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7 Invaluable Things I have learned as a Debut Author…

The biggest dream of every aspiring writer is to be published. However, now I have a publishing contract, I realise it is not as easy as simply handing over your manuscript to them and sit back while they do the rest. Far from it in fact. New writers are a gamble and few publishers are prepared to spend that much money on a launch. Without an agent (getting one of those is proving harder than getting a publisher!), there is still a huge amount I have to do to myself. According to other author friends, even with an agent, you still have to do stuff. So here is my list of everything I have had to do (very quickly, as it turned out) before my first book hits the bookshelves in May. Hopefully, it will inspire you to get ready earlier…

1. The Wonderful World of Websites

You have to have your own website. It’s a must. And you have to make sure that website is fit for purpose. Do your research first. Look at other author websites and see what you like and what you don’t. There are a lot of bad websites out there. For me, the easier it is to use, the better.

I toyed with the idea of getting one designed for me, but the cost was astronomical so I gave it a go myself. Fortunately, there are lots of helpful sites out there which help you build your own website from scratch. Don’t be frightened! I am a middle-aged woman with fairly basic computer skills. I knew nothing about web design, but I am pretty proud of the result. I used Wix and the finished site took about a week to complete and cost, including the rights to the domain name and their Premium package, about £100.

And for goodness sake, get some professional pictures taken asap. Not only for your website- once you start getting publicity people will use them. It is so much more comforting to know I do not look like a troll when my face is put on things…

2. To Tweet or not to Tweet

Twitter is a huge market place, and from what I can see, one we writers cannot afford to ignore. It also works within a very polite etiquette system. If someone retweets you, then it is expected to retweet something of theirs back. This can become time consuming. However, there are easier ways to do it than to spend hours every week trawling through your Twitter feed looking for things.

My lovely author friend Nicole Locke (who writes Harlequin Historicals like me) introduced me to two tools which have proved to be a godsend. Hootsuite and Roundteam. Both are free, and do need careful monitoring, but they will help you to organise the chaos of Twitter.

Hootsuite will organise your chosen hashtags so you only see what you want to. It also allows you to schedule your promotions months in advance and tweets them for you! Roundteam retweets the hashtags you tell it to. You can customise the number of retweets you send, vary the hashtags you retweet and limit it around the hours of the day too, so you are not retweeting things in the middle of the night. Ever wondered how I manage to retweet so many #TuesNews @RNAtweets?

3. Facing Facebook

You need an author page. You only have to look at successful authors on Facebook to see it can be a wonderful tool, but in the early stages, it seems a bit pointless. Once you have built up a following, THEN you can do stuff with it. So set it up early, and then you are ahead of the game. Beware of the paid boosts. I’ve done three and they have achieved nothing…

4. Becoming a Blogger

This has really worked in my favour. I blog about all manner of things, usually once a month. It can be anything from historical research, to writing tips or my own ineptitude at life in general. It also drives traffic to my website (see- you're on it now and you didn't even realise!). There are some good ways to promote it on Twitter: #sundayblogshare #TuesBookBlog to name just two. And if people like your blogs, they will probably be more inclined to buy your first book! My blogs get me more followers than anything else. It has also led to being invited to guest blog on other sites. This is still in its early stages, but already, this month alone, I will have 3 guest blogs out there in addition to my own, right before my first book is published.

5. Press Please & Begging for Reviews

That first book is important to you. The rest of the world really doesn’t give a damn.

Reviews help sell books, but you have to convince respected reviewers and sites to do it for you. This involves hours of semi-begging emails to which you usually get no responses. I sent out 20 and have only had two back so far. I can’t deny I’m dreading the reviews, but you have to have them, so start pitching book bloggers months in advance if you want to get any traction. Follow them on Twitter. Retweet a couple of their reviews or blogs. And be cheeky, write speculative emails to local media asking them if they would like to do a piece on you.

6. Glorious Giveaways & Personalised Stationary

In your quest for reviews and book sales, you need to consider giving your book away for free. There are several sites which offer this, the best, undoubtedly is, but there are others. The Romance Reviews, Harlequin Junkie, Romance Junkie and, of course, Amazon giveaways. But be warned. The average Freebie Chaser expects courting if you are going to squeeze a review out of them. Having personalised bookmarks made is a must. If you are sad, like me, then you will have matching themed envelopes too…

7. If you fail to plan, you plan to fail…

And finally, you have to keep track of all of this stuff. Promotions need to be done at least two months in advance, at the book launch and in the weeks after. Use a site like Canva to make engaging memes for Twitter or Facebook and change them regularly. Keep a spreadsheet or chart of what you have done and who has been receptive to your efforts. You’ll need it all again when you have written book 2…

Good luck with that debut novel! Please be more prepared than I was!

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