You signed your contract. Way to Go!
Your manuscript is in the hands of your publisher. Yes!
You are super excited to tell the world you really and truly ARE an author. Woohoo!
As a writer, once you sign the paperwork, you may feel a bit lost and unsure how best to move forward when working with your publisher. There’s nothing wrong with this feeling. It’s actually quite normal. One minute you’re riding this adrenaline rush of emotion feeling like you can leap
small buildings lego blocks in a single multiple jumps. Then, next thing you know, your waffling in the wasteland of uncertain edits, self-deprecating memes, and impatience in the process.
What most newly signed authors need to remember is that the publishing journey is a winding road trip as opposed to a drag race on a back road. There are important steps in the process of producing a great looking, professionally edited, beautifully illustrated final product. All we have to do is look at the myriad of books lining trash bins and garage sale tables to realize that as much as we would all love to cut corners, save money, and move quickly, the best results take time.
So, what can you do while you wait for each step? Here are 8 simple ways we recommend to partner with your publisher and assist them in YOUR success.
1) Keep Writing: There’s a well-known saying that what sells your first book is your third, fourth, and fifth book. The truth is just because you turned in your manuscript to a publisher doesn’t mean you should just stop writing. Get busy writing the next book, whether that’s a stand alone title or the next one in your series. Mix it up. Write a novella. Blog. Freelance for a magazine or newspaper. Writers must build on their own momentum.
2) Become Educated: Just because you signed the contract, doesn’t mean you are ready to become a published author. Do you know how books are printed and bound? Are you aware of what it takes to paginate and layout an eBook? Have you looked into applications that can enhance your platform? There is nothing wrong with not knowing something in the beginning, but it is truly helpful if you take the time to educate yourself on what goes into the process from start to finish.
3) Build Your Platform: How are you going to sell books when no one has ever heard of you? This is the question that most authors need to ask themselves. The truth is you can’t. You may have the best book cover ever created, the most amazing story ever written, and the coolest marketing campaign ever planned, but if no one knows who you are, why they need to read your book or what need you can meet for them, then you’re not very likely to be successful. Building your author platform isn’t only having an account on various social media sites. Building your platform means networking, guest posting, blogging, teaching, mentoring, volunteering, and so much more.
4) Meet Deadlines: If your publisher gives you a deadline, MEET IT. Period. Unexpected things do happen. Water heaters break, cars need new tires, children become sick, activities create overwhelm, etc. However, once you sign the contract, your deadlines are not self-imposed and yours to change. Not meeting a deadline creates a domino effect and impacts, not just your publisher, but your editor, design team, manufacturer, distribution, marketing and promotion, and so on.
5) Study Your Craft: If you write historical fiction, read more historical fiction novels. If you write children’s picture books, attend a conference like SCBWI’s annual conference. If you somehow wrote your first novel without the Chicago Style Manual, go get one. Be willing to learn more about what you don’t know to be better at what you do know.
6) Manage Expectations: We all know staring at a pot of water won’t make it boil faster. Calling, emailing, or texting your publisher, publicist, or editor repeatedly asking for updates, questioning the timeline, etc. isn’t going to endear them to you. Life is happening for your team as much as it’s happening for you, probably more so because they are juggling multiple authors with high expectations covering multiple projects that are attached to multiple deadlines. Be realistic in what ways and how much you expect your publisher to interact with you.
7) Invest in Yourself: Writing professionally, whether full or part-time, is a business. Open a PO BOX for mail. Get business cards made. Have new headshots taken. Open a separate checking or savings account. Purchase back-up hard drives. Invest in your preferred writing software. There are myriad of ways that you must invest in the business of writing. While your publisher is carrying the brunt of the capital investment (unless you choose a vanity or hybrid press), it is necessary to make both a monetary investment as well as a time investment.
8) Get Involved: Join a writing association like SCBWI, ACFW, or RealmMakers. Attend monthly regional meetings and swap business cards with at least five people. Offer to read once a month at your local children’s hospital. Volunteer at a school or city library. Become someone that is known within your community for your passion and purpose.
In an ever-changing industry, it’s easy to lose sight of your role in the process and get frustrated, especially after your initial excitement ends. Try to remember that a really good author-publisher relationship is a two-way street. When you are willing to do work on your end, including having a bit of patience, the better the end result will be for you, your title, and your publishing partnership.