Tuesday, December 22, 2009

Your Book Just Came Out! Now What?

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Disclaimer: The following is based on my own experience with publishing a book with Balzer & Bray/HarperCollins. Other publishers may do things differently. Author results may vary.

A lot of activity goes into the pre-launch side, and then once the book is approved and sent of to be printed, the world goes silent and you might feel like it was all a big dream. (there's just not a lot going on) You might hear from your publicity person (if you have one) about book signings or events, but as a new author, chances are you won't have very many of those to start. It's not because people don't like you or your book, but because no one has a clue who you are, and events are designed to draw customers into the store. Until your name gets out there, you're not that big a draw. Don't take it personally if only a few local stores want you to come visit.

For a few months prior to launch, your editor will send you any reviews you might get. You'll also be getting samples or proofs of any marketing or advertising they're doing for you, and any in-store promotions or co-op being done. This will continue after launch as reviews come in. This is also a good time to start setting up any marketing of your own so you can help promote your book.

On the big launch day, a number of things can happen. Some folks do a launch party and invite friends, family, and strangers. Others (like me) do nothing but go out to dinner with their husband to celebrate. Your agent and editor will most likely contact you to say grats, friends and fellow online pals will offer support and happiness as well. It's a great day, but it can be a little anti-climatic after all the hubbub to get there. Resist the urge to check your Amazon rankings all day, or Google yourself over and over. But you probably will anyway.

After that, you might start to worry about sales. Depending on your agent and/or editor, you may have access to Book Scan, which is a weekly report that tells you what your sales were. It's about 50-60% accurate, but it's the only thing out there outside of asking your publisher. Getting a Book Scan report can be a double-edged sword. You get figures, but there's no context for it. Is that number a good number for a debut author sales or a bad number? Your agent and editor can help you out here and let you know how you're generally doing. These reports come weekly, so you'll get numbers right away. There's also the downside to seeing weekly how your numbers rise and fall, which can be a bit nerve-wracking. Remember books need time to build an audience and try not to freak out (too much).

If you're doing events, most of them will likely be right after the book launches, as that's when you want to capitalize on the exposure. Depending how comfortable you are in front of strangers determines how these go. If you're like me, and hate speaking in front of crowds, it can be pretty stressful. (even though I love the talking to folks and answering questions part) But you do get used to it, and my last school visit I wasn't nervous at all. The folks doing these events are used to nervous authors, and they're great at helping you feel at ease. Many are really glad to have you there, especially if you're in an area that doesn't get a lot of author visits.

If you're smart, you've also been doing your own marketing and PR as well. Blog tours, guest blogging, reviews, interviews, etc. When you get press, make sure to send the link or a copy to your editor and publicity folks. Not only is it nice for everyone who worked so hard to get your book out there to see the praise, it's good for them to see how people feel about the book and what coverage it's getting.

It can be a bit of an emotional roller coaster the first few months, with highs and lows as you hear good and bad things. It's easy to stress yourself out, so remember to take time for yourself, and don't be afraid to ask your agent or editor questions about how things are going to ease your mind. You don't want to bug them, but it's okay to check in. They're excited about the book launch, too.

If you signed a multi-book deal, you're also hard at work on book two while this is all going on. This is great as it can give you something else to worry about so the book launch doesn't get to you as much. You might have to juggle a little to get it all in, but take it one things at a time and don't over-tax yourself.

Depending on what rights you sold originally, your agent may also be selling foreign rights during all of this (prior and post launch). These sales are handled pretty much just like your original sale, and your agent will tell you of any interest, offers and details. If you have any foreign sales (The Shifter is also in the UK and Germany so far), your editor for those versions should be able to tell you how things are going. Or you can ask your agent, who will find out for you.

And that's about it at two months post launch. I'll be able to tell you more this time next year, after book two comes out (and book one in paperback).


  1. So interesting. Thank you. I've read a book recently that threw me off a bit. It said all publicity, even visiting the local bookstore, needs to be handled through the publicist. Is this your experience? What things are left entirely for you to do?

  2. Thanks for the input! I can just picture myself trying NOT to obsess about numbers...

  3. Thanks for the perspective. I will get there someday. Even though the holidays aren't over yet, I'm trying to get myself out of the winter slump I've fallen into.

    And I finally read The Shifter today. Put me down on the hypothetical pre-order list for book two when you finish. I posted a blurb on it already on my blog (http://exlibrisdraconis.blogspot.com/) and included a link back here. I just had to let out some of the gushing I had for your story. Great book.

  4. Thanks for this. I'm not very good with crowds too lol I think i'll probably faint if I had to speak to a bunch of strangers in a book store. But, as you said, there are people there to help, so here's hoping I conquer my fears when that time comes. I hope Shifter 2 is coming along fine. Even though I won the first one I still ended up buying another copy for myself - The Pain Merchants. Yeah! I had to have that on my shelf

  5. Aw, thanks Glen and Jaleh :)

    Caroline, like all things it depends. I set up one book signing myself, and got good-naturedly scolded because book signings are for the store's benefit as well as yours. There are things to consider, like where you have them, are they close together, do they steal customers from another store you also did a signing at, etc. Your publicist will know all this stuff and be able to maximize your events so they get you the best exposure possible. Mine doesn't mind me talking to stores (she encourages it) but she'd prefer if I send her the info and let her arrange things after I've made contact. That way she can make sure it's handle correctly and nothing is missed. That's her job.

    However, we discussed it and she has no issues with me setting up my own school visits with local schools. I just pass along the info and keep her in the loop. I also set up a book festival myself, and I just got an invitation to another one that came through her. So events come from both sides. I'm pretty active about finding things for me to do, so we've worked out a system that works for us.

    What's important is to talk to your publicist and make sure you're not stepping on any toes and know what each of you is responsible for. Mine has been great about letting me do my own stuff, but she's also been great about handling things for me. Some stuff I just can't do on my own, but she's great at it. Others, I find it easier to do myself (like local school visits) and it seems silly to waste her time when I can do it. But of course, if she preferred to handle it, I'd let her do it. She's the pro here, and my job is to support what she and my publisher are doing.

    Every publisher and publicist is probably going to have their own way of doing things, so you just talk it out and find what works for you both. It seems scary, but everyone I've met so far has been delightful and easy to talk to. They're there to help, and they'll work with you.

  6. Janice, thank you so much for taking the time to answer so fully. I really appreciate it!