Thanks to Christina J. Wade for tweeting this picture. She was ready to take notes!
Things went so smoothly. The hardest part of the night was trying to tweet out and take note of all the words of wisdom our panelists and moderator were sharing about the publishing industry. I learned so much.
The question that seemed to be on the minds of many attendees was if they should self-publish or go the traditional publishing route. Lang stressed that this was a question you’d really have to answer for yourself based on what you really want out of your writing career.
One of the advantages of going the traditional publishing route is greater distribution and more opportunities to get your book reviewed. Also, with a traditional publishing house you will receive help with marketing. Even if you have a book deal with a major publisher, however, Latham advises doing your own marketing in addition to what your publisher provides for you. For example, when she published her children’s book Leaving Gee’s Bend with Putnam/Penguin in 2010, she took it upon herself to arrange school visits to help market her book.
“I wanted to give my book the best shot it could get,” Latham said.
Being the English teacher that I am, as I listened to last night’s panel discussion I found myself searching for a theme and I didn’t have to search for long. The thing that kept coming up was the importance of building relationships.
If you are publishing the traditional way, one important relationship will be that with your literary agent.
To find a good agent the panelists suggested attending genre specific conferences. You should also check websites like QueryTracker.com for reviews on agents. Lang says if a literary agent asks you for payment upfront, run! Typically, the arrangement is the agent receives 15 percent of they sell for you.
Additionally, if you read a book that’s similar to yours check the acknowledgements as writers often thank their agents. Find the agent and send him or her a query letter.
Speaking of which, Thorne stressed the importance of mastering the query (and gave me an idea for a future See Jane Write workshop) and the importance of having a tough skin in this business. You’re going to get rejected (by agents, publishers, etc.). Accept it.
Your relationship with your literary agent is a serious one. “It’s like a marriage,” Latham said. An agent, for example, can serve as a mediator between you and your editor.
“And my agent can talk me off the ledge when I’m freaking out,” Latham said.
Nonetheless, it is still a business. Remember you hired your agent.
Moderator Stephanie Naman had plenty of wisdom to share too!
By a show of hands, most of the people in the audience last night were interested in self-publishing. There was a time when self-publishing was looked down upon in the writing world, but Naman said that’s changing. For example, self-publishing is now a huge topic at writing conferences, she added.
Nonetheless, quality is still important. Even if you’re not seeking a traditional publishing deal you still need to present your best work. Attend writing conferences and join a critique group, Thorne recommended. Get an editor and a professional graphic designer to help with your cover, Naman added.
Having a good marketing plan is essential for writers who want to self-publish. And the key to successful marketing is, you guessed it, building relationships.
Thorne, who has found much success with email distribution lists, said having an online presence is important but reminded us not to be a pest. She said she understands how excited you’ll feel after your book is in print. “I had to resist stopping strangers on the street when Noah’s Wife was published,” she said.
Of course, you also need a website or blog and using social media is a great idea too but don’t post about your book every three minutes on Facebook, Lang said.
Naman recommended that authors use methods that work best for them; stick to things you’re good at. For example, Naman is not a fan of book signings. Instead she loves blogging and networking on Twitter and thus has used those platforms instead to promote her book Murder on the First Day of Christmas.
When marketing remember to focus on how you can help people. This will help you build relationships and make people really care about the success of your projects. So instead of your emails and blog posts simply being about you and your work, use these tools to share valuable information (such as writing, publishing, or networking tips) with your followers.
Marketing will be a lot of work, but don’t stop writing to focus solely on marketing. The more you write the more connections you’ll make. And the money you make from your first book can help you produce and promote your next one.
“The key to a successful writing career,” Lang said, “is to keep writing.”