Tuesday, June 10, 2008

Looking Back!

by Debby Giusti

With the first year of publication and three books under my belt, I’ve been looking back and reflecting on what I wish I’d known before “The Call,” in hopes others can benefit from what I’ve learned.

Here’s my advice:

Toss out the myth that if you prepare for publication you’ll jinx the sale. You wouldn’t go into childbirth without preparing for the baby. Your book is your baby. If you work long enough and hard enough, you will sell. Use the Boy Scout Motto and “Be Prepared.”

Develop an Internet presence. Okay, I’m preaching to the choir, but allow me to restate the obvious. A website is the most economical and effective way to advertise on a large scale. So reserve your domain name now. I picked up http://www.debbygiusti.com/ a number of years ago. I also reserved the most common misspelling of my name so when folks incorrectly enter my URL, they still get to my site.

Unique names don’t usually pose a problem, but if you’re Susie Smith or Mary Jones, the domain name you want may not be available. So come up with an alternative—SusieSmith.net or SusieSmithWritesRomance.com or AuthorMaryJones.com—then lock your site in place.

To blog or not to blog? A daily blog can pull us away from our primary job of writing the next book. Even posting three times a week, which most experts say is the minimum new information needs to be uploaded in order to ensure return visitors, can be daunting. Learn from the Seekers and join a group blog. I post weekly on http://www.craftieladiesofsuspense.blogspot.com/ and once a month on this site, http://www.seekerville.blogspot.com/.

Blogging allows me to “meet” new writers just starting on their publishing journey as well as seasoned authors whose expertise sheds light on areas where I may need help. The regular blogging commitment encourages me to write articles on craft that I’ll archive on a new website I’m currently having designed so when someone wants to know about “Savvy Submissions” or “How To Get Your Name In Print Before Your Book Sells,” they can head to http://www.debbygiusti.com/ for the information.

Note: If you don’t have your own blogspot, visit a few sites regularly and post comments often. So many of those who stop by Seekerville are now dear friends. We’re thrilled when they final in contests, win awards or make that first sale!

Create a logline that fits your writing style. Even before publication, a logline can be used when you pitch to editors and agents. It’s also the perfect response when someone asks what you write.

What’s mine? Faith with an edge . . . cross my heart! It’s a promise I make to readers that they’ll find inspiration, suspense and love in each of my stories. The physical action of placing a cross over my heart symbolizes my belief in God, who is master of my heart.

Consider your audience. Are there readers you might be able to influence and/or attract because of your own background, job or hobby? Include a few facts in your stories about your specialty, and you’ll expand your reader base to include folks who share those same interests.

I’m an Army wife, Army brat and Army mom so I create characters with ties to the military. Luke Garrison, the hero in my upcoming October release, COUNTDOWN TO DEATH, as well as Matt Lawson, in NOWHERE TO HIDE, served in the Gulf. Jude Walker, in MIA: MISSING IN ATLANTA, is an Army captain on active duty, and books six and seven that I’m currently brainstorming involve military personnel. When I have book signings on army posts, I always mention my character's service to our country, which is a positive selling point with military readers.

Practice writing Front Matter. Front Matter? That’s all the extra information published along with the book, such as your bio, Dear Reader letter and questions for discussion. Become comfortable with the format the publishers you're targeting use. Crazy as it sounds now, it took me awhile to decide how to close my Dear Reader letters. I finally decided on Wishing you abundant blessing. Practice makes perfect, and it helps to iron out all the loose ends before your book sells.

Develop a community of supporters. That’s exactly what the Seekers are—friends who offer support and encouragement. They’re also the gals I turn to when I need advice, have good news to share or a problem requiring prayer. Many of them read advance copies of my books and post reviews on their blogs. Writing is a lonely business. Surround yourself with friends who will help you on the journey.

Get to know your local booksellers. The independent bookseller in my hometown keeps my books in stock and hosts a book signing for me each time I have a new release. In turn, I publicize the event with a photo and write up about her store in my local paper and encourage my friends to shop there when looking for a good read.

