Literary Labor and Delivery

Writing a book is hard work. I’ve heard some authors compare it to giving birth — you labor long and hard, sweating and straining and praying for the pain to end. And then suddenly, gloriously, you are holding a little bundle that takes on a life of its own.

And that’s when the real work begins. Yes, that applies to books as much at it applies to babies. Books that do not have the full attention of the author in the early, crucial phases of the launch too often do not live up to their full potential in the marketplace. Which is a sad thing for author and publisher alike, since that initial investment (be it financial or creative in nature) is never fully realized.

I’ve talked with lots of potential authors who think that writing a book is their golden ticket to fame. They dream of cross-country book tours, television appearances, and elegant soirees with champagne and petit fours. And while this might still happen if you are a BIG FISH in a BIG POND, the vast majority of authors have to work their proverbial butts off just to sell through the first print run (less than 5000 copies).

So, if you care enough about a topic to write a book about it, you’d better care enough to do the leg work necessary to launch your little darling, too. Work on that elevator pitch until it slips across your lips like French silk pie. Build bridges with your readers using every possible (and a few seemingly impossible) venue: radio and television interviews, well publicized book readings/signings, speaking first at a local level and building your way up to national conferences and events, make social media connections (and get those Amazon and B&N reviews up there), create bookmarks and tee shirts, and call in every favor that anyone has ever owed you to build word of mouth in the first four months before and after publication. That’s what it takes.

Oh, and be nice to your publicist. Keep her informed of your comings and goings. The more you do, the happier it will make them. Once you turn in your book to your editor, your new best friend is your publisher’s marketing team. Get to know them, and express your appreciation for all the ways they work hard to make you look good.

If this is your first book, don’t even think about writing a second book for at least six months to a year until your first one has been on the market. I know it’s a rush, and you have a million ideas … but give your first child a chance to find his way in the world before you give him a sibling, okay? You’ll be glad you did.writers-block

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