by Cindy Sproles
Any parent having experienced the birth of a child, either by giving birth or simply being a part of it, will say the process is hard. Labor can begin days before birth and the closer the event approaches, the more painful the process. Plain and simple, giving birth is hard work, so when writers use the analogy of birthing a book, the comparison is valid. Months of developing a story, putting it on the page, and finally popping out the words, THE END are nothing short of labor intensive.
When we finally hold that bundle of joy in our hands, words can’t express the joy and pride we feel. The priority becomes the care for that baby, – the feeding, changing, and guiding it through life.
The birth of a book is no different for the author. We grow and develop it, then wait for it to be born. During that time, there is excitement and anticipation. It’s our responsibility to be sure our baby makes its way into the world.
Producing a book is time consuming, not only for the author, but for the publisher as well. Hours of editing, proofing, titling and covers, even marketing seem never ending. The publishing industry has shifted like desert sands over the years. What once was an industry standard has given way to closed houses and revolving editors simply trying to remain employed. The days of doting over authors has passed. Budget cuts force publishers to depend, more now than ever, on the author to raise their baby.
The question then arises, “What happens once my book is born?”
Until that day arrives, your work continues.
Attend conferences – A conference is your opportunity to meet editors and publishers you might otherwise never meet. Those 15-minute appointments get your work in front of the eyes that need to see it. If you have good work, you’ll get an invitation to send your manuscript to them without the aid of an agent. It’s, for lack of better words, a free coupon. 99% of today’s publishers no longer accept unsolicited manuscripts. Meeting with them at a conference is a golden opportunity. One you don’t want to miss.
Continue to query agents – Most writers need an agent and the contacts they manage to sell their manuscript. Those more seasoned authors or multi-published authors are able to make necessary contacts without an agent, but even for them, the tide is turning. Continue to query agents in search of one who 1) sells what you write, 2) loves your work, (3 is a good fit for you personality and vision wise.
Become active in social media, speaking, and golden sales opportunities – It’s easy to overhear these type of conversations at conferences: “I’m not on Facebook and I have no plans to do so.” First of all, this is not a beaming attitude and secondly, why not? Why would you work hard to birth a book and then make no effort to connect to folks who would be interested?
Our publishing house has a 92-year-old woman who posts regularly on Facebook, tweets, and actively sets up a table at every open venue she can to sell her books. If she can do it, so can you.
There is a learning curve to social media, but it boils down to desire. You can do what you want to do, if you make the effort. Social media, with the right balance, is a perfect way to help your baby make friends.
Lose the entitlement attitude – It’s no longer the publisher’s sole job to sell your book. Your contract is based on what you can do to help sell the book. Once it’s on the shelves in a bookstore, your work just begins. Having a book published is a gift, not an entitlement so work to care for your newborn book. Help it grow and walk on its own. Your efforts will not only move your book up in the ranks, but it speaks to your publisher as a good-will gesture. When you present a second book to your publisher, the attitude you’ve exhibited makes attaining a second contract easier.
Work well with your editor and publisher – Kindness and appreciation carry an author a long way in a publishing house. It’s important to remember your publisher has not only invested thousands of dollars into producing your book, but they’ve given hundreds of employee hours as well. When they ask for changes or tweaks, unless they are unreasonable, be flexible. Trust they have their thumb on the pulse of what sells and what doesn’t. Their goal is to sell your book not kill it. Keep a teachable spirit and a willing heart.
Befriend local Mom and Pop bookstores – Offer to read to children, help with book signings, purchase your books from them. Your local small retailer can move mountains in your community if you share a common bond. Here’s an example: My local retailer sold over 1000 copies of my novel because we’d developed a kinship. He advertised the book in the local paper, held a book signing, doubled my novel with another at a discounted price. In other words, he sold thousands of dollars’ worth of books and I gained royalties. Win, Win. These relationships are valuable so make a sincere effort to know your local book retailers.
The work really begins after your book is written and future contracts and royalties depend on your personal involvement. Publishing has never been a fast industry. The process is slow. In the meantime, build your platform, continue to hone the craft, make ready for the day your book is born, the contract signed, and the work lands on the shelves.