Celebrate each success along the way. Smell the roses. Enjoy the ride. Don’t pack your schedule so full that you no longer enjoy the creative process. Give yourself permission to start small and build your career one step at a time.

I hope my advice helps! Be sure to let me know other ways you’ve found to prepare for publication!

Wishing you abundant blessings!
Debby Giusti

Seekers Janet Dean, Missy Tippens and I, along with Steeple Hill Senior Editor Krista Stroever, will present a workshop at the National Romance Writers of America Conference 2008, entitled, “The First Year on the Job: From “The Call” to Publication,” on Friday afternoon, August 1, 2008. Join us if you can!


Chicki said...

Great entry, Debbie!

I have no problem with blog content, because I blog about anything and everything. The main problem I have is finding content for my site. Since I'm not yet published, I can't write articles as an "authority."

Any suggestions?

Janet Dean said...

Wonderful, wise post, Debby! Oodles of excellent advice. I'm very excited to present with you and Missy at our RWA workshop this year.

I couldn't get my domain name so I went with JanetDean.net. Not my first choice but if your Web site and blog are on your sig line, people will find you.

I find it difficult to keep up with my personal blog. Cup of Faith is geared to readers more than writers so I chat about my life when I post. I'm also going to get out to the forum on eharlequin and try to get my name out.

I still don't have a logline. Once you gals have read Courting Miss Adelaide, maybe you can help me brainstorm possibilities. Pretty please. :-)I'd like it to be something with history. "Making history one story at a time." Not that but along those lines.

With the release of my book just three months away, I'm contacting booksellers. An independent bookstore wants me to sign there. They haven't carried the Love Inspired books, but maybe that will change.

To get your name out, I'd add-- join Writer organizations like ACFW and RWA, and then participate on the loops and go to conferences.
I'm a lurker, but being more active on the loops is a goal.

My question is how do we do all this without giving up writing time?


Janet Dean said...

Chicki, are you asking what content to use on your Web site? Before I sold, I put up excerpts from my manuscripts, pictures of friends at writer conferences, links to other writers. Let your personality shine on your home page. You can add contest wins. Suggest writing books that help you if your site is geared to writers.


Julie Lessman said...

Thanks, Deb, for all the great advice! But I am having trouble with the time thing -- how to find the time to do it all!! I always thought I was fast, but writing books (and promoting them) has taught me that there ain't enough hours in the day! Sigh. I guess at least my characters are "fast" if I can't be ... :)

How do you get it all done? Any tips?


Debby Giusti said...

Hey Chicki!
Thanks for stopping by! On my Craftie Ladies of Suspense blog, which I write every Wednesday, I've been working through Donald Maass' WRITING THE BREAKOUT NOVEL WORKBOOK. That provides weekly subject matter and also allows me to internalize the techniques he presents because I need to fully understand the lessons before I can blog about them. So it's been a win-win for me!

Debby Giusti said...

Wait a minute, Chicki. You said you don't have a problem with blog content. Sorry, I must have misread your comment.

You have a problem because you don't consider yourself an authority. But you are!!! You understand how to establish a web presence. You know how to attract readers. You've established a writing group that met at B&N. You invited in guest speakers. You're a member of GRW and, I'm sure, have learned so much there. You've written how many books?

See what I mean? You are an authority. You can offer your blog readers so much great advice that will help them on their journey! Okay?

Debby Giusti said...

Janet, I'm looking forward to our workshop at RWA as well! :)

Thanks for adding your comments about joining ACFW and RWA! You're so right. That support as well as all the information available to members is invaluable.

I need to pop over to eHarlequin.com more often! I've done some blogs there and always enjoy chatting with the folks who post. Unfortunately, as you mentioned, there's never time to do it all!

Can't wait to get a copy of your book!!! You've got a cover to die for! :) Congrats!

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Julie,
You and Janet both mentioned not having enough time! I agree! I've had to cut back on things that pull me away from writing. As much as I love to keep up with my friends on the various loops, I need to limit the time I spend online. A whole day can go by while I'm connecting with folks over the Web but not making progress in my writing.

