscript by x date, which is usually something that corresponds with my Astrologyzone monthly horoscope. Not even joking. One time I told myself I could not watch the latest season of Game of Thrones until I finished my manuscript. If it’s a quick project, I will tell myself I can’t have a glass of wine or piece of chocolate or whatever until I finish. Basically, my jam is a mixture of astrology and denial and treats. I guess I’m sort of like my dog that way.
Describe your routines as a writer and how they help you stay on track with your goals:
I got divorced two years ago which sort of blew my routines to smithereens. I’m just now beginning to reclaim and rework them. With that said, I’ve never been a sit at my desk every day and write person. I will do that if I have a project I’m working on and excited about and then I tend to blast through the first draft pretty quickly. After the first draft, I put the manuscript away for a period of time (weeks or sometimes months) and then come back and revise and then put away again and revise until I feel it is ready for other readers. At that point, I pull in my trusted readers and gather their feedback. My trusted readers are my friends who write. They don’t all write the same types of things, but they all know and understand my work and what I am trying to achieve and aren’t afraid to ask me hard questions or tell me when something’s off. Also, they know how I like to receive feedback. Once their feedback is incorporated and I feel like I have done all I can do, I send the manuscript to my agent and wait for her feedback. After her feedback, I revise and return it to her and repeat this until the manuscript is as good as we think it can be.
As for shorter work, one new routine I am really enjoying is that my fiance Evan (also a writer!) and I taking part in #submissionsunday on Twitter each week. We submit at least one piece of work to a venue each Sunday. Doing this is actually making me eager to work on new pieces.
How did you develop your writing routines?
I have been writing professionally for nearly 30 years at this point and so my routines have been established over time as I worked. When I was younger, I was more impatient to get work out there when it really wasn’t ready to be seen. I was essentially giving all editors an opportunity to say no to my work. After several years of that I began to learn about the importance of taking my time during revision. I learned this also through years of being a reader for various literary journals. When you read submissions you tend to read a lot of work that could have used more time and more revision. Reading submissions is something I cannot recommend highly enough to writers. It really does help you understand your own shortcomings as a writer.
Ask journals if they need help. You can also look on their websites and see if they have any openings listed. Another place to look is on Twitter. If you follow a lot of writers and journals (as I do) you will often see calls for readers or interns. Finally, I think Submittable probably posts some openings. Pretty much all reader positions are unpaid (mine were) and they do require quite a bit of work but I promise you they pay off is that your own writing will improve.
What routines have you tried that didn’t work for you? Why didn’t they work?
I’ve tried to use writing prompts in the past in order to get myself writing more but they generally don’t work for me because I’m a bit of a rebel.
What do you do when you feel stuck?
I do a couple of things:
I read (I do this all the time anyway but I do it more so when stuck).
I force myself to sit at the page and I set a timer for myself for 20 or 30 minutes and tell myself I must write during that time. It helps me get past the anxiety of the blank page. This is something I recommend to my writing students as well and it’s been very helpful to them.
I go back to Julia Cameron’s The Artist’s Way and work the program. The book is a 12-step program for creative people and it is so immensely helpful. In fact, I think I’m past due for another session.
Describe the balance between having a full-time job, family, and writing. How do you manage both?
This is the hardest balance. It was hard when I was a part-time working married mother and It’s hard now as a full-time working divorced mother. My child and family come first in all things and so writing becomes secondary when I am momming. Since I am divorced, there are times when my son is with his dad and so I could be writing but am often sad and missing my kid which gets in the way of writing. But the good news is that I have a really great therapist! I’m starting to listen to her about using my time more wisely instead of allowing myself to be mired in grief.
How do you think about finding a job that supports you financially and supports your writing? Do you need something that leaves room in your mind for creative work, something that keeps you in the habit of deep thinking and frequent writing, something else altogether?
Financial support is key to me and so that is always my first priority. With that said, it is wonderful to have a part of my current job that feeds me creatively. I think if my job were writing all day, I might not pay any attention to my own creative writing. So right now I have a job that is one part business oriented, one part process oriented, and one part creative. It’s a really nice mix.