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!
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!