Saturday, April 28, 2012

PR Basics for the Debut Novelist



The completion of your first novel is reason for celebration. Many people talk of writing a novel but few possess the drive to spend day after day—and perhaps year after year—perfecting hundreds of pages of prose.

Now arm yourself for the long road ahead.

Professional Photo  Ignore the loopy photos and caricatures some writers use on social media and have a sober, serious photo taken that reproduces well in JPG thumbnail. Yes, Stephen King writes horror but he doesn’t appear in public in a Halloween mask. Nora Roberts writes romance but you’ll never glimpse a picture of her with shoddy pink hearts floating around her head. Do not include your children, dog or great-grandmother in the photo. Editors, agents, book reviewers, readers and other authors will only take you as seriously as you take yourself.

Author Bio Many debut authors struggle with what to include in a bio. Find a balance between professional achievements and information about your private life. You’re now a member of the entertainment industry and future fans will savor the private tidbits. Equally important are writing awards and your career prior to becoming a novelist. If you’re young and don’t have many professional accomplishments to tout, mention your education if it seems appropriate.

Your completed bio must appear in several versions. You’ll need a two- or three-sentence clip for use by book review sites and the media. A longer, three to five paragraph version can be used on your Amazon and GoodReads author page. The longest version—if you have ample material to interest the reader—should appear on your author website.

Author Q & A Why did you write this particular novel? Have you been writing since childhood, or did the bug strike later? Do you have any writing rituals? What is your favorite book? Your favorite food? What advice can you lend an aspiring novelist?

For sheer economy, many book reviewers use a standard Q & A when featuring authors. Save yourself time later, when you’re busy writing your next novel while still promoting your debut, and create a Word doc of replies. No, you can’t use this boilerplate everywhere—some review sites will insist on receiving original material—but many others will happily reprint.

Jacket Copy / Synopsis Like your author bio, the description of your novel must appear in many formats and must hook the reader in the first sentence. Remember everything you’ve learned about Goal-Motivation-Conflict when writing the longer book description for your Amazon, B&N or GoodReads page, as well as the shorter, two- or three-sentence version that will appear on Smashwords and other sites. As you work to perfect the copy, notice the jacket copy used on traditionally published novels. Many include a story question to pique the reader’s interest. Others highlight the author’s rich prose style or use short, staccato sentences. Ensure that your copy reflects the type of book you’ve written.

Consistency No doubt you’ve created a social media presence everywhere from FaceBook to Google+. Now you must create a balance between promoting your book and providing valuable content for the writing community at large. What expertise can you offer? You’ll notice that my blog features material in three areas: publicity; (drawn from my background in PR) writing tips; (I’ve been writing professionally for thirty years) and family (readers enjoy reading about the adoption of a large sibling group).

Your material can be just as unique. Did you write a novel on superheroes because you’ve been hooked on Marvel Comics since age two? Perhaps you have something to say about modern culture and the heroic archetypes we all adore. Did you write a contemporary romance in between shifts at Dairy Queen and raising three children? Women struggle every day to achieve work-family balance, and surely want to hear from you. Did you leave a career in medicine or law or industry to finally achieve a lifelong dream? You can offer other writers tips on how to ensure accuracy during research, or share character sketches from an interesting career.

Whatever you decide—remain consistent and professional at all times. Don’t tweet about your political preferences. Don’t fill the Facebook feed with unrelenting plugs for your book or complaints about your Significant Other. Display Good Author Karma by helping the authors who help you, and provide the public at large with blog posts and tweets worth reading.

The Indie Movement is now entering its maturity. Gone are the days when amateurs could get away with spouting public rants or publishing subpar fiction. You’ll succeed—and flourish—by publishing your best work and following up with PR Good Sense.

34 comments:

  1. This is terrific advice. I think many forget consistancy with their profile. It's all about branding yourself like any other product.

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    1. Absolutely true, Cealarenne. Even if an author writes in more than one genre, the issue of brand must always factor in.

      Many thanks for reading along.

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  2. This post should be required reading in every writers' group or journalism class. It is written by someone who has mastered the art of branding and marketing as well as writing dynamite prose!

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    1. Thank you, Wendy. Of course, having you as my editor does provide perfect insurance for perfect prose. xo

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  3. Sooo forwarded and shared. Great info, Christine. :) I cringe at the author photos that are very casual and look like a cell phone was held out at arm's reach. I knew I would sell a million copies right out of the gate, but I knew I wanted to at least LOOK like I could. :)

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    1. Elizabeth, I suspect many debut novelists leap into the fray without understanding that it's nearly impossible to erase from the Internet those first, muddled attempts at author branding. Later on, after they've wised up, those initial photos, posts and comments will continue to pop up--and embarrass.

