What Every Virgin Author Needs to Know

By Jordan Dane

So you’ve done the impossible and gotten published. Now what? I get this question a lot. Besides drinking heavily, there’s plenty for a soon-to-be new author to do while you wait for your first book to come out. Here’s a good starting list. And many are free.

  1. GET ONLINE WITH A SOLID WEBSITE. Make sure it’s professional looking and navigates easily. And if you see a website you like, check out who designed it and make contact to get a price quote.
  2. SET UP FREE BLOGS. We can all handle FREE, right? Set up and start ‘friending’ folks on free blogs like Facebook, Myspace, Crimespace (for crime fiction), etc. It will take time to decide what works with your schedule and what’s the best bang for your time. Some of these sites have trade offs, but they all have something to offer. Another article on my FOR WRITERS page is about optimizing Myspace for authors, so check that one out too.
  3. SET UP ON AMAZON AUTHOR CENTRAL, if your books will be sold on Amazon. They give good instruction and you can set things up fast.
  4. POST ADVANCE REVIEWS & SYNOPSIS ON AMAZON YOURSELF. Author Central (see link above) is a spot to set up your reviews and synopsis on Amazon. This is a great thing to know how to do so you don’t have to wait for someone at Amazon or your house to do it. You’ll need the email of someone to verify the information. This is usually your in-house publicist or your agent or editor. But trust me. This is a very cool thing to know how to do.
  5. CREATE YOUR AMAZON LISTS. Also on amazon, you can build your recommended lists like Listmania or Book Guides. When I started, I set up a list for my books as well as for authors I recommended and enjoyed reading who had books at amazon. These lists get tagged with key words that will drive readers to your books and other similar novels. And cross promoting good books makes sense.
  6. SET UP RSS FEEDS FOR BLOGS. Pick a main blog that you plan to update, then set up other blogs to feed your post into, such as your Myspace blog feeding into your Amazon Author Blog or others you may want to set up. This will save you time. You write one blog, but it looks as if you’re posting everywhere and keeping your material fresh. And in the cyber-community, perception is everything.
  7. BUILD YOUR MAILING LIST. You can buy lists for libraries thru ALA-American Library Association or check out the resources of other groups you belong to. Make contact with your college alumni group, professional organizations, high school friends or church groups–anywhere you can post an announcement without being considered a spammer. You can also conduct online contests through your website or blogs to drive people to your mailing list and grow it. But remember this is an ongoing process.
  8. JOIN MORE GROUPS, if you can afford it. There are many good published authors support groups that have resources you may be able to use, such as regional library lists, independent bookstores, etc. But these groups also provide other support through networking and cross-promotion. I belong to the International Thrillers Writers, Mystery Writers of America, Romance Writers of America, Sisters in Crime, and other misc. groups. Each of these professional organizations offer promotional opportunities in some manner.
  9. BRAND YOURSELF. (No, not with a hot iron!) I have my blue eye brand and the slogan “Take a front row seat to suspense”. My house liked this so much, they used it for promo material. The brand you choose should reflect how you write or what you write about. Give it some thought and consistently set up your brand on websites, blogs, and other promotional opportunities.
  10. DESIGN AND ORDER BOOKMARKS/POSTCARDS. I have my own graphic designer for my bookmarks and other promotional materials, but there are plenty of online sites who do a fine job with design, printing, shipping and some have mailing services. And I’ve heard some authors doing their own graphics with Photoshop or other graphic software. As for the links I have below, please keep in mind that I’m not endorsing any of these companies. You can check them out yourself to see which one might work for you or you could find a local provider in your area.
  11. ONLINE RESOURCES: Here are a few online links to get you started: Gotprint.net, Earthly Charms, Vista Print, Printforless
  12. GUEST BLOG AND VIRTUAL TOUR. And the last point I’d like to make is about guest blogging/virtual book tours. Virtual book tours are conducted around the time of your release, but should be set up in advance by selecting a good blog and promoting your own appearance in advance to draw online traffic. Guest blogging promotes your book without incurring the typical travel expenses as you would for the traditional book signings. And if you plan properly, you might get more people coming to a virtual book tour or guest blog than would come to a store.

Is guest blogging worth it? I did notice that my sales rankings on Amazon or Barnes and Noble improved on days I blogged, if that’s any indicator. Amazon represents only 2-3% of my overall sales, so I don’t view this as significant, only an indicator of interest.

BUT—not all blogs are created equal. Do your homework in advance. I recently learned that prior to committing to a guest blog, it might be good to check out the site traffic prior to investing your time. And here’s a cool link to help you determine the traffic and the demographics of each site. Then you’ll have more information to make that decision—plus you’ll have solid and impressive data to feed back to your publishing house and look like an online genius.


© Jordan Dane, 2008