It wasapproximately 18 months ago when I first got an agent and subsequently signed the contract for "Elliot and the Goblin War." At the time, looking forward, I thought it would take forever to get to this point, days until the book's official release. Since it's early and nobody in my house is awake other than the dog, I've become pensive about things I've learned over the last 18 months.
1. Time Moves Quickly
Yeah, this should be obvious but it wasn't t
o me. I'm so glad for everything I did in preparation throughout the last year and a half and so frustrated with myself for not having done more. I didn't realize that there would be enough work to do on things that could only be done in the last few months before a launch (scheduling school visits and signings, planning the launch party, blog tours) that anything else I hadn't done was going to be troublesome.
2. Relationships Matter
Personal relationships matter: old high school friends, extended family, new friendships. There are people in my social circle who are bending over backwards to try to help promote the book, or contacting their school to see if I could come visit, or purchasing books for every child they know and asking their friends to do the same. Online relationships matter too. They are cheerleaders when there's good news and offer sage advice when I need opinions from people who have been where I'm at now.
3. Talk About the Book
This is hard for most authors, and certainly for me too. In a perfect world, people would discover the book entirely on their own and solicit me for signings, visits, and lectures (oh, and world peace too in a perfect world, I suppose). As it is, I'm a debut author in a marketplace with a lot of great books that deserve to be picked up and read as much as mine. There are people in my own neighborhood who still don't know I'm releasing a book - how do I expect others to know it's there unless I talk about it?
4. School Visit Letters are Like Queries
I don't even dare estimate how many query letters I've written over the last several years, but it's been enough to know how to do them inside and out. I was nervous to begin contacting schools to see if they were interested in having me come visit. Guess what? It's really no different than writing a query letter.
5. Every Past Experience Prepares You for Now
Just like queries prepared me for soliciting school visits, o
ther experiences before I got the contract are helping me now. Those pitch meetings at writer's conferences helped me learn to talk about my writing in a succinct, interesting way. Having to network with other writers taught me to network now with booksellers and librarians. Receiving rejection letters early in my career toughened me up should I receive a bad review. I didn't know this years ago, but I'm so glad now to have gone through that amateur process.
6. Publishing Really is a Small World
The more people I meet in the industry, the more I'm glad to have conducted myself so far in a professional way. "Elliot" isn't my only existing book contract, and there are people I'm working with at one house who know people in the other house. There are people I've already worked with who've since moved on to other houses, editors I've submitted to but later turned down for other offers.
7. Think Different
I've done the standard stuff to prepare for the book release: I have a website, I Twitter, I do bookplates and bookmarks and bought pens in the color of the book cover. What's gotten my publisher most excited though are some labels my husband made for promotions. There's Goblin Repellent labels for water bottles and Turnip Juice labels for juice bottles. The publisher has asked for labels they can put on bottles and send out. Children have asked if they can have one. It did cost some money to print up the labels, and the bottles aren't free but they're a lot cheaper than a lot of other publicity things I've seen.
8. Meet Locals in the Industry
In Utah where I live, there is a very strong children's literature community. I've met several wonderful authors here. They've connected me with others I might not have met on my own, with local booksellers, writing instructors, conference planners. All people who can and are helping me begin to build my own career.
9. Keep Writing
Although "Elliot" is the book at the top of my mind, there always has to be new writing in progress. It's not this book that matters most to my career. It's the next book, because without a next book, my career stalls.
10. I Still Know Nothing
The old adage is true: The more I learn, the more I realize how little I know. Yep. The closer I get to the release the more I am certain that I haven't got a clue about anything. So I'll post again in another year when there's a couple more books and a lot more experience under my belt. Chance are, everything I think I know now will be wrong.