Monday, 4 November 2013

The Newbie's Book Release Survival Guide

Hi again :) Before we get to the main show, just a few quick notes:

* The Every Breath Goodreads giveaway finished on 31 October.  More than 1430 people slugged it out for three signed copies, but the comp was finally won by three lovely people from the US, the UK, and Canada.  Congratulations!  I’m posting out your copies of Every Breath this week, after the Melbourne Cup furore has died down.

If you’d like another chance to win a copy of the book, I’ll be having a Christmas giveaway on this blog very soon – stay tuned :)

* I’m going to be at the Reading Room of the Ballarat Mechanics Institute on Thursday 7 November (just after Melbourne Cup Day) at 7.30pm, talking to folks from Ballarat Writers Inc, and anyone who’d like to drop by, about process, how YA is awesome, and other things like that.  If you’re in the neighbourhood, come along!

* I’m also going to be at an authors signing event at Dymocks Camberwell in Melbourne on 21 November from 6-8pm.  That will be me, sitting with a glass of wine, wielding my big yellow pen.  If you’d like to have your book signed, or do some pre-Christmas book shopping (er, yes, I have to do that too), come over and say hi.

I’ve posted lots of updates and things lately, so today I thought I’d try something different.  Some of you out there are writers yourselves – awesome!  I want to read your book!  As Every Breath inched closer to publication, I picked up a few tips along the way.  Now I know I’m a newbie to this business, so this might seem impertinent, but I figured ‘what the heck’, I may as well post up a list of tips on how to handle that crazy time when your book is ready to hit the shelves.

So here’s everything I know about surviving your book release.  This applies primarily to traditionally published books, as I’ve never e-pubbed, but I’m sure a few of them would work well in either case.  Some of these tips I’m still following up on – like thank yous, and things like that.  Some of these tips are things I wish I’d known at the start, and some of them I’m still a bit crap at…but I’m getting there.  Hopefully by the time Every Word is ready to go next June, I’ll have it all down pat (Hahahahahahahaha….okay, I’m gonna stop laughing now)

The important thing to remember is that, when your book is coming out, you don’t really know what’s going on.  You feel like you’re making it up as you go along.  Just run with it.  If you don’t know how to deal with something, I suggest Googling.  Seriously.  Google is your friend.

You do wonder if you’re ticking the boxes, with your editors and so on.  You don’t get a lot of feedback about that, so you just have to hope you’re not being a drip or a diva.  I guess my advice is always to try to act professionally, and ask if you have any questions.

So here you go – my hot tips for getting a book out and living to tell the tale:

1. Sleep
Yo, get some sleep.  You’re going to need it.

2. Let go of your blushes
When this first started, I used to get so embarrassed/shy when people asked me about the book, or congratulated or complimented me.  Then I realised that these blushes weren’t  serving any purpose.  If you pay someone a compliment, don’t you want them to feel good about it?  It’s even a little insulting if the person you’re complimenting goes red and starts stammering/trying to hide behind nearby furniture (not an actual example. you know what I mean).
So I decided to stop getting embarrassed and return people’s enthusiasm.  When they asked, I’d say ‘yes!’  When they complimented, I’d fall back on that old standby: ‘thank you.’
It was a revelation.  I think it really helped give people I met a sense of inclusivity about the book, and helped to swell the local community excitement – and it certainly made me feel good, and gave something back to those who were so supportive.

3. Invest in your book
Look at your advance – no, really, look at it.  Consider how much better things will be if your book is successful.  Calculate a percentage of your current budget that would help make that possible.  Go and spend it on stickers, flyers, mailouts, badges, t-shirts or other promo swag (don’t forget to add the cost of postage and photocopying!).  This is called helping your book out.
Unless you are Stephen King, your publisher’s promotional budget will be small, and you may not see a lot of it.  It’s good to have something of your own, so be prepared to help.  If you can chip in financially, and make up your own promo stuff, then yay.
Promoting your book in conjunction with your publisher (ie – doing stuff in addition to the publicity arrangements organised by your publicist) means you’re pooling forces.  It’s a natural ‘follow through’ on the effort it took you to write the book in the first place. Anything that you can do to give your book a better chance at life is awesome.

4. Say yes to everything
Wise advice, given to me by another writer, AngelaSavage.  Say yes – to signings, to blog tours, to local promotion, to talking to classes, to interviews…  Say yes to anything you think you can handle without destroying your marriage/mortgaging your house/getting fired from your job.  You only get a very small window – 6 weeks before your book’s release, and 6 weeks after – so take on as much as you possibly can in the way of promotion, be it self or book promotion (the two are inter-related).

