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Launching Your First Novel

Angie Breidenbach, ACFW PR Officer, here: Please welcome ACFW member, Gina Holmes, in her guest post.

When you’re constantly receiving rejection letters from publishers or agents, the last thing you’re probably thinking about is publicizing a novel you can’t even seem to sell. Before I continue, let me stop a moment and give this very loud and clear disclosure: nothing, nothing, NOTHING, matters more than writing a killer book. Spend 99 percent of your writing time perfecting your craft and fashioning a story that will change the lives of those who read it, or at least entertain the heck out of them. But with the other one percent of your time, even if you’re just starting out, start building yourself a PR folder. You’ll thank yourself later.
My debut novel, Crossing Oceans, is releasing this May with Tyndale House Publishers. Though it’s the first to earn a publishing contract, it is actually the fifth novel I’ve written. I started my marketing folder back on book two because I was sure it would be published. Although book two still collects dust, as does three and four, I’m lucky to have gotten that head start.
The thing with publicity is if you wait until your book is releasing or even about to release, you’re almost too late.
Once you sell your first novel, you often are under contract for a second, and possibly third. I am contracted for a second novel which is due the end of the month my first novel is releasing.
I had more than a year to write this novel, so I didn’t stress. I’m stressing now. Why? Well, I had some personal things that set my writing back. I got married to an amazing man who distracts me just by walking by. Major life changes, no matter how good have a way of slowing the literary flow—for me at least.
After what seemed like a ridiculous amount of time, I finally turned my sample chapters in for approval… they weren’t approved. The story was too different in tone from the first. I was asked, for my own career good, to hold off on this one and try something else. Both my agent and publisher were in agreement, and after a little consideration, so was I.
Now I find myself with just weeks left to publicize my all important, debut novel, and write my all important sophomore novel.
I also have five children, a day job and Novel Journey to tend to. Guess what? I’m stressed, but not as stressed as I would have been had I not started preparing for this moment years in advance. I’d like to share some of what has helped me.
What can you do now to get ahead of the eight ball?
1. Buy your website URL and begin to build it. You can go very expensive and pay thousands for a professional site, or you could start small and do something like godaddy, where you build your own site. I took a third route and hired someone to make me a template and then set it up like a blog, so that I could tweak and update it easily.
2. Get professional headshots. I hired a friend whose work I admired but who is still considered an amateur. For fifty dollars and my husband agreeing to baby-sit for an afternoon, I got a few really great and professional looking pictures. Don’t let anyone convince you that a good headshot is a waste of money for a novelist. On Novel Journey we post lots of author photos, many of which look like candid shots that other people are cut out of. Remember how important perception is. I look at a substandard picture and I subconsciously think this author is no perfectionist, and am less likely to want to read their work. Spend the money and get a good promo picture of yourself.
3. Keep a file filled with the names of magazines you come across that fit your writing. For example, if you write Victorian era historicals, Victorian magazines might later be interested in an article written by you. Jot down the names of them and any other publications you come across that might be a fit. This will save you a lot of research time later on.
4. Keep a folder of book reviewers you’ve come across that seem to enjoy the type of stories you write. I send myself emails with the reviewer’s name, books they’ve reviewed and liked, their email address and, if I know them, how I know them. While it’s true that they might not still be reviewing when your book finally releases, it won’t hurt to try.
5. Start reading marketing/publicity books now and take notes. My personal favorite is the simply titled Publicize Your Book. If you can only afford one book on marketing/publicity, I highly recommend you make it that one.
6. Read The Tipping Point. It will explain some very important concepts on what makes things popular. It’s an easy and surprisingly entertaining read.
7. Read How to Make Friends and Influence People. The book has been around forever for good reason.
8. Keep a list of natural influencers. You’ll call upon these folks later for help in getting the word out about your book.
9. Help anyone you can. For one, it’s just the right thing to do, for two, what goes around comes around.
10. Start building your platform now. Write articles, create a blog with excellent and frequently updated content, volunteer to teach classes on what you’re an expert in, or for whatever committees in ACFW, or other writing organizations you belong. People are much more likely to be interested in your book if they feel like they know you and you’ve shown interest in them.
In conclusion, Crossing Oceans is my debut novel, available now wherever books are sold.
Will my platform and diligent efforts pay off? I’ve tried to do everything right—to write an excellent story, to build a platform, network, help others, and everything humanly possible to publicize my book. Will it make any difference?
That’s the kicker, maybe yes, maybe no. The thing with publicity is that no one really knows what works. All we can do is write the best book we’re capable of, not let any chance pass that will help get the word out about it, and say our prayers.
CROSSING OCEANS, 2010 ~Tyndale Publishers
“Sometimes love demands the impossible.”
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