I’ll always remember the day I typed those two hard-won words “THE END” and leaned back in my chair. I was thrilled to have accomplished my goal, yet terrified to take the next step. I’d read the horror stories—that elusive and exclusive world of publishing seemed so formidable—thousands of query letters a day were unceremoniously tossed into the infamous slush pile. So what could I do to make certain mine wasn’t among them?
I thought about the research I’d done in my design business—all those hours I’d spent studying furniture, fabric, and accessory manufacturers before deciding who among them was the best for the market I was seeking. And as I contemplated finding not just a literary agent, but the right literary agent who would present my work to a carefully selected publisher, I knew research was the key.
Week after week I checked out agents in Publishers Marketplace and Agent Query. Once I learned who was selling what to whom, I compiled my submission list as thoughtfully as I had selected furniture manufacturers.
The next big moment had arrived—it was time to compose the all-important query letter. I’m embarrassed to admit that this single page, 275-word document took an entire week to write, rewrite, and polish. But I viewed my query to be exactly like the showroom window in my design studio—it had to immediately stop people in their tracks, stir curiosity, and hopefully delight whoever saw it so much that they’d fling open the door. I’ve always believed in the wisdom of that old adage: “You never get a second chance to make a first impression.”
Thankfully the hours of research and the rewritten-so-many-times-I-thought-I’d lose-my-mind query letter delivered results beyond anything I could have anticipated. But my involvement in my book’s journey didn’t stop on the day I signed my publishing contract. Interior design had taught me that having the product simply wasn’t enough—it was time to start marketing. I began by searching for book bloggers on the Internet, and I made contact with the ones who expressed their enjoyment of Southern fiction and coming-of-age-stories, and I set up accounts on Twitter and Facebook.
Being a card-carrying introvert, these things weren’t easy for me. The marketing of design services involved creative advertising in print media, and rarely was I the focal point. But I knew I had to step out of my comfort zone when it came to marketing my book, so I extended my hand and got out there—tentatively at first, no doubt about it, but I connected.
And here’s what I found—a new group of book-loving friends—a few as near as my hometown and others as far away as New Zealand and Russia. I’ve met exceptional people—librarians, booksellers, book bloggers, published authors and those who aspire to be. I’ve accepted invitations to be interviewed on blogs, in print, and in the media, and I’ve added more book-signing events to my author tour. The lone wolf part of me howls at all this, and more than once I’ve felt the acid burn of fear in my throat, but the interior designer turned author who understands the importance of marketing always wins out.
Looking back, without the marketing experience I developed as a business owner, I never would have taken full advantage of the opportunities available by connecting to booklovers via the World Wide Web. But in the rapidly changing world where newspapers are faltering and dropping their book review sections, and more and more people are getting their news online, it’s imperative that we, as writers, explore every avenue available.
It takes time, research, and even a bit of chutzpah to put ourselves out there. And it takes courage too. But as Mark Twain said: “Courage is resistance to fear, mastery of fear—not absence of fear.”