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Dear Debut Author…

July 1, 2009

Today it is exactly one month until the official release date for Prophecy. Wow. One more month – and those of you in the business of tracking new books probably know that what that really means is that my books will be shipping to stores and showing up sometime in the month of July.

That’s THIS month!!

It’s been almost two years since Prophecy sold to Little Brown in July of 2007. I’ve had plenty of time to contemplate how it would feel to have the book actually published, but I have to admit that it STILL feels surreal.

Still, I can’t help but think about how far I’ve come, how many amazing people I’ve met along the way, and how much I’ve learned. With that in mind, I thought I’d pass along some stuff that I’ve learned about being a soon-to-be debut author.

Of course, a lot of you are probably smarter than me and knew this already… πŸ˜€

  1. Don’t ignore the importance of meaningful online contact. Emphasis on the word “meaningful”. It’s not enough to get a Myspace/Facebook/Twitter profile. You have to engage with others, not with the sole purpose of pimping your book, but because it’s fun and enjoyable to talk with them about books. If you’re genuine about striking up friendships online, the people you find there will work unbelievably hard to get the word out about your book – not because they feel obliged but because they genuinely LIKE you and want to see you succeed. I ADORE the bloggers I’ve met online. Even if they don’t like my book, I would be lonelier without their friendship. They commiserate with me when I’m frustrated or down, cheer me on when I’m working toward a goal, and listen when I need a friend. I like to think I do the same for them.
  2. If you DO make friends with online reviewers, remember that they are not in your employ. They don’t OWE you anything. They don’t have to like your book, spotlight your book, interview you when your book releases, or promote your book 24/7 (or at all). Many of them WILL go the extra mile for books they love, but don’t take advantage. It’s just not cool. Don’t ask them to feature you, spotlight you, interview, or perform special favors for you. If they offer, great! If they don’t, asking them to is kind of like inviting yourself over for dinner. It’s just not polite, especially given the already-delicate dynamic between authors and bloggers. And if by chance one of them doesn’t love your book, swallow your pride and say thank you for reading anyway. It’s a tough spot they’re in, making friends with us on Twitter and Facebook and Myspace and then having to write objectively about our work. But if they can’t be honest, they will become increasingly irrelevant, and that would be a loss for us all. So let them be honest, and simply say, “Thanks for reading!” Then continue on with your friendship as if it was someone else’s book about which you didn’t agree.
  3. Know how to stand back and give your fellow authors the spotlight. If someone you know is debuting SOON, take the opportunity to spread the word about THEIR book. Don’t worry; the spotlight will still be there when you need it. And those authors you promoted along the way? They’ll be there, too. And on your side. In short; it’s bad form to hog all the attention! πŸ˜€
  4. Don’t do too much too soon! It’s incredibly frustrating to sit back and watch other debut authors order bookplates and bookmarks, give interviews, etc., etc. BELIEVE me, no one know this better than I after my two-year-wait to publication! But seriously; you’re not going to do yourself or your book any favors if you saturate the market with news of your book too far ahead of time. People will get sick of hearing about it, you’ll use up all your great ideas, and by the time your book comes out, it might just already be “over” in terms of leveraging online publicity. Instead, focus on building meaningful friendships in the author and blogger communities and on promoting other authors. About three months from release is a good time to start bringing out the big guns.
  5. Don’t annoy, alienate, or otherwise piss off your editor, publicist, marketing department or anyone else at your publishing house. I’m thankful every day for the many years I spent navigating the political minefield of the business world, because let me tell you, the 1-2 years leading up to publication will put you to the test! A good rule of thumb is that if you’re with a smaller house and/or have a smaller marketing budget, do all you can on your own but do it WITHOUT insinuating the people working on your behalf (in however minor a role) are lacking (even if you think that they are). On the other hand, if you are fortunate enough to be with a larger house and/or have a larger marketing budget, be willing to step back. There’s a reason you’re a writer, right? Would you want someone standing over your shoulder every step of the way telling you how you “should” do things? Probably not! By the same token, editors are editors because they have editing expertise and have proven their mettle in a VERY competitive industry. Marketing people are marketing people because they are EXPERTS at marketing books. Publicist are publicists because they KNOW how to best get the word out. LET THEM DO THEIR JOB. That’s not to say you can’t judiciously offer ideas, but neither should you insinuate that they aren’t doing enough, aren’t doing the right thing, or worst of all, don’t know WHAT they’re doing. Word travels fast in this business. Earning a reputation as a diva by being high-maintenance is not going to help you sell that next book.
  6. Don’t brag. Yeah, you HAVE to post good news like film rights, foreign rights, great reviews, etc. That’s just good marketing. Plus, let’s be honest – it’s fun to share! But you don’t want to be big-headed about it. And don’t PRETEND to be modest. Most of the people online are smart enough to see through that whole charade. If you’re going to post news, be honest about being excited and leave it at that! If you’ve been helped along the way, make note of it when you announce your good news. It’s good form and lessens that whole, “I”m so awesome! Look what I did!” perception. In other words, if you’re going to announce foreign, it’s smart on so many levels to say thank you to the Subsidiary Rights Department or your literary agency for doing such a great job selling foreign. They get much-deserved credit and YOU get to be modest. All good things!
  7. Consider your long-term relationships. It’s so easy to worry in this business – about your next sale, about your current book doing well, about marketing, about everything! But you really need a big-picture view of things. Hopefully, your agent is savvy and will steer you in the right direction, but let’s face it; nobody’s perfect. So you have to think for yourself a little, too. You could have contract disputes, personality conflicts, and any number of other crisis and decisions to make along the way. Just try to look at the big picture, even when it’s hard. Listen to your agent. And then think it through a little on your own, too.

