Book Review: What to Do Before Your Book Launch

I’ve never had a book direct me to put it down and take care of an important matter  before continuing to read. That is, until I came across What to Do Before Your Book Launch. The guidebook for traditionally published authors was written by M.J. Rose, an internationally bestselling author of dozens of novels and internationally bestselling novelist Randy Susan Meyers, who I’ve had the pleasure of meeting on a couple of occasions.

Seriously, I was reading the book and was told to put the book down THAT INSTANTBook Image and secure my domain name. I already had LisaBraxton.com—that’ the domain for this website—but I didn’t have “dot org” or the domain name that is the working title of my manuscript. I did what the book said, stopped what I was doing, and secured the other domain names.

The authors of What to Do outlined a number of other things writer need to take care of or at least be involved in because of changes going on in the publishing world.

They point out that 10,000 novels hit the shelves each year. The price of books has gone up 20%, while review space has declined 20-50%. Fewer magazines and television shows feature authors. Publishers can only support a very small percentage of the books they publish and more than half of debut authors never publish a second novel.

So what does an author do in light of these changes and shifts in the business of books and media? Take an active role in publicity and marketing of the book.

What to Do tells you how to build websites, gives pointers on taking a publicity shot and offers the pros and cons of blogging, producing a book trailer, and a newsletter.

What to Do Before Your Book Launch is a “must-read” for any writer looking to get a book published. It’s a quick read—only 88 pages—that can be referred to over and over again during the publication process.

‘Tis the Season to Reflect on Publishing Successes

I’ve been feeling a little down this holiday season. I spent the past year revising my unpublished novel, had a former co-worker who runs an editing service proofread and copyedit it and have been sending it out to agents. So far, I’ve gotten a few rejections, some advice for tweaking it, but no nibbles.

But I have to remind myself of the successes I’ve had this year. I was honored when the ladies of GBS-NCNW asked me to speak at their membership tea in September. I read “Short LISA PHOTO READINGDistance Romance,” about how I met my husband in the most unlikely place. The story was published in Chicken Soup for the Soul: The Dating Game.

Not long after that, I got some good news from the Editor of The Northwestern, my alumni magazine, that they would publish my essay, “Trust Yourself,” about volunteering at my church and my friendship with one of my little first graders.

As the holiday season got underway, I got good news again. And again. And again. Writer’s Digest magazine gave me an Writers Digesthonorable mention in its 84th annual writing competition. The mention was for an essay I wrote centering on a troubling medical diagnosis I received.

Grace Publishing, a publisher of Christian publications, accepted my essay, “Sunshine for Christmas,” and included it in it More Christmas Moments anthology.

Forgiveness Book ImageI had sent an essay I titled, “The World I Didn’t Know Existed,” to Inspire Christian Writers earlier in the year. Just in time for Christmas, Inspire Forgiveness was published, including my essay.

There was a time when I struggled to get short pieces published, but that’s beginning to change. I need to remind myself of this as I go through the process of seeking a literary agent to represent me.

Top 7 Holiday Gift Ideas for Writers

Planning to shop for the writers on your holiday list? Are you a writer putting together your wish list? Here is my list of the top 7 gifts for writers:

Literary Action Figures–Writers can sit at their desk under the watchful Jane Austeneye of William Shakespeare, Jane Austen, Sherlock Holmes, Oscar Wilde, or any of the other literary action figures on the market. My favorite is Jane Austen, one of the greatest English novelists. Despite living a largely sheltered life, she skillfully captured the subtleties of human interaction and her works are more popular than ever.

Noise-canceling Headphones–They can block up to 90 percent of outside Noise canceling headphonesnoise. They have a comfortable over-ear design and sliding headband to fit any head size. They can block out barking dogs, howling cats, annoying spouses, and anyone and anything else that can break a writer’s concentration.

Weekend Hotel Stay–Okay. The Bellagio may be out of reach or the Bellagioubiquitous slot machines too distracting, but a weekend stay at a hotel can give a writer the space and tranquility needed to increase that daily word count. And when the writer needs a breather, there’s always the hotel pool or gym.

Electric Pencil Sharpener–For old school writers like me, who rely on the Ticonderoga No. 2 and a legal pad to work on that first draft, an electric pencil sharpener is an ideal gift. These days, they can be operated by battery and/or electricity. Either way, they sharpen pencils to a fine point.

Booklight–There’s nothing worse than when I’m visiting family or friendsBooklight for an extended stay and their lighting is not set up with the writer in mind. When I get the urge to write on these occasions, the dim lighting in the guest bedroom leads to frustration. I sometimes end up writing in the guest bathroom, which, for some reason, people tend to light more brightly. The rechargeable booklight takes care of this issue. It attaches to almost anything, and provides bright, white light.

Massage therapy–Hunkered over a laptop, notebook, or desk for hours on Massageend can leave a writer’s back muscles tired. What better way to relieve the tension than with the gift of a massage. Day spas provide gift cards for a menu of massages, including deep tissue and heated stone.

Coffee House Gift Cards–A Coffee house is a favorite hangout for a writer.Coffeehouse The writer gets out of the house to craft that story, all the while tapping into the energy of the coffee house patrons and inhaling the full-bodied aroma of a cup of java.

How about you? What gifts for the writer would you add to this list?

To Blog or Not to Blog: What I Learned at the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference

I spent the weekend in Pittsburgh reconnecting with a friend of mine and while I was there we attended the Saturday portion of the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference. At the registration table they told me that about 175 people attend from most major cities as well as a high concentration of people from the Pittsburgh area. I’ve been a subscriber to the organization’s literary magazine for CNF Registrationyears and have submitted work that unfortunately (or fortunately, depending on how you look at it) hasn’t been accepted for publication.

Be that as it may, I was pleased to finally meet the people who produce the literary magazines and blogs that have been a part of my life for many years.

During the morning session on how to get published, agents, authors, editors and freelance writers discussed the value of a writer having a blog. I found much of what was said useful even though I’m writing fiction. Much of the CNF Audienceadvice is transferable. Here are remarks from Jason Bittel, writer for the Species Watch column of Earthwire, Kristina Marusic, editorial assistant for Creative Nonfiction magazine and a coordinator for the annual writers’ conference, and Emily Loose, an independent literary agent, who in the past worked as an acquisitions editor for some of the top New York publishing houses. Lee Gutkind, “The Godfather of creative nonfiction” moderated.

Jason: Definitely yes. The best thing for you when you are pitching your book project is to blog. Strut your stuff.

Kristina: Having a blog is a great way to prove you can craft a compelling story. If you don’t have lots of clips, or publications, your blog can show what you can do. It’s also a great way to build a community and talk to other writers.

Emily: A blog is not time away from your work. It’s synergistic. The publishing industry wants you to make a brand for yourself. We think about the author’s brand constantly as we’re going about getting works published.

Lee: It’s not just your writing that you’re showing off in a blog, you are shamelessly showing off what you know. You are branding yourself and showing your special knowledge and skills. You’re not just a great writer, you have great evidence of all kinds of things.

So there you have it. A blog can definitely be worth your time as a writer. Hopefully this blog will offer dividends when I’m ready to shop my novel around for an agent. I’ll share more from the Creative Nonfiction Writers’ Conference in upcoming posts.