When my first book, The Best Bad Luck I Ever Had, was released in 2009, I was almost nine months pregnant with my second child. I already had a three year old at home. I could barely find time to invite my family and friends to my book launch, much less attend conferences, do book visits or post online. I knew the next few months of my life were going to be consumed by taking care of a newborn. How was I ever going to market my book?
In despair I asked my agent, the wonderful Kathy Green, and my editor, the fabulous Stacey Barney, for their advice. What are the most important marketing tasks I should focus on? I asked them. They both said they same thing: Write another book.
I have to admit I was sort of surprised by their advice. How was writing another book going to help, when I didn't even have time to market the one I had now? But I decided to listen to them. The first year, I did almost nothing to promote my first book, but plugged away, working on my second.
By the time my second daughter was 18 months old, I had enough of a manuscript pulled together to get a contract to write The Lions of Little Rock. And by the time my second book was published in 2012, I had realized my agent and my editor were right. Here are just a few of the ways writing another book will help you to promote the first:
1. Pretty much every review you get for your new book will at least mention the old one. Some even say, I can't wait to go back and check out her first book.
2. You know that page you get in the publisher's catalogue? When you publish a second book, it will include a picture of your first book as well.
3. At every school or library visit you do, you can pretty much count on someone asking, "What else have you written?" It's nice to have something to say.
4. The art department might put "by the author of [title of your first book]" on the cover of your second.
5. The first chapter of your first book might be included at the end of your second.
6. At book events, I often find people interested in my work, but not willing (or able) to pay for a copy of my most recent book in hardback. It's nice to have a paperback of my first book ready to offer instead.
I think it's even MORE beneficial for an unpublished writer to go ahead and start a second book. What if that agent finally responds to your first manuscript and likes it - but not enough to represent it. Don't you want to have something else to show them? I've got a whole completed manuscript that's stuffed in a drawer somewhere that's never seen the light of day. Nor should it. It was a good experience, a learning experience, but if I'd devoted all my energies into marketing that book, I'm not sure I ever would have been published.
I finally realized what my agent and editor were trying to tell me was that being a writer - and marketing your book - is a marathon, not a sprint. Instead of trying to do it all at once, feeling overwhelmed and guilty, it's okay to pick and choose what you can do at that moment. And if all else fails - just write another book.