Aside from making an announcement on Twitter and doing revisions, there are a few other things that should be on your mind when you sign with a literary agent. In all likelihood, you’re about to launch your career as an author. It’s exciting but don’t get lost in all the confetti. Here are 5 things you should do to make sure you’re off to a great early start.
- Figure out your brand
What do you want to offer readers? What can they expect across every one of your novels? Can they expect an action-packed adventure or something light and whimsical? Before you create a website, newsletter, swag (someday), etc., you need to figure what your brand is.
This usually means you have to conceptualize your next novel. Does your current novel have series potential? If editors are interested enough in it, they may ask for a short pitch of your next book(s). The pitch doesn’t have to be long (a paragraph and even a sentence can work) but it’s not a bad idea to start working on it now, especially before you commit to writing it. Some people have no end of book ideas. Personally, I like to take my time brainstorming.
Different genres have different ways of doing a series. The romance genre, in particular, likes to have a new hero and heroine for each book but with some theme that links them all. If you’re not already well-versed in series in your genre, check out what’s selling well and figure out how you want yours to look.
- Get a website
In today’s day and age almost every author has a website. It’s an easy way for your readers to find a list of your books and connect with you. Once I got an agent, I created mine for the first time using a free service. Unless you want to, you don’t need to pay for a domain name every month either.
You’ll have no trouble finding free website providers: Weebly, Wix, Squarespace. Go with the one that you find easiest to use. Then look around to see what other author websites look like. At a minimum, you’ll want to put your bio up there, maybe a list of your works and most importantly a way to subscribe to updates or a newsletter. It doesn’t hurt to gather emails as early as you can. When your book deal comes along you might be glad you did.
Before you spend anywhere from $1,000 to $5,000+ to pay someone to design and create a website for you (on top of $5+ monthly domain name fees) see if the free options work for you first. Test out the waters while you can, preferably before your book is published when you’ll really need one!
- Learn a bit about how book marketing works
Even when you’re traditionally published, that doesn’t mean you’ll have lot of marketing dollars thrown your way. Unless a publisher has invested significant money in your book (aka your advance), much of the marketing is going to fall to you. It helps to prepare!
Some suggest putting aside part of your advance to use for marketing purposes. But before you commit your hard-earned money, you’ll want to learn what you can about the different marketing avenues you can take. There’s a ton! Some examples include blog tours, swag gear, conferences, signings, newsletters… All of these things can suck up a great deal of your time. You can’t expect to do all of them, so try and make note of which strategies you like best. That way you can focus on those particular ones and execute effectively when it’s time.
You don’t need to become an expert, just get familiar. Here’s a nice overview that I found helpful from author Rachel Lynn Soloman’s blog.
- Follow authors with books similar to yours
This is a great way to figure out: 1.) who your readers are 2.) where best to find them (Twitter? Instagram? Review blogs?) 3.) what they like. Try to see how newer sophomore-level authors do things, particularly on social media. They’ve been through their debut year already and probably know what works and what doesn’t. How do they interact with others? Which do they use most, Twitter or Instagram? Do their readers (potentially yours too) like to collect book swag, participate in giveaways, go to signings or conferences? You don’t have to copy what other authors do per se, but there is much you can learn from them.
In all likelihood, these authors are probably the ones whose books you read. Support and interact with them! Don’t forget your agent’s other clients and writers who aren’t yet published too! There’s a whole writing community out there. Social media gives you plenty of opportunities to build relationships and network with them. Take advantage!
- Write your next book!
While the before mentioned tasks are important, don’t get too carried away, especially with social media. It’s easy to do! Yes, designing a gorgeous website is fun but in the end what’s going to sell to publishers and future readers is a great book. You should focus on accomplishing that above all else.
Getting a literary agent is no easy feat. It’s a major step in your career as a writer. And you deserve to celebrate. Get that photo of you signing the contract, announce it on Twitter and pop open that champagne! But even after you get an agent, even after you get a book deal, keep pushing the envelope and exploring how to be successful in your genre. There’s a lot of hard work still to be done. While it’s great to have someone in your corner, remember that much of the work will be on your shoulders. You can do it!
Elizabeth Toth writes suspenseful historical fiction for young adults. She is represented by Christa Heschke of McIntosh and Otis. In addition to fiction writing, Elizabeth has delved into many other styles of writing including news, political, corporate communications, public relations and marketing. As a seasoned writer, she’s eager to help new writers navigate the publishing world through her blog and editorial services. She lives in the Chicago area with her husband and daughter. Read more writing advice on her website. Follow her on Twitter: @Stoeverit
About the Series:
Now What? is a series dedicated to navigating post-query life and the agent-author relationship. Authors from every stage of their writing career have come together to tell their stories. They understand the struggles of querying and moving forward with an agent and are here to help.
New posts go live every Friday!
Previous Posts in this Series:
How To Know if An Agent is Right For you
By Ana Franco
Three Myths and Two Truths About Getting An Agent
By Tammy Oja
How To Communicate with Your Agent
By Alexandra Overy