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10 Ways to Prepare in Advance for Publication

Wednesday, July 27, 2011

In the months before the release of my first book, I didn’t really know how to prepare for a writing career. I was busy gearing up for marketing and promoting my book, but I was also fumbling to do all of the things that were necessary to brand myself as a professional author.

I struggled to know what things were important and which were optional. Did I really need a website, PO Box, business cards, Facebook Page, etc.? Now, in hindsight, I can see what kinds of things were helpful and what I wish I’d done sooner. The time during the release of a book is already stressful and busy. If writers establish a professional foundation ahead of the big date, they’ll be able to focus more on their promotional efforts.

Here are 10 things writers can do ahead of publication (along with my thoughts on the importance of each):

1. Establish a website.

This is a must-do. Once your book is contracted and by the time it shows up in online bookstores (which can happen 6-8 months ahead of release), you should have a website—preferably one with your author name as your URL so that readers can easily find you. At some point they will look you up and you need to be prepared.

2. Start a blog.

This is optional but helpful. Blogging is probably more imperative to non-fiction writers attempting to build platforms. In my experience, fiction-readers are not flocking to author blogs on a regular basis. However, even if our genre readers won’t haunt our blogs and wait for every new post with bated-breath, blogs can help writers in many other ways. (See these posts: The Snowball Effect of Social Media3 Reasons to Start Blogging Before a Book Contract). Once again, use your author name as your URL. Always make it as easy as possible for people to find you.

3. Start a Facebook Page.

This is optional but helpful. A Facebook Page (versus a personal account) allows readers to post thoughts about your book and to connect with you without having to wait for you to get around to approving of their friend request. And as an author, I can post book news, awards, and release information on my Facebook Page without feeling like I’m spamming my friends. With Pages you can also add a “like” box to your blog or website. (See mine in my sidebar.)

4. Get a quality, updated author photo.

This is a must-do. We don’t need to go broke having a photo shoot. (I had mine done by a high school senior who ran a home-based photo studio.) But we do need a professional-looking picture that we can use on all our social media sites (consistency across the sites makes it easier for people to keep track of who we are).

5. Use an email address with your author name.

This is important but not critical. Our author name is the one that will appear on the cover of our books. We should be using our author name everywhere (twitter, facebook, etc.), including our email addresses if at all possible. Mine is jodyhedlund (at) jodyhedlund (dot) com. Simple. Uncomplicated. Easy to remember.

6. Set up accounts on reader sites.

This is optional but helpful. Sites like Goodreads, Shelfari, and Librarything allow authors to set up accounts, list their books, and link to their website and blogs.

7. Set up an account on Amazon’s Author Central.

This is optional but helpful. Amazon allows authors to create a place where readers can come and find out more about you, your other books, videos, etc. (Here's a link to mine.) You can also keep track of sales statistics through Author Central’s BookScan.

8. Get professional business cards.

This is important but not critical (especially if you have something else you can hand out like bookmarks or postcards—see below). I’ve used my business cards to pass out to local businesses (like bookstore managers and libraries). I include the cards in written communication with other professionals (like writers, radio show hosts, etc.). My web design team made my business cards to match my website. But there are many, many options available for making business cards.

9. Set up a PO Box.

This is very optional and probably unnecessary for most writers. Before designing my business cards, I wavered on whether I needed a PO Box, but in the end I set one up (rather than using my home address). I wanted to be as accessible as possible and yet still maintain some privacy, so I put a PO Box address in my books, on my website, and on my business cards. But I also write in a genre in which a percentage of my readers still send handwritten notes.

10. Get bookmarks or postcards for each book.

This is optional but beneficial. I’m fortunate that my publisher designs and provides bookmarks, postcards, and other promotional items at my request (which usually includes a picture of my book along with a blurb and my blog/website address). I hand these out in various places, send them in letters, and include them in book giveaways. There are a hundred-and-one ways to use bookmarks, postcards, or other promotional items.

So, what do you think? What have you done in advance to prepare for publication? Is there anything else you’d add to my list? Do you feel you’re on track or are there some things you need to get working on?

P.S. Make sure you check out The Doctor's Lady Trailer Contest! I'm giving away prizes! (Including Amazon gift certificates, a copy of my new book, and a 15 page critique!)

35 comments:

  1. Wow, wow, wow. Bookmarking. This is like, a complete goldmine.

    Especially considering yesterday I was pondering these three questions..

    How do I get an email account that would be katieganshert@katieganshert.com. I asked my web designer. I'm assuming it has something to do with my website??

    And....

    Should I get a PO Box?

    And

    Should I do business cards?

    This is such a HELPFUL post to me right now, Jody!

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  2. Fantastic post, Jody. You really give so much to so many, and along that line, I want to say thanks. This list is wonderful.

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  3. This is a wealth of information, my dear smart one. This is good advice for everyone on the publishing path. I might not be quite ready for some of it, but it's good to know that there are some things you can establish well before the contract. I debated over and over about the Facebook page, but in the end decided it was a way to post my blog posts on FB AND it was one more step.

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  4. I think it would be extremely hard to do all of that after you get the contract. Establishing a platform takes time. Great post.

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  5. Blessings to you for being so generous!

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  6. Goodmorning, ladies! So glad the post is helpful!

    And, Katie, Yes to your email question. That is something your web designer can walk you through (PulsePoint has a written tutorial that they send to their clients explaining how to set up an email account). I used Windows Live Mail(formerly Outlook Express), but I'm sure there are a lot of other options available.

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  7. Sharp list, lady!

    I'd say prepare mentally. Talk to published authors to get a realistic view on how things shake out.

    I always wondered about the PO Box. I asked at our PO and it was a chunk of change. We are frugal noodles in our house, so I may wait on that one.

