Wednesday, May 20, 2015

Four Ways to Prepare for a Book Launch—Even if You Aren’t Published Yet

By Janice Hardy, @Janice_Hardy

Before I dive in, just a head up that my monthly post is up over at Pub Crawl: Want to Write Better Stories? Write About Change. Come on over and say hello.

I’ve both written and read a lot of guest posts by authors with new books out. I’ve seen authors talk about their novels on panels and chatted with them in person. Every one of them at some point during the launch and marketing of that new book, struggled on what to write about or what to do.

The more marketing we’re responsible for, the harder this can be. It’s not that tough to come up with five or six guest post ideas, but try writing twenty, or even fifty original blog posts (my Blue Fire blog tour was 55 blogs in 30 days). Now try to do that while prepping for a book release and while working on the next novel.

It’s a lot to deal with, but you can ease some of that burden with a little pre-planning—even better—you don’t have to be published to take advantage of this.

If you’re working on a novel you hope/plan/think you’ll publish in, try getting ahead of the game. Naturally, you don’t want to take time away from your writing to do it, but we all have those days when we need something other than our novels to work on.

1. Write Future Blog Tour Posts When the Muse Strikes You

Odds are you’ll do some kind of online promotion, and you’ll most likely be searching for ideas on what to write about. You’ll run through the basics first:
  • Where you got the idea
  • What inspired you to write the book
  • How you got published, found your agent, decided to take whatever path you took
  • What your favorite part of the book is
  • Who your favorite characters are
  • Advice for new writers trying to get where you are

(Here's more on how to have a successful book launch) 

But after this, it usually gets harder. We’re well past the process of writing the novel so we don’t always remember what happened during that process. Why not write down the great moments when they happen?
  • Find a fascinating piece of research? Write a post about it.
  • Hit a wall in your plot? Talk about the struggle and how it feels.
  • Fix a major problem with your book? Talk about how and what that felt like.
  • Write an amazing scene? Talk about the process.
  • Make a major change in your story? Talk about the road not taken.

None of these posts need to be polished, and you might only need to jot down the ideas and a few notes to jog your memory later. But having a variety of promotional posts ready to go when you need them will give you a greater variety, more specific details (since you’re writing them while it’s still fresh), and save you hassles during a very busy time in your future life.

Bonus tip: Make a list of potential blogs to approach for later when you’re ready. And not just the obvious ones, but look for the secondary options that relate to your book as well. For example, if you write women’s fiction, blogs that discuss women’s issues could be a possible tour stop (make sure these blogs do accept guest posts from authors).

When cool things happen during your journey from idea to published novel, pay attention, keep track, and save it for later.

(Here's more on doing a blog tour)

2. Consider Future Conference or Convention Topics

Conference organizers are very busy and overworked people. If you can suggest a great topic when you submit a proposal to them, the odds are getting invited to the conference go up.

If ideas strike you while writing, or while attending another conference, write it down and keep a list. If you see a panel and think, “Wow, I’d love to do something like that,” maybe you could one day (don’t steal an idea, but inspiration is fine).

Pay attention to the writers and authors you meet. If you hit it off with someone who writes in your genre, you might have a possible panel member for the future. It’s common for debut authors whose books came out the same year to form groups to help promote each other.

Think about the types of things you might want to talk about if you were ever asked to participate on a convention or conference. Some organizers send over a list of panels and ask which ones you’d like to be on, and they do their best to accommodate. What topics would you feel comfortable talking about?

(Here's more on how conferences can help your writing career)

3. Make a List of Events and Bookstores You Might Like to Attend One Day

Conferences, conventions, and festivals are typically planned far in advance, so by the time you’re ready to start attending to promote your book, that year’s group of presenters is already decided.

Pay attention to what events are in your area (or close enough to travel to) and when they take place. Many have their proposal information on their websites, or you can contact them for how an author might participate (volunteering to help out is a great way to get to know the event and the organizers).

Note what bookstores in your area do author events, and attend at least one at all the stores you might like to speak at. Not only will it help you decide who to approach, you’ll get to see what type of event you might want to do, and what you’ll need to be ready for. Different shops do different things.

A simple Excel spreadsheet with information can help ensure you don’t miss out on any opportunities when you’re ready.

(Here's more on preparing for author events)

4. Save Great Marketing and Promotion Ideas

There’s a lot of swag out there in the book world. Every conference I attend, I bring home a bag full of it, and sadly, a lot of it goes into the trash (sorry!). Marketing can get expensive, so think about what you might what to do, what you might be able to afford, and what actually worked on you.

A little forethought can prevent you from wasting money on things just because you don’t know what else to do but know you need to do something.

(Here's more on marketing your book)

Being an author in today’s publishing world means doing a lot more ourselves, and the easier we can make that process, the better off we’ll be (and the more time we’ll have for the actual writing). A few hours a month when we have the time could be the difference between a stress-free and successful book launch, and a launch that makes us wish we’d never written the book at all.

What things would you do to pre-planning for your novel’s release? 

Looking for tips on revising or planning your novel? Check out my book Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure, a series of self-guided workshops that help you turn your idea into a novel. It's also a great guide for revisions! 

Janice Hardy is the founder of Fiction University, and the author of the teen fantasy trilogy The Healing Wars, where she tapped into her own dark side to create a world where healing was dangerous, and those with the best intentions often made the worst choices. Her novels include The Shifter, (Picked as one of the 10 Books All Young Georgians Should Read, 2014) Blue Fire, and Darkfall from Balzer+Bray/Harper Collins. The first book in her Foundations of Fiction series, Planning Your Novel: Ideas and Structure is out now. She is also a contributor at Pub(lishing) Crawl, and Writers in the Storm.

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  1. These and wonderful tips and advice, Janice. I'll be adding the link to my Evernote file. :-)

  2. Adding this to my "marketing" file folder for when I need it! thanks

  3. #1 and #4 are great ideas. I've yet to attend a book convention, but I agree with you about stuff ending up in the garbage. Bookmarks, magnets, postcards, keychains...not of that type of stuff would appeal to me. I want swag I can use. Melissa Foster has a swag promo going on right now for a series of hers and two giveaway items are a tote bag and flip flops. Flip flops! I never would've thought of that, but it's unique and something I would totally use. If I ever do swag for my books, I'd do something unique and related to the book.

    1. Flips flops are a great idea! I bet they fit into her book somehow, too. Chap stick is one of the things that I always use from swag bags. :)