      Many thanks for reading along. Wishing you all the best with your lovely debut, CANCELLED.

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  4. Great post... You'd think these would be obvious, but when it comes to the nature of Facebook and Twitter, without a reminder like this we could all very easy fall prey x

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    1. Suzie, God bless Indie novelists--they manage to undertake both writing and publishing tasks. Finding time to even think about the PR end seems near-impossible. It's a wonder any of us find time for sleep!

      Many thanks for reading along.

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  5. Great post! Definitely tweeting and following this blog. Already done the serious author shots, bio blurb, etc, but looking forward to doing all the rest someday!

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    1. It's never too early to begin work on your social media presence, Heather. Wishing you all the best with your career.

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  6. I think balance is the difficult thing. We all know we should be doing more writing - but it's so easy to let promotion take over our lives!

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    1. Don't let promotion take over your life. Your readers will want to know you're soon releasing another book.

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  7. I am still uncertain regarding Facebook and author identity. Do most authors create an author or book FAN PAGE, and make that public--leaving their personal FB profile private, for friends and family? Or do authors sanitize their entire FB identity and make it public?

    I personally prefer to reserve my FB profile for private viewing. I need to have a place for grandma to see the kid's photos!

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    1. Melanie,

      I have two Facebook accounts: one (Norma Budden) for family and friends (people I've met) and the other (Author Norma Budden) as a public profile. I don't list much in the info section since anyone will be able to see it.

      Furthermore, I've set up fan pages for my book titles and book reviews site. Hope this helps.

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    2. Melanie, I have a public FB fan page. Unlike Norma, my private FB account incorporates family, friends and professional connections. I've tried to split it into two accounts, to no avail. Now I'm too busy working on the release of my third novel to unravel the mystery as to WHY I can't split the account.

      Take Norma's advice and set up a private and a public FB account.

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  8. Thanks for the post! My instinct is to be as professional in my writing career as I am in my legal career. However, I saw a lot of quirky behavior in the writing blogosphere, and I was starting to doubt my instincts.

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    1. Ani, many people jump into a writing career as if it's a hobby. It's a huge mistake. I worked in PR for decades before making the switch from journalism to fiction and knew to ignore much of the noise in publishing.

      Your instincts are dead-on accurate. Trust them every step of the way.

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  9. As a new author I have found this really interesting and have certainly taken a few tips from the article.

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    1. I'm glad the article is helpful, Diane. Good luck with writing and many thanks for reading along.

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  10. Another great article, Christine. So glad I found you. This is one I struggle with. I hate public pictures of myself. I cringe at the thought of talking about myself (who could possibly be interested in what I have to say?). I love writing and feel fortunate to soon have a book published, but doubt I can offer any writing words of wisdom. Does this all get easier with time and experience?

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    1. Joyce, honestly, I don't know if it ever gets easier. But take heart: most writers are introverts as are most readers. You're among friends. Most of us would prefer to have our nose stuck in a book, or a manuscript we're writing. Toss off your bashful nature and write, blog, post--put yourself out there so readers can get to know you!

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    2. Yikes. I'm taking baby steps. Currently blogging about my recent vacation. That's actually fun to do. I look forward to a quiet day so I can check through your other articles, thank you. :)

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  11. This is very helpful advice. Many thanks for sharing.

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    1. Thank you for reading along, Henriette.

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  12. Thanks Christine. Some sound advice there - much appreciated :)

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  13. Excellent blog post, Christine.. I'm currently living in Abu Dhabi, but spent over 10 years in the Philippines and saw at first hand the needs of assistance at so many levels in families and communities there.. On a different note, even at my advancing vintage, I've also just begun this wonderful trek into the writing jungle, and loving it .. Your points are all marvelously valid.. In my own blog, I've been trying to select the things that we newbie indies encounter, hopefully with a large seasoning of humour.. after all we've got to enjoy the journey too. Thanks again for your post. (BTW . my covers for the two novels to date were done by a design artist friend in Manila..) Seumas Gallacher

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    1. Many thanks for reading along, Seumas.

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  14. Very sound advice Christine, thanks.

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  15. Nicely said and it all has the ring of truth! Thank you. I am close to finishing my 'debut' novel (though I have three in the drawer, 95 percent done...). Your suggestions are helpful even as I finish up.

    Michael Fitzgerald
    http://writingformoney.blogspot.mx/

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    1. Many thanks for reading along, Michael.

      Wishing you all the best with the release of your debut!

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  16. Now you must create a balance between promoting your book and providing valuable content for the writing community at large.

    <a href="http://presswire.com/pr.php> Public Relations</a>

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    1. It is quite a balancing act, Stephan.

      Many thanks for reading along.

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