    Great tips, Jody. (You realize I could play & ask about a dozen questions off the top of my head, but I will refrain out of respect for your busy schedule.) :D
    ~ Wendy

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  8. Whoa, this is an awesome post, Jody!!! I'm curious...Are these things you recommend once you're contracted and waiting for the book to release? Or are these pre-contract items?

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  9. Wow!! Every newly contracted writer should read this post! And, seriously, last night I got all excited thinking about your next book. I can't wait to read it!! I am such a book dork!

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  10. Great advice, as usual, Jody. People warn writers that pressures change after a contract, but I didn't understand all the factors that went into that change until a month before my novel debuted.

    I would add one caveat about the email address. My last name is very difficult for people to spell correctly. "Elliott" has about four different variant spellings, and people tend to spell it 'Elliot.' If that is the case for anyone else, you have a couple of options. Either you reserve *both* email accounts (rosslynelliott and rosslynelliot) and have one forward to the other, or,like me, you get lazy and use your original non-name email account. But maybe having confessed my problem, I will now be motivated to change it. ;-)

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  11. Thanks for all the great info, Jody. Remember, when registering your website to use the P.O. Box address if you have one. It's super easy to find someone's home otherwise.

    Now, when are you going to tell us the 101 ways to use bookmarks and postcards?

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  12. Surprisingly enough I'm only missing a few of these and they won't be necessary UNTIL I have the agent AND book deal! Phew! I like knowing I'm getting more prepared! Thanks for the insight!

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  13. Jody, great post and list to print out and check off as you do. Especially the Amazon central. Love the postcard idea, bookmarks are great too!

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  14. Great checklist. I've done a lot of this, working on some, pondering some. So it's good to see I'm on the right track.

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  15. Jody, your posts are always so generous and useful. Big fan. Thank you!

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  16. Good stuff... Now I just need a book about to be published since I've got my website and blog and whatnot. Hmmm.

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  17. Great tips, Jody! And can I just say I think it's too sweet that some of your readers still send handwritten notes. How nice is that? :)

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  18. Lots of great advice, Jody. Thanks so much...

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  19. Thank you, Jody for the excellent information. Your posts are always very helpful.

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  20. Sarah Forgrave asked a great question: Are these things you recommend once you're contracted and waiting for the book to release? Or are these pre-contract items?

    My thoughts: Hi Sarah! I think there are many of them that a writer can do even before a contract--like blog, Facebook Page (which I wished I set up sooner), photo shoot, get active on reader sites, and establish an email with your name. Some of the things you obviously have to wait on until you have a book cover or ISBN number (like Author Central or bookmarks). I would probably hold off spending a lot of money on business cards, website stuff, PO Box, etc. until I had a contract. But then I'd get going on them right away and not wait until too close to the book's release.

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  21. Excellent advice! You can bet I'm taking notes. I've already done several of these. Determining to have a blast without feeling overwhelmed--that's me.

    Blessings, Jody!

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  22. This is definitely one to bookmark, as I am ever hopeful...

    Thanks, Jody!

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  23. Very useful as usual Jody, thanks.

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  24. Very useful as usual Jody, thanks.

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  25. #1 through #4: Check

    #5: I'm still using the email name from when I set up my very first account. I'd like to change it, but I'm getting a headache thinking about how to change it everywhere and inform everyone.

    #6: I have a Goodreads account, but I don't use it efficiently.

    #7, #9, #10: Some day. Soon? Not too long? Hopefully?

    #8: On my list. Mine still list me as a public health nurse.

    Good stuff, Jody!

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  26. Very informative, as always. Phew! I'm on the right track, too, since I've done all ten!
    http://www.tracykraussexpressionexpress.com

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  27. Great info, Jody! I've done 8 out of 10 of these. I'll be getting bookmarks from my publisher--soon, I hope. =) And from what you said in your comment, I can get set up on Author Central now that I have an ISBN. Cool!

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  28. Wow. Thanks for such a concise road map. It's great to see a big picture of what to do.

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  29. What a great list. This is really helpful!

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  30. Thank you Jody. I follow you on twitter because I so appreciate your generous spirit about precisely these things. This is all very helpful.

    I was lucky enough to find a living social coupon for a great photographer in my city and I hope that others have that chance, too. I also used vistaprint to get a bunch of free (or very close to free) postcards for an event I attended (for a website I am a part of) and I found it to be affordable and easy. I probably won't do this when I get the writing cards made up, but it worked in this instance. Just a couple of thoughts!

    Thanks again for all you do.

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  31. Penny, thanks for kind words and the added suggestions! You're right! I don't think we have to spend a lot of money to add to our professional cache. If we look around we can often find the things we need for good deals!

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  32. This was the sort of post I was looking for a couple of years ago when I had no idea how to proceed. Very helpful! I've been so appreciative of more experienced writers who share this information. Thank you Jody!

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  33. Your posts always provide so much useful info, Jody. I don't know how you keep coming up with them, but I have so many bookmarked now, I have a separate folder for them.

    I can check off a few of the items on your list, such as a blog, a separate e-mail using my name (it's a G-mail account, but it works for me), a Goodreads account, and business cards (very handy for conferences). Personal Facebook and Twitter accounts are learning tools for me, to be replaced by more professional accounts later. Your suggestion that we should begin to establish that professional foundation before publication is important. Not only will it leave us more time to focus on other relevant things afterwards, but it gives us opportunities to develop our self-confidence in the realm of social media so that it's second nature by the time we need to rely on it.

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  34. I'm in the middle of putting together a marketing plan for my historical YA The Underground Gift so I'll be ready when I get The Call, and your post made me feel a lot better that I'm on the right track.

    I'm so glad @LindaRYoung tweeted about this post; I'm a new follower!

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