When the initial excitement died down after signing a publishing deal for my debut novel, I searched the internet for advice about what to do next. What should a debut do leading up to publication day? There is a wealth of shared knowledge about how to write and edit a book, how to submit to agents or go the self-publishing route. But then it goes quieter. I was surprised to find little out there once the deal was done.
A Lot To Learn
A debut author can anticipate some things; others may come as a complete surprise. My second novel, Seahurst, is out in May, and this time the ride feels more familiar and far less uncertain. There is a lot, however, for a debut writer to get to grips with. When a writer has written, rewritten and re-rewritten their novel until it shines for an agent, they can’t be blamed for thinking that is most of the heavy lifting done. Once the ink has dried on your contract, the hard work starts all over again. You must shape the manuscript into something your publisher likes. They may require significant changes, and there may be several rounds of editing, copyediting, then proofs to read and checks for minor spelling, grammar and continuity issues. This can take several rounds and many months before the book is ready to ship off to the printers. Even at this point, the ARC (advance read copies) may need final checking and any last-minute typos dealt with.
When you have a final version of the manuscript, attention turns to the exciting business of the book cover. If you have signed with an independent or small publisher, they may involve you in discussions regarding the cover design. I have been lucky to have been asked if I like the covers for both of my novels, but larger publishers may go ahead with little input from the author. Your contract may state how the cover design is dealt with. There have been some beautiful artwork on covers over the last few years. Often this is a bespoke commission for an individual book. Funding for covers will depend on a publisher’s budget or, if self-publishing, how deep your pockets are. The design must give a potential reader an immediate feel for what the book might be like—a tempting cover to make them pick it up in a bookshop or click for more details online. I know from my two novels how hard it is to get this right. I love my covers and the spooky atmosphere they convey.
Once the ARCs are available, they are sent to readers. Some publishers will offer titles on NetGalley, and readers can pick books to read for free in return for an honest review. This is a nail-biting time, or at least it is for me. I clearly remember Haverscroft’s first review from a book blogger being posted on social media. I was working that morning and had no access to the internet. I rushed to lunch to find a quiet spot to look at my phone. I had no idea what to expect or how to react if it was unfavourable. No one wants their co-worker inexplicably having a meltdown and getting through a box of Kleenex for no apparent reason. As it turned out, I did get through a few tissues, and a couple of people passing by sent concerned glances my way. The reviewer understood my characters and the story; I was overwhelmed for a good few minutes. I could not have asked for a better review, so a few moments of sobbing in the corner of a public garden was an obvious response — writers are strange creatures.
Shout It Out
Before I was a published, I did practically nothing on social media platforms. Much to my surprise, and the astonishment of my children, I have enjoyed being active, particularly on Twitter and Instagram. Other authors favour YouTube, Pinterest, TikTok etc., and others shy away from this sort of activity all together, but if your publisher has little marketing budget, you will need to get the word out about your book. While you have time in the months before publication, it is worthwhile opening social media accounts or dusting off any old ones and starting to post.
Approaching newspapers, trade publications, magazines, and book bloggers should happen running up to the big day. You will need to do this if your publisher cannot do so for you. You may be asked to write articles for publications, and interaction with reviewers and bloggers on social media platforms helps to create a buzz about your book in the crucial few weeks and months leading up to publication day. There may be interviews on radio and TV, book events to attend and a launch for your book. I had not heard of a blog tour before Haverscroft went for a ride on one. It was one of the most fun promotional activities I was involved in. Book bloggers post reviews, usually one per day for a week. Haverscroft was photographed in exotic locations, in graveyards and was once plunged into a freezer overnight so a reader could get some sleep! You’ll probably love a blog tour if you like a little bit of fun and banter with readers.
Three Months to go
Did I say Seahurst is published in May? I think I did 🙂 The hard work on the manuscript is done and things are just beginning to hot up in pre-publication publicity. If you have seen the cover, you will understand why I love it. The first articles in trade magazines have been published, and articles have been written. The ARCs are being sent out. Time for the writer of scary tales to have a few nightmares herself waiting for the first reviews to come in.