The Publishing Contract Isn’t the Finish Line
Note: This post was also recent featured on the Authors’ Think Tank Blog, Forever Writers. You can check it out there along with posts by dozens of other amazing authors.
All writers have a dream. They want to GET PUBLISHED. We type away day after day, sitting there with that dream staring us in the face. We fight for it, enduring rejection, ridicule, loneliness, despair, depression, and pain as we slog through the long, arduous road to publishing. Our entire lives (to one extent or another) are devoted to that objective, but until we actually attain it we don’t realize that getting published isn’t the finish line.
Let me explain. So you get that big, shiny publishing contract. Someone wants to publish the book baby you’ve slaved away at for months or even years. You’re excited, you celebrate, you dance a little jig, and then go eat some Buffalo Wild Wings (or pizza, or BOTH). You should. You’re going to be published!!!! That is awesome, wonderful, and AMAZING! Also, you’ll need that energy. Because now the real work begins.
First you’ll start off with all the edits. Even a great book is going to get changed. Don’t worry, they’ll be for the better in the long run. But you have to do that work. It’s long, painful, and arduous. You’ll have long, sometimes tumultuous conversations with your editor or editors discussing everything from big-picture items down to the minutia of detail. You’ll question every decision you ever made and then come out stronger for it, but it’s a lot of hard work. Behind the scenes, someone will be working on cover art, which is awesome, but sometimes will not be exactly what you’d imagined. It will still be awesome though. Trust me.
Now the book is ready. You have it in your hands. Your part is done, right?
Nope. Now comes the part many of us introverts dread. Marketing. Yes, you’ll have a marketing team doing promotions and setting up events behind the scenes at your publisher, but you wrote the book. No one knows more about it than you. In the end, even NYT Bestselling authors have to sell their own books. In my opinion, we should be spending as much time learning how to pitch our books, tell people about it, and how to market in general as we do on the actual writing of the book. It is HARD. For some of us, it’s not just hard, it’s terrifying.
You’ll be in front of people at signings. You’ll be in front of people at conferences, conventions, and symposiums, all of whom will be watching you because you’re now published. You have a book. You have that Holy Grail all the unpublished writers are questing for. All of them will want to know your secret, what you did to get where you’re at now and you need something better to say than “I HAZ WURDS!” You need to be comfortable speaking with people, even when you’re secretly nervous and wondering when someone smarter at you, a “real” writer is going to come along and call you on your bluff. You need to be comfortable handling situations where you’ll run into “trolls” who just want to harass you. You need to know how to think quickly, act professionally, and get books sold.
The same way you worked toward getting that book out there. Practice, study, learn, and apply. Go to conferences and listen to the panels on marketing, branding, and pitching. Go home and read a book on marketing and sales. Take notes. Practice some of it. Get another book with different advice. Talk to people who are good at it. Take more notes. Practice some more. Maybe even get a job in sales and actually pay attention to the trainings they provide there. Do this BEFORE you publish your book if you can.
Once the book is out, practice, practice, practice. Take notes on what works FOR YOU. Everyone does things differently. Find what works for you and keep doing it. Try new things. Keep honing the craft of marketing as you write. Don’t forget that being a successful author isn’t just about getting published. It isn’t the finish line. It is the start of a new journey.