Marketing can turn into a Catch-22 as well. If we're so busy marketing our last book, we don't have time to focus on creating the next story . . . and the next . . . and the next. I sometimes struggle when I'm doing rewrites on one book and have to write up a proposal for the next. That stops my forward progress on the work-in-progress.

And to those of you who are still unpublished, I know you can relate. Family commitments, day jobs, household tasks, ministry and all the things a mom, wife, woman needs to do each day pull us away from our work.

IMHO, time management is one of main problems facing writers today!

Melanie Dickerson said...

Hey, Debby! Great advice.

Chicki, if you want to become reallllly popular, just start posting reviews on your blog! You'll get lots of people offering you free books if you will post something about their latest release on your blog! I can't promise you'll get more traffic to your site, but you'll get free books! :-)

I think volunteering in some capacity with ACFW or any other writers organization is another good way to make friends and get your name out there. But everything takes time, and you do have to limit yourself. Unfortunately, there are only 24 hours in a day, and I for one need several hours of sleep or I can't function!

I'm so blown away by what Linda Howard said. She has never done a book signing, never had a website, never done any kind of promotional stuff whatsoever. But she started writing before it was so expected, and all her books land on the best-seller list, so she doesn't have to do anything except write! We should all be so blessed.

And then you have Karen Kingsbury who doesn't have to do it, but does, because she enjoys it!

My, but I'm chatty today. I just wrote 650 words on my WIP, so I'm on a roll!

Myra Johnson said...

Debby said: "A whole day can go by while I'm connecting with folks over the Web but not making progress in my writing."

Ain't it the truth! The Web is touted as one of the quickest and simplest marketing tools a writer can employ, and yet it eats up time like nothing else! In the "olden days" I wrote in utter solitude. Avoided answering the phone. Didn't leave the house if I didn't have to. And it got pretty lonely at times, I have to admit.

Now I have this whole passel of Seeker Sisters, plus several other writer friends both online and off. We're a send button away from each other 24/7, and it's great!

Sometimes it's an effort to keep our chatty urges in check so we can at least get some writing done, but it sure is nice to know my friends are out there and available for brainstorming, advice, a shoulder to cry on, or to celebrate with.

Janet Dean said...

Debby, I noticed how many times you had links in your post. Can you tell our readers how to do that? The more links you have in your blogs and Web site, the higher on Google we go.

I made my cover and title clickable to Amazon on my blog, which takes readers to where they can buy it, but I don't know how if that will work when I'm not on blogger. Anyone know?


Mary Connealy said...

Great post, Debbie.
I'll bet your name gets mispelled almost as often as mine!!!

I remember being asked for a bio a while back, along with a group of writers and they all said, "Bio? I have to write a bio?"

I said, "You want short, long, funny, straight, faith based, or a writer's resume of what I've had published?"
I've got them all ready to send with the click of an attachment button. I keep revising them a bit, but they're easy to get ready.

Missy Tippens said...

Great post, Debby! I got my domain name really early and am so glad I did. I also came up with a tagline-- Faith, Family and Finding Mr. Right. Of course, my hero is the main character in the book that just sold, so I guess I should add Miss Right in parentheses! LOL

I'm definitley looking forward the RWA and our workshop! Thanks for asking me to take part.


Robin said...

Thank you for sharing such wise advice - it is so helpful for all of us newbies!
It was very timely for me as I am attending my very first writers conference next week and have two appointments with literary agents to propose my first book. I am so excited - and scared at the same time!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Deb, good advice all around. And I agree with your response to Chicki-Chicki-Baby...

Of course you're an authority, dahling. In sales they use the adage: Fake it 'til you make it.

And it works. You're a self-avowed expert on anything you've done that's taught you... something. The things we take for granted as writers, mothers, sisters, daughters, wives, professionals, etc. are the very things that others would like to hear about.

Deb, I love how you focus your address to military readers which encapsulates them in the 'special' category while writing books that everyone can enjoy even with no military connection. That's a plus all around.

Myra, sorry I missed you yesterday!
Couldn't get back online to check out your post until this morning.

Hey, the carnival's in town and we've got some deep fried Oreos to pass around, along with free samples of Fruit2O....

