Terri Long’s In Leah’s Wake is in my Kindle right now, and it’s a very good read. Well-written, poignant, relatable. If I were a Mom, I’d be Leah’s – Zoe is busy, compassionate but a tad distant, and in denial. More tuned in to her clients’ issues than her own family’s.
Already deep into the process of selling her book, I’ve asked Terri to dish about her experiences as an Indie author.
About the book: In Leah’s Wake tells the story of a family in collapse. Sixteen-year-old star soccer player Leah has led a perfect life – until she meets a sexy, independent older guy, and uh-oh. His drinking and dabbling in drugs feels like freedom to her. Her terrified parents, thinking they’re losing their daughter, pull the reigns tighter and get it all wrong, pushing when they ought to be pulling. Communication breaks down, and soon, there’s no turning back.
Terri, is In Leah’s Wake your first novel? Yes. I wrote the first draft in three months. It was my MFA thesis, so I was under the gun. The writing was dreadful, but when I finished, I knew the characters and the novel had a general shape. I spent the next several years immersed in the book, developing the characters. I was with them all day; they took over my dreams. I almost believed they were alive, that imaginary Cortland was a real town. It was an adventure, and I loved every minute.
What’s the biggest misconception about writing a novel? That it’s easy and/or fast. Occasionally, an author claims to have written his or her book in a few weeks, and people get the idea that you have only to channel the muse and the words spill out. If only. Most of us spend many long months, if not years, drafting, revising, editing.
Do you work with a critique group or a freelance editor? I work with a writer’s group – three wonderful, talented women who read and critique each other’s work. We’ve been together for more than 5 years. If I didn’t have a group, I’d hire a professional editor. Editing can be costly, but when you consider the stakes, it’s worth it.
Lately, I see a push to get as many books on virtual shelves as possible, because a strong backlist increases sales. As a result, some writers put work on Amazon or Smashwords before it’s ready. The problem is that after you’ve spent a certain amount of time on a manuscript, you stop seeing the errors on the page.
We all make mistakes, even writers who’ve published for years. I’ve read and reread my novel; I asked family members and friends, independently, to proofread; my writers group read it, and an editor read and proofed it – yet, last week, a reader pointed out three typos that every one of us had missed. It happens.
Publishing a novel with three minor errors is not the end of the world – most books, indie and traditionally published, have a few. Egregious mistakes make us look unprofessional. Submitting or publishing work rife with grammatical or technical errors opens you to rejection, criticism and heartache.
Is there anything about your novel or publishing that you would change? I’d market aggressively from the start, before the book came out. For your book to stand out, you have to make noise. While the climate is changing, many critics won’t review indie-published books. My traditionally published friends were interviewed on radio and TV, and reviewed in large commercial publications like USA Today and People. A radio spot or review in a large circulation paper or magazine generates interest and gets people talking.
Few indie publishers land those major spots or reviews. The reality is, we can promote our work or watch it languish. By the time I finally started to promote the book, it had been out for close to six months. This gives the impression that the book is a loser. Shame on me – until recently, I never really gave it a shot.
Are you acting as your own publicist ? I’m working with Novel Publicity (@novelpublicity) – the best decision I’ve ever made as a writer. Until March 2011, I had my website and I’d placed two ads; otherwise, I relied entirely on word of mouth. This is embarrassing, because it’s so silly—I was too self-conscious to promote. I placed ads, with links to my website, and my husband, Dave, sent books to a few people. In December, my daughter Natalie, bless her heart, put a link to my site in her email signature. Gradually, friends and family heard I’d published a book. My sister Audrey posted a link on her Facebook page. My cousin Amy did the same. Two amazing women—I am hugely indebted to both! My parents spread the word to extended family and friends. Again, I’m hugely indebted!
In March, I activated my Twitter account. On Twitter, I met Emlyn Chand, president of Novel Publicity. Impressed with Emlyn’s blog, I contacted her for help with social networking and social media marketing. Emyln is so creative and smart, incredibly knowledgeable in all aspects of social marketing, and her enthusiasm is positively contagious. And she’s a wonderful friend! I also hired a terrific traditional publicist, Stacey Miller, who’s working the traditional avenues – sending press releases to newspapers, pitching radio shows and so on. Putting these pieces in place takes time, so it’s only now that the book is being actively marketed.
Honestly, my best PR – by far – has come from bloggers like you, Molly, who open your blogs, give me space, allow me to talk about my book, share my thoughts. I’m awed and amazed by your generosity. I can’t even begin to tell you how truly grateful I am.
I’m also asking readers to read and post reviews. As I’ve said, many critics won’t review indie-published books, which makes reader-reviews critical to our success. This week, I’m doing the Menage a Blog Tour with the Indie Book Collective, a fabulous group of writers working to promote indie writers. On August 17, In Leah’s Wake will be promoted as a Bestseller for a Day. I’ve very excited for that. Working through multiple channels, I’ve been told, is the only way to succeed.
What advice would you give other writers about promoting their work? Market, market, market. Did I say market? Again, start before you publish the book. Develop a strong social marketing platform. Writers must engage. Readers are on the Internet – on blogs, Twitter, Facebook, Goodreads and other networks – talking about books. If you’re visible, if they’ve heard of you, maybe they’ll talk about your book. These networks are about community NOT self-promotion. Still, even if you can’t link social networking directly to sales, you’ll benefit from the support.
Mobilize your personal networks. A few months prior to publication, spread the news to family and friends, send your book to anyone who might be interested in reading; ask them to spread the word. A week or so before your pub date, ask family and friends to post reviews on Amazon, Barnes & Noble, Goodreads, etc.
If you can afford it, hire a publicist. She’ll work with you and support you, and you won’t feel so alone. Work hard with your publicist to promote your book. Most books sell very few copies. If you’re a name author or you received a hefty advance, your publisher will promote you. The rest of us, indie or traditionally published, receive little or no notice, so we must be proactive.
There are various types and levels of promotion, so you need not spend a fortune. If you can’t afford or don’t care to hire a publicist, do the work yourself. Create a website; build your social network, contact reviewers and bloggers; reach out to book clubs. Dollars & Sense: the definitive guide to self-publishing, released last week by the founders of the Indie Book Collective, has already hit bestseller status! It’s no wonder – it’s an amazing book with a wealth of actionable information.
Self-publishing was a good choice for me. This is an exciting time for publishing – with tremendous opportunity for writers. Whatever choice you make, whether you decide to self-publish or hold out for a traditional publishing contract, hold onto your dream. You can make it happen! Don’t ever give up!
About Terri: Terri Giuliano Long grew up in the company of stories both of her own making and as written by others. Books offer her a zest for life’s highs and comfort in its lows better than anything else can. She’s all-too-happy to share this love with others as a novelist and as a writing instructor at Boston College. She blogs about writing and the writing life at http://tglong.com/blog Or connect on Facebook: http://www.facebook.com/tglongwrites Or Twitter: @tglong