I think that’s all! Of course, two months from now, I’ll have learned a bunch more, which is one of the things I love most about this business. I’ll post again then and we’ll see if I have anything new to share… πŸ˜€

Oh! And I DO still have one surprise for you guys, but it involves my camera and I’m under a deadline for line edits right now, so it’ll have to wait. Sorry!

And one more thing! My next contest will be posted sometime in the net week or two, so stay tuned for another chance to win another ginormous swag baggggggggg!


14 Comments leave one →
  1. July 6, 2009 6:06 pm

    I commented a few days ago on the old contest post, but I guess you didn’t see it:

    I finally got to making a cover, even though the contest is over, and I think it’s one of my best fan covers, if not the best. I couldn’t find your e-mail to send it to you, but I posted it on my blog.

    Here’s the link to the fan cover I made for Prophecy of the Sisters:

    I hope you like it, and feel free to share it on your blog!

    • michellezinkbooks permalink*
      July 7, 2009 12:10 am

      Aw, I love it!! I’m sorry I didn’t see your other comment. WordPress doesn’t always make it easy to see comments posted to older posts!

      I’m SOOOO behind on my blogging, but I have another cover to share, too, so maybe I can post them together sometime in the next week or so!

  2. July 6, 2009 11:37 am

    Thanks for the post! Very informative, especially for a currently unpublished writer like me πŸ™‚

    I just found you through My Favorite Author’s review blog and I’m glad I did. I’m looking forward to your release!

  3. July 5, 2009 1:44 am

    This is a great post! I love it when authors have a good web presence and interact with their readers. Many authors are almost like movie stars in my esteem of them, so it’s like, YOU’re willing to TALK to ME?!! It’s great. πŸ˜€

  4. Kimberly Derting permalink
    July 3, 2009 10:23 am

    GREAT post, Michelle. And I can’t believe it’s less than a month away…ahhhh!!!

  5. July 3, 2009 2:38 am

    This is a wonderful and informative post. There’s one area where I am not sure I agree, though, so thought I might add my two cents. As a book blogger, I wish more authors did approach me. It’s very intimidating and daunting to approach an author and ask them for an interview or what have you. For me at least, being asked by an author to read/review their book and/or do a promotion is flattering. It shows a faith in my reviews and readers.

    Anyway, this is a great resource and I will pass it along!

    • michellezinkbooks permalink*
      July 3, 2009 8:19 am

      That’s a very interesting perspective, and one to keep in mind! I can see where it would be intimidating to ask for an interview, but for the record, we don’t usually mind. If we’re too busy or we can’t participate for some other reason, it’s not a problem to decline.

      And I suppose there’s a certain amount of common sense that goes into the equation, too; I’ve seen bloggers harassed for posting less-than-flattering reviews and I’ve seen bloggers begged or pressured for extra promotion for one book when they’ve been ready to move onto a different one.

      I think the biggest dynamic to keep in mind is the “what do bloggers owe us?” dynamic. The answer? Nothing.

      As long as we remember that part, it’s all good!

      • July 3, 2009 8:51 pm

        Agreed. In general, though, we like to feed you cupcakes instead of locking you in a dungeon. In tests, the cupcakes produced faster writing.

      • michellezinkbooks permalink*
        July 3, 2009 9:52 pm

        Lmao! I’m all for cupcakes as motivational tools…

        *waits for cupcakes*

  6. July 2, 2009 11:45 am

    Aww, what a great post, Michelle! This here is just one of the many reasons why we love you so much. πŸ™‚ You write well, give good advice, AND follow your own sayings.

    And *I* can’t even believe it’s so close to your pub date! I’m looking forward to spotting your book on the shelves early and taking pictures of it.. πŸ˜‰

    • michellezinkbooks permalink*
      July 2, 2009 4:01 pm

      Aw, thanks! Back atcha, kiddo!

  7. July 1, 2009 11:44 pm

    Great post! You’ve made a lot of really good points. Coming from a blogger’s perspective, I think that the blogger-author relationship takes some finesse. It can be difficult for us when reviewing because, these days, authors are so accessible through social media. It gets awkward sometimes when you you’ve written a less-than-glowing review and hope to maintain friendly relations, as well as a good working relationship, with the author.

  8. July 1, 2009 10:37 pm

    Wow, that’s alot to think about, but great advice! You are such an inspiration to other debut authors!

  9. July 1, 2009 9:58 pm

    Well put!!! Great advice!

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