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What to Do Before You Meet to Your Publicist...

by Danielle Jackson

Something I get asked quite a bit about at conferences and when I give presentations on publicity and marketing for romance is what authors can do before they are published. And you know what? It’s a tough question, because I don’t really know too much about what authors do before they are published aside from writing because I’m put in contact with authors after they’ve been signed!

Recently I attended the Chicago-North Spring Fling Conference in Illinois and I had to give the Sourcebooks Spotlight all alone—and it wasn’t as terrifying as I thought it would be!—but as I started preparing in the week prior what I would say and what I should be prepared to answer, I thought about what I like for authors to have when they come to me for the first time. Many of you here know that process; our publicity manager sends you an email with some general info and then I send you a follow-up email, usually with too many exclamation points at the ends of my sentences, but with a TON of info about blogs and web reviews and print contact and NO ADVERTISING BUDGET and get ready to do a ton of work that’s totally beneficial to spreading the word about your book!

Anyway—I realized quite quickly that a lot of authors have NO IDEA what I’m talking about. So for this blog, I’m going to give a little bit of advice to authors who are out there getting started in publishing; what many would think of a new beginning. So whether you’re a Sourcebooks author or with another house, or you haven’t signed yet, maybe, this can help you and your in-house publicist figure out where to go from that first email!

1. Have a website. Yes, this is hard when you aren’t signed, and you don’t necessarily have a career arc or author brand in mind. But you do need a place to start and you will need a place to start putting things on once you’re signed. Did you know there’s a graphic designer named Danielle Jackson and she alTready owns the domain: (actually, she’s awesome—check out her stuff)? If my illustrious writing career ever begins, I’m going to have to think about a new domain… But, here’s a great website from a friend of mine that I met at my very first RWA National conference in 2008: She’s still unsigned, but she has a great example of a simple website (that I bet can be updated easily as well!) prior to publication.

2. Get Involved! RWA is by far the most amazing writing organization out there! And I’m not exaggerating. Everyone is really nice (even though you’re usually having drinks with your competition), everyone has ideas and tips and suggestions (even though that idea you dreamt about one time is totally the idea you gave that bestselling author last year when you randomly saw her in the ladies room and got to chatting), and you LEARN so much (who knew head hopping was that annoying?). Whether you stay at the local level, or you attend regional and national conferences, this is the BEST resource you can have as an author. I think even authors from other genres would benefit from being in RWA. And I hope to see you all at Disney World in July!

3. Have FUN! Are you more comfortable behind a computer screen? Think about joining Twitter or Facebook or starting a blog. Do you love to talk about what you do and has it helped your writing? Think about submitting proposals for writers conferences or RWA conferences. Whatever you do, in addition to writing, make sure the process is fun for you. We all know there are times when blogging can get out of control, or no one shows up at your signing, or somebody put up a very mean and completely unrelated review on Amazon, but take it all in stride and keep a smile on your face. Even when it’s hard and everything feels like crap, I’m sure there’s something to laugh about—from the reaction your feisty heroine would have to the situation, or that horrible grammar mistake that reviewer made in their negative review! And if it still bugs you; write it out and turn it into something good!

All right, I’m breaking one of my own blogging rules and starting to ramble on, but I’ll try to be around today to answer any specific PR questions or concerns!

Also! Have you guys seen our pretty new Sourcebooks Fall 2010 catalog? Check it out:


  1. Super post, Danielle! Everything you said was spot on. :)

    Before I was published, I had a website. I told myself that all of a sudden I'd be published and not have time to build one. And then it happened. I sold two teen novels first. No TEEN website. :) One of the things asked is what do you put on your website if you have nothing published? The writing organizations you belong to, a bio, interests, hobbies, maybe contest wins or placements. All that will change as you grow as a writer, but in the beginning, just having something up says you're planning for success. :)

    Networking--I love Facebook, Myspace and Twitter, and blogging. I've made so many friends and many are fans. I've had lots of wonderful suggestions from readers who want stories about other characters in the books. It's a wonderful way to connect, even before you're published.

    And once you're published, you'd be amazed at the requests that can come in from unlikely sources that help to further your promotional efforts--author interview requests, college alumni interviews, newspaper interviews--all because of a presence on the web.

    But most of all, like Danielle said, have fun at whatever you do! :)It'll reflect in your writing and your promotional efforts!

  2. I absolutely agree that a website is essential, Danielle. All of an author's publicity will direct the reader to their website, so it's a good idea to get started on one early. Thank you for another terrific post, and for being our PR Queen!

  3. Hi Danielle,

    I've marketed myself since I was first e-published in 2004. I think I've learned a lot, although few authors can tell you what works and what doesn't when it comes to selling your book.