Give it a try. The water balances out the caloric/fat intake of the deep fried Oreos.

I've yet to meet the Oreo I didn't love at first bite.


Debby Giusti said...

Hi Melanie,
Linda Howard is amazing!!! And you're so right -- no website, no "normal" promo the rest of us try to have. Plus, she's a doll. So down to earth and a friend to all.

Deb Smith--a Georgia gal--plays down the self-promotion as well. And she's big! A RITA finalist this year and editor of BelleBooks.

So . . . what's that tell the rest of us? I dunno! Except I'm not Linda or Deb Smith and my books need more marketing than theirs do, no doubt.

Maybe it shows that we each have to handle the business end in our own unique way. We pick and choose what works for us and hope it resonates with readers.

Great advice for Chicki about reviewing books. Chicki, are you still with us? If not, I'll pass on the tip the next time I see you!

Debby Giusti said...

Great comments! And you're right! I love being connected with other writer friends across the globe (HI Jenni in Australia!). The extrovert in me wants to visit for hours on end; the writer-on-deadline knows I have to stay focused on the WIP.

Debby Giusti said...

Yikes, Janet, it sounds like you think I know what I'm doing? :)

I just saw where Borders wants authors to link with them. Anyone doing that yet?

Debby Giusti said...

Mary, you are amazing! Six bios? I have a long and short. Maybe I need to write some more.

Missy, love your logline/tagline (what's the proper term?). Finding Mr. Right is perfect since most of our readers are women! How long did it take for you to come up with it?

Debby Giusti said...

Hey Robin!!! Woo-hoo! Two appointments with agents! We'll be cheering you on from Seekerville! Be sure to let us know how they go.

Debby Giusti said...

Oh my gosh, Ruthy! What are deep fried Oreos? No calories, I'm sure!

Kit Wilkinson said...

Yes, can't wait to meet you ladies out in SF!!

Mary Connealy said...

By the way, great picture. You ladies look so GLAMOROUS. I can't pull of glamorous to save my life.

In fact, the last Mary Kay party I attended, I used the sample cosmetics to draw a picture of Angelina Jolie on a paper sack and just pulled the sack over my head.

Jessica said...

Mary, I think you have a glamorous smile! You look like a wonderful person.
About the bio, that's so funny. I just had to get some help from my FHL chapter because I needed an author bio and I was like, what? I'm not an author!
So glad to hear others like Linda Howard. She's one of my favorites but I wish she had a website. I used to search for it every few months and was very annoyed when I couldn't find it. lol.

Debby, what a wonderful post! My brain is spinning. What I don't understand is how to reserve a domain name. And aren't websites really expensive? Eek, lots of stuff to cover here, right?
Thanks for posting Debby. I had no clue MIA was your first book. Congratulations!

Ruth Logan Herne said...

Mary, LOL!!!

You don't need Mary Kay, darling. You don't need nothin'.

You're beautiful the way you are. Doesn't Ivan tell you so?

Okay, forget I said that.

But yeah, we've got some glamour babes comin' on board in Seekerville. Makes me itch to come up with an avatar...

Whattya say, Mary? Shall we comic book ourselves?

And hey, are you actually WORKING today???


Two days in a row?


Myra Johnson said...

Deep. Fried. Oreos. I cannot even imagine.

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Kit! We'll have fun in SF for sure!

Mary, Mary, Mary!!! You're glam, honey!

Jessica, there are a number of places that sell/rent domain names. I got mine from GoDaddy.com. Maybe the other Seekers will chime in, and let you know additional sites that provide them.

GoDaddy lets you know if the name you want is available, then for a small yearly charge, you've got the URL. Reserving/renting/buying your domain name isn't much at all. And the cost of a website? That depends on which company you go with. I'd say about $200/yr to $400/yr, but I might be off a bit. Anyone else have info for Jessica?

Anne Barton said...

Debby, this was great info. I especially like your last bullet: "Celebrate each success along the way." Sometimes I feel so impatient and I just want everything to fall into place, NOW! But you're right - we might as well enjoy the journey.

