Tuesday, July 5, 2011

Column: Pre-published? Prepare for Success by Linda Rohrbough

There are lots of things pre-published authors can do to prepare for their first break into publishing that are easier to do when the pressure is off. I call this preparing for success. Most of these are not obvious, so I’ll cover those first and save the most important thing for last.

Back Cover Copy and Bio

You know who writes the back cover copy for most books? And the author biography on the inside? Take a wild guess.

It would be nice if some talented editor did the work. But most of the time, I’ve done it. And it’s a lot easier to do when you’re not under time pressure. There are models to follow everywhere – just look at what other publishers and authors put out about their books.

Think Like a Journalist

Part of preparing for that first book coming out is to think like a journalist covering the book and write short paragraphs and even one page press releases to send to the media. If you haven’t seen a press release before, Google press releases, find a few you like, and copy their style.

Social Media

Can’t get away from social media. It’s everywhere. And when you’re published, you’ll be expected to participate. Social media is just a fancy term for short article writing. And here’s where your work on the promotional copy for your book will shine.

Here are a couple of ideas. You’ve got a story for how the idea came to you for the book, so write that up. Another idea is to record any funny or charming stories about things people said to you or things that happened to you related to the book.

For example, I gave my sister my novel. A couple of days later at her house, her husband came up, handed me the book in front of the whole family, then walked away. He and I have never been friends, but he’s not the silent type. I made a joke about a 100 percent refund. He rummaged around in the kitchen, came back and handed me a pen. My eyes got moist when I realized I had forgotten to autograph the book. As soon as I finished, he came back and got it. I realized that was probably the highest compliment he could have paid me.

Boy, I just relived that telling it to you here. But my point is stories like this, or even shorter, work well for social media, like Facebook.

Blogs

Many authors have a blog where they promote their own work. They invite other authors in to talk about their book. The visiting authors invite their followers to the blog so the blog author gets extra exposure as well.

“Talking” about the book is writing an article that answers certain questions the blogger has prepared. One of the ways to practice for blogs is to look at other blogs to see the questions asked a visiting author, then prepare answers about your own book. Save these in a file you’ll use later when it’s your turn to do a blog tour.

One Page Promotional Piece

I cannot tell you how many times I’ve used the one page promotional pieces I came up with for both my book and my app. I took the copy for them both from the proposals I wrote that my agents used to sell the projects. (If you don’t know how to write a proposal, there’s lots of material out there on doing it, including an article on my website.)

The one pager promotional piece is a cut-to-the-chase overview. I included thumbnail views of the front of the book or the graphics for the app. I even added QR codes so they could be mounted on a wall or a bulletin board and people with smart phones could go to a website for more information. You won’t have the graphics until your work is almost published, but you can learn how to do the QR codes (or whatever is “in” at the time) and you can prepare most of the text. It’s important to keep these to one printed page, no longer. I’ve put them up on my website in .pdf format so you can see them. Click here to see the .pdf for The Prophetess One: At Risk and here for the .pdf for my iPhone App “Pitch Your Book.”

The Most Important Task

Keep writing. However, Andrea Brown (who owns the Andrea Brown Literary Agency) told me don’t bother writing a sequel to a book that has not yet been published. If you come up with a series, write the first book, plot the others, work on the proposal for the series, then start on another idea. When you sell the first book in a series, then write the others as quickly as you can whether you’ve sold them or not.

Warning

Do not trot this material out to an editor or agent during a pitch session or send it along with your queries or manuscripts. This is your preparation work. Putting it in front of a publishing professional when you are unpublished will just make you look like a desperate wanna be. Once you’re published, you can say to your editor that you’ve prepared a few things and would they like to see them? If they say yes, send them along. If they say no, then respect that. You’ll still need this stuff for yourself whether your publishing house wants to use it or not.

Bottom Line

When your book is out there, you’ll be thanking yourself for doing this work now. Even if you need to make major changes to a press release, a promotional piece, or a blog entry, it’s much easier to change something that’s already created than to figure it out from scratch. Plus you can develop a style that you can use across your communication pieces that will start to uniquely reflect you. And that is the mark of a professional.


About the Writer:

Linda Rohrbough has been writing since 1989, and has more than 5,000 articles and seven books to her credit along with awards for fiction and non-fiction. New York Times #1 bestselling author Debbie Macomber said about Linda’s new novel: "This is fast-paced, thrilling, edge-of-the-seat reading. The Prophetess One: At Risk had me flipping the pages and holding my breath." An iPhone App of her popular three-step formula workshop for writers, “Pitch Your Book,” is available in the Apple iTunes store. Visit her website: www.LindaRohrbough.com.

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