    For the computer illiterate like me, on-line promoting is getting harder. I don't understand the fine points of using Twitter or facebook. I'm there and have thousands of "friends," but how can I be sure I'm reaching them?

    And blogging...groan. Everyone has a blog and mine is SO boring in comparison to some of the clever ones out there.

    Right now I'm trying (and failing) to get myself up on the Sourcebooks website with the author toolkit. I emailed for help, but haven't heard anything yet. It probably works just fine, but I'm a moron and can't make it happen.

    Is there a way for technologically challenged authors to cope with on-line media? Somewhere we can go for guidance? So far I've just sworn, banged on my desk (trying to avoid my keyboard which is what I really want to hit) and thrown my hands up in defeat.


  4. Never mind! I found the help I needed. Whew!


  5. Great suggestions, Danielle! The website is the big thing for sure.

  6. Hi Everyone--thanks for commenting!

    I think something to remember is you dont' have to do everything all at once all at the same time with online promotion. Certainly, I will set up a blog tour for you and I do work with your on this, but this doesn't mean you have to have a blog on your own. And if you have a Facebook, you don't have to have a Twitter. You do need a web presence, and a consistently updated website is ESSENTIAL. but a regular blog on your own, as many know, can be a daunting task with the million other things you have going on in the non-virtual world.

    Now, during your book publication month, it's a good idea to ramp up those efforts, but those months inbetween, tapering off and only focusing on one aspect of online media (be it updating your news page, or staying in contact through facebook, or updating a blog only once or twice a week) is totally fine.

    For finding out more about online media, I think the best way to do that is to take a look around on whatever it is you're interested in. There's usually a FAQ section that can get you started. Also, do you know an author who has an very active Twitter account, or their Facebook fans are through the roof? Or even their blog is widely read everytime it's updated? Take some time and look back at what they've done to build that online readership. Research is key, and it will take some time to learn the ropes!

    And Ashlyn--if you have any other specific concerns about things, please email me directly, rather than on the comment wall :)

  7. Danielle,

    Great advice today for the newbie and the oldie!


  8. Marketing's come a long way since I was first published in 1980. Back then I'd be sending out around 10K bookmarks to perhaps 200 bookstores and a large number of fans across the country.

  9. Good suggestions. I finally got around to fixing a fan page on Facebook, and now I need to invite people to join it.

  10. i'll be tweeting about this post, Danielle. And sharing it with everyone I know. Great advice/info.

  11. Hi Again! It's so nice to see all of you chiming in :) And thank you Judi, for tweeting--I have retweeted!!

  12. Great post, Danielle! I have a secret promotional weapon - her initials are D.J. and she knows everything about online promotion!
    Seriously, I was daunted at first by how much time I was spending on the internet talking up my book, but the results have been great - much better than any "in person" promotion I did (except for in my hometown, of course). Thanks for being our guide to the online universe!

  13. I'm currently working on building my web presense. For the second time.

    I have a suggestion for unpublished writers. Choose your pen name early. I built a web presense under my real name in social media communities and in multiple contests, but for various reasons I do not want my pen name associated with real name - let's just say my "day job" does not mix with the types of books I'm publishing. That means I'm basically starting from scratch. Like I'm a whole new person who never existed before a few months ago. I wish I'd have planned ahead better and picked my pen name much sooner. D'oh!

    Anyway... Great post, Danielle! The internet is a wonderful promotional tool. If you aren't careful, it can also be a huge time suck.

    Which reminds me, I'm supposed to be cooking dinner and working on rewrites right now. Yes, simultaneously. I'm a multitasker with mad skills.

  14. Hi Joanne--haha thank you! I am far from an expert, but I think i know a little bit :) You are a great example of a debut author who really took the web aspect and ran with what worked for you: your lovely website!

  15. Hi Olivia! How lovely to see one of our upcoming FALL 2010 authors here :) Fabulous advice. I went to a panel discussion at Spring Fling and pen names were discussed--I had no idea how in-depth it can be, but it completely makes sense. And I'm happy to help you develop your name into a brand starting soon!!

  16. Check, check, check! Got them all. Yes, I am even having fun - well, most of the time. LOL!!

    I harp on the website part all the time with hopeful writers I know. Some have gotten the idea, even if it is a fun blog of some sort. Others remain afraid of the internet as a whole. No FB or anything. I understand some of their concerns, but tell them they just HAVE to get over it! It simply is the world we live in, like it or not.

    I actually lectured on this topic for my local RWA chapter. I was pleased that most of the attendees immediately got their domain name secured and a few decided finally on a pen name. That was cool! And, yes, I stole a portion of my presentation info from previous Danielle Jackson blogs!

  17. Great post Danielle! Publicity can be overwhelming at times, especially if you are a social media novice (like me!). Thanks for walking with me into the mysterious world of promotion - you're the best!



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