It reminds me of how I felt as my kids were going through difficult stages. I'd think, "Boy, I can't wait for this phase to be over." Looking back though, all the phases were good - and they went by much too quickly!

Thanks for sharing these fantastic tips!

Eileen Astels Watson said...

Wow, Debbie, love your logline and that's all awesome advice!

Thanks for sharing!

Chicki: I'm still learning too, but even us learners have knowledge we can share. There's always someone newer to the writing process than you who would love to hear what you're learning and working on. And the greatest part about it is that it helps cement the concepts in your own head as you formulate a post to share with others. Don't worry, if you get something wrong, someone will comment regarding it and then you learn even more. Right!

Tina M. Russo said...

Awesome advice, Debby. And you gals look awesome in black too.

Cheryl Wyatt said...

Great post!
Excellent advice on blogging and not getting bogged down with blogging.

Lots of wisdom on how to avoid blog bog. Thanks so much for putting it in a cohesive sequence for us, Debby!



Debby Giusti said...

Hi Anne,
Thanks for stopping by! You're right about kids growing up! I look back now and wish I could recapture some of those wonderful earlier years.

Yes, by all means, enjoy each step along the writing journey. Anne Busyhead, who writes as Nicole Jordan, once said at a GRW meeting that everything we do will play into our publication success. We have to believe it will all work together for good.

Debby Giusti said...

Loved what you said, Eileen.

It's so true that blogging "...helps cement the concepts in your own head as you formulate a post to share with others."

Debby Giusti said...

Hi Tina and Cheryl,
Thanks for stopping by tonight!

Bog blog -- that's so good, Cheryl! Sometimes it feels like it, doesn't it? Especially when we don't know what to write about! :)

Debby Giusti said...

I was at my book club tonight. We discussed Karen White's MEMORY OF WATER. You may recall Karen was a guest blogger on this site a few weeks ago. She's a RITA finalist, good friend and fantastic writer. Everyone in the book club loved MEMORY! If you haven't read it yet, be sure to pick up a copy soon. It's riveting!

Missy Tippens said...


I use Network Solutions and pay $35 a year for my domain name. There's also cheaper ones like godaddy.com (I think). There's another good one that's cheap, but I can't remember the name! I think they're about $8.


Missy Tippens said...

Debby, my log/tagline just kind of hit me. I started thinking about all the things that seem to be in all my stories--faith, family and romance. So I decided to go with the "F's". :)

I actually had it as Family, Faith and Finding...but the Seekers and friends on my Faith blog mentioned I should put faith first!

Oh, and then I googled the phrase to make sure it didn't pop up on someone else's blog/website.


Missy Tippens said...

Oh, Mary!!!!! ROLF!!!! You do remember that I sell Mary Kay, don't you?? I'll have to tell that story to my customers. LOL

Missy :)

Pamela S Thibodeaux said...

"Don’t pack your schedule so full that you no longer enjoy the creative process."

Great advice, Debby! Too bad I hadn't read it 2 months ago.

I, who have and article on Avoiding Burnout - have done just the opposite.

Take Debby and My advice, friends...NEVER allow the business side of being a writer rob you of the joy of creating....it's a difficult comeback.


Anita Mae said...

Debby - thanks for all the great info. (Loved MIA!)

I started a blog after attending a workshop by Donna Alward about the 'Business of Writing'. She told us that blogs and websites should be in place before you sell.

I took her advice to heart and set up a blog (once I figured out how to switch it from german to english!) I didn't know what to blog about but decided to add book reviews which I do on my eharl blog anyway.

I've only been offered 1 free book to review, and I don't get many/hardly any comments, but my nbr of hits keeps climbing. (And no - only some of them are mine. :-D)

Hmmm - maybe they don't like my reviews? Never thought of that before.

I DID blog about MIA...I think I'll sign off and go check what I wrote...

I haven't found a logline, but I sign off with,
'Have a God day!'

Ausjenny said...

some great info here thanks
sorry haven't been around much this week.

pat jeanne said...

I enjoyed Debby's post and all the sound advice. I'm glad I got a domain name even though I haven't done much with my site, It's there and i intend to update it soon. Thanks for all the helpful info. Pat