5. If you have a partner, be nice
If you have a life partner supporting you, you’re lucky.  Keep up your end of the bargain.  You will inevitably neglect your house and garden during this period, so let go of guilt – if the floor isn’t waxed or the car isn’t detailed, who’s gonna know?  Small window of opportunity, remember?  But do your hell-bent best not to neglect your family and your partner.
Try to keep up a normal share of housework – you will probably fail, but give it a go.  Give your partner lots of loves.  Be kind and remember to give them a break sometimes.  Your free writing day?  You may need to sacrifice it for the greater good, so your partner can get some time away from the kids.  Yes, you are incredibly busy, but life is busy.  Don’t forget, your partner will be there for you after the book release is over.  Domestic harmony can be ensured if you keep giving back.
Compliments are good.  Even bribery!  But presents actually carry less weight than giving them a break from frantic-you, or a break from the extra work they’ve had to take on to help you achieve your dream.  Listen when they talk.  Schedule time in there for being nice.
I had to keep in mind that this was only the first book – there’s two more to go!  I still want my partner with me when next June rolls around, hehe.

6. Talk to your publicist
If you have any questions at all about this whole process, ask.  Email often.  Give them regular updates – you might be emailing daily, more than once, when things are really hot.  Tell them about everything – every promotion, every communication with stores, every blog update.  If you’re worried about spamming them, ask.  This is their job, and they can’t do it well if you don’t keep them informed.
When it’s all over, remember that thank yous are gracious but bottles of wine are awesome.

7. Talk to your agent and your editor
You will be right in the thick of it, but remember, your agent and your editor both need to know what’s going on too.  Give them a regular update every week or fortnight (maybe more often, with your editor).  Share the excitement you’re feeling!  This is their glory moment too.

8. Stay on top of it
You will panic less (I won’t say you won’t panic – you’ll panic, get over it) if you keep daily lists of things that need chasing up.  Emails, writing interview questions, contacting book stores and schools, phoning places, organising stuff for promotion, posting stuff out, online work…  I have a list-compulsion, because I’m so forgetful.  My list was sometimes the only thing that kept me from hyperventilating – when I’d wake up in the night, terrified, I could look at my list and go through all the stuff, and reassure myself that it was all organised.  So little of your life at this time will feel organised – it’s good to have a list.
Keeping a wall calendar is really good too – one of those ones that shows the whole year in advance.  You can see it all there (all that craziness!) written up in black and white (and green, and pink, and blue…) and you can even mark off the days until things return back to normal.
Keep up with your appointments – that’s only good manners.  Your time is valuable, but so is everyone else’s.

9. Eat.  Take vitamins
Look after your health.  Eat properly, rest when you can, take vitamin B or whatever it is that helps you physically keep going.  Try not to get sick – save it up for after this is all over!

10.  Be polite
This is a stressful time, and you’re dealing with a lot of different people.  I know it’s hard when you’re relying on other people to follow stuff up or stay organised, but you’re not surrounded by minions.  This book business is just that – a business.  Always stay polite and professional.  People will remember this after the book release is over, and remember that you were good to work with.

11. Take a break
I know, your schedule looks like back-to-back everything.  But you still need to maintain your sanity.  Whatever works for you, if you have a spare moment, do it – take a 15 minute walk, read a book for a half hour (someone else’s!), sit down and have a glass of wine with your partner, talk to your kids.  Your head may be all over the shop, but even a short break can help centre you.
Retain your sense of humour.  Remember, this is supposed to be fun!  Haha…  Seriously, take a break sometimes - you need to remind yourself what you’re doing and why, and to just draw breath.

12. Help each other out
Your network of friendships with other writers is one of your most valuable assets.    Share, attend, RT, link, congratulate, commiserate, compliment, applaud, support – remember to do unto others as you would have them do unto you.  You should do this early, and do it from the heart.  Writing is an isolating business, and we all need to give each other a leg-up sometimes, even if that just consists of moral support.
My family and friends were incredibly excited for me, and spread the word about the book with their mates and through their work circles at home and interstate.  But some of the people who helped me out the most were other writers – they helped with the launch parties, shared info about the book online, gave me encouragement and support, and shared my enthusiasm.  Someone once said ‘You’ll never hurt your own career by helping another author’, and I believe that to be true.

And when it’s all over…

11. Be gracious
Say thank you to everybody.  They deserve it (for putting up with you, heh).  Write thank you notes, give small gifts.  All those people who supported you?  They like to feel appreciated.  And yeah, they worked hard too – it was a group effort.  Remember to single out your editor and publicist and agent for special treatment.  Be gracious, and people will be sure to feel happy about working with you next time.  You want there to be a next time, right?

That’s it.  I know I’ve left out a few things, like publishing schedules and all that stuff, but for me this is the nuts and bolts.  And if you’d like to know more, do your research – there’s a whole lot of websites out there with info about the nitty gritty technical aspects of how to get a book published (Google!  Google is your friend!)

Next blog post, I promise to stop talking writing and let someone else talk about it.  I have a fantastic Crime Report post planned with our first international guest, English author Sharon Jones, whose debut murder mystery Dead Jealous is already in stores – I’m very excited about it :)

Until then, take care, especially to all of you dealing with the aftermath of the NSW fires.  And I’ll leave you with a pic of our new family member: Caesar, the Wonder Bird! 
He’s a cockatiel, and he’s gorgeous (I think he might know this), and my son Alex has completely fallen for him.  Ahh, first love!

Xx Ellie

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