It's no surprise, when I published my first novel, I broke down in tears. It validated all those hours pouring my heart out on paper, studying journalism, giving poetry readings, and editing the student literary magazine. Even though I never got a job with Rolling Stone Magazine like I said I would, this was enough. I had arrived.
So, what happened after my first book was published? Why doesn't everyone know my name? The truth is, thousands of books are signed by publishing companies every year. Yet, few authors become household names. Here are 3 practices for new and aspiring authors I learned along the way.
1. Position Yourself For Work BEFORE Your Release Date
My biggest mistake with Hope Rising was not preparing myself with a personal brand and marketing plan before my release date. New authors, even those backed by the publisher's marketing team, need to take a grass roots approach to promotion and sales. My publisher reached out to the media and set up a few book signings, but in the long run, I generate most of my leads. That means I had to start a business to sell my books and collect sales tax. I needed a business name and brand, a web site, and a pitch. There is momentum surrounding your book's release date, so all of these things should be setup in advance. My third book is coming out in 2016 and I'm working hard NOW to be certain I am ready.
2. Network. Network. Network.
If you are a recluse and don't have the funds to hire a full-time publicist, you will find it difficult to sell books. I just returned from a two-day authors and editors symposium in Nashville. A couple dozen authors gathered to share their struggles and their best ideas. Everyone agreed, connections lead to opportunity. We help one another. Nearly every book talk, keynote, or workshop I've secured, came out of a relationship. They didn't come from an ad I placed. That means sometimes I talk for free. I go to yet another lunch meeting. I respond to all the emails in my inbox, even the seemingly unimportant ones. It means setting up robust LinkedIn, Facebook, and Twitter pages and staying active on social media. It means being present in the community.
3. Be a Life-long Learner.
We writers may be experts in our field, but we still have lots to learn. Just last week, I listened to an incredible woman named Anne Freedman teach a session on public speaking. I was blown away! After taking Anne's workshop, I understood why some of my speeches brought the audience to their feet and others put them to sleep. Even for experts, learning should be a life-long commitment. Be sure to set aside time to visit with other writers and small business owners, to attend conferences and workshops, and to scan the bookstore and web for topics of relevance. The more we grow as professionals, the more ready we will be when opportunity arises.
Pamela Witter is an author, speaker, professional fundraiser, and founder of Seed Planters. Visit her today at www.BeASeedPlanter.com.