Wednesday, September 19, 2012

Mind the Gap

by Stephen L. Duncan

One of the nice things about landing a book deal is that you’ll be afforded some time to bask in all the glory and excitement that has built up during the grudge of getting the darn thing published. Usually, it's enough time to foster a healthy and inevitably debilitating fear of your book being ‘Out There.' But it's also a good time to prepare for the madness of your book's release and your debut as an Author.

For me, that stretch of time is two years from contract to publication.

Did I hear a penny hit the floor somewhere out there? (BTW - where did that phrase come from? The penny dropped? Well, then, pick it up.)

So after you tell all the people that two years ago you drunkenly let in on your dirty, little book-writing secret (the same ones who, every day since, have been asking with only the hint of Schadenfreude, “Hey – what’s going on with your book?”) and once you’ve had a moment to reflect on what any of it means in the metaphorical sense, you might find that the days between contract and publication dwindle down both at a molasses creep and faster than Mario Andretti in a cocaine-powered Ferrari.

Slow because, TWO YEARS! And quick because if you’re like me, you’ll procrastinate during all of them, wake up on the eve of publication and realize you haven’t done squadoosh to prepare yourself for authordom.

A Lesson: Don’t be like me. There is a lot to do.

So what all needs to get done?  I’ll throw out a little of what I know. My agency, Dystel & Goderich, sent me a nice little ‘How To’ booklet on things that are helpful. Let’s discuss some of what I’ve ventured into.


Right. So, Facebook, Twitter, that Google thingy, Pinterest and tumblr. Those are the main ones, right? Am I missing any? I’ve opted into Facebook and Twitter with personal accounts. One of the stupid things I’ve managed to do is not open author accounts for both earlier in my quest for publication. Now, most of my friends and followers are following the wrong account. Another idiot move? I’m on the fence with my author name. I’m thinking about using S. L. Duncan to separate my legal career from my author career.

Some more advice: think ahead.

Pinterest and tumlr are both media-oriented social platforms. Lot’s of pictures, see? Videos, too! I haven’t figured out a decent way to incorporate either in a way that would draw attention to my books (Read: The Whole Point), but I can see them being very effective if my stories were more subject matter oriented. Like, if I had a book that was about pretzels, I might showcase the different knot styles. Like a Windsor. I think they do that. Or whatever. You get the point.


I started a blog and have failed miserably at keeping it up. But – TWO YEARS, right? I’ve got plenty of time. Still, it’s never too early to get a following. But what to write about? The old stand-by is the process of getting published. That’s cool, I suppose. The thing is, there are loads of authors with really good publishing blogs. What if I blogged about me? Boooooring. I’m not interesting for another two years. And even then…snooze.

Industry stuff? This is good, too, but again – lot’s of people are out there doing it and doing it well. L.L. Cool J style, I guess. And really, unless you’re in a position to be an actual journalist, you’re kinda just reposting stories from Galley Cat and Publishers Weekly.

Have you got any good ideas? I’m hovering somewhere around a behind-the-scenes blog and the author’s life.

If you can, jump into one of these Author Commune type blogs, like From the Write Angle. It’s a great way to connect with other writers (and their followers) and the Kool-Aid is FANTASTIC! Matching Nikes, too! Another popular trend is to start is a debut blog with authors who are releasing their book in the same year. Because everyone knows 2014 authors are better than 2013 authors. Oh, snap. Come at me, bro!


If you’ve got nerd skills, use ‘em. I, on the other hand (and being a mere lowly dork), have trouble plugging electronic things into power sockets. A website, for me, is going to cost. Luckily, publishing houses like to shower their new authors with some spare scratch to pay for it all. Oh, wait. They don’t .

What I have done, while waiting to win a website from an unsuspecting digitally competent friend in a hand of Texas Cheat’em, is minimal but important. I’ve reserved website names.  See what I did there? All bags covered. As for character names - I’ll leave that to the publishing house’s prerogative.


Conferences. Writer conferences are good for meeting people and glad-handing. You might even grab a few readers. If your genre allows for it, comic book or fantasy conventions are very good ways to get your name out there.  There are big conferences and little ones. I’ve managed to squeeze into a panel or two at a local regional. You’d be surprised at the popularity of the literature tracks.

Right. So, what am I missing to get done during the gap years? (TWO YEARS!!!) Any ideas?

Stephen L. Duncan writes young adult fiction, including his debut, the first book in The Revelation Saga, due in 2014 from Medallion Press. You can find him blogging on and on Twitter.


MarcyKate said...

Love this post! Awesome advice. 2 years does sound like such a long time!

I think it's easy to get overwhelmed by all the things that are out there to publicize ourselves on the internet, so it's important to pick and choose. If you don't get something or the thought of doing it makes you want to gouge your eyes out, move along (this is kind of how I feel about facebook and pinterest, though I'll probably eat my words :P).

Jemi Fraser said...

I can totally see putting things off and then having them all attack you at once! I've picked blogging & twitter as my social media for now - don't know when/if I'll add the others :)

Jean Oram said...

You are way too freaking funny! And we are supposed to DRINK the Kool-Aid. Dang. I was using it to colour my homemade playdough.

Seriously, making yourself stand out is tricky. Think about what you can do for your audience that is unique to you. What do they want that you can provide? Legal advice that somehow ties in? Legal funnies? YA stories that tie in with your books? What are you not going to get bored of for a few years?