Where do I even start?

Recently, we’ve been asked to talk about the very beginning of the process. Before you have a finished manuscript, way before you’ve gotten that first contract. The very start. This is a bit of a Q&A we’ve put together from the questions we’ve received:

  1. Do agents and publishers care about my social media presence and prowess?
  2. Do I need a blog or a website before I’ve finished my book?
  3. Do I need to be tweeting and Facebooking before I’ve finished writing?
  4. I have some chapters finished. Should I post them on Wattpad?

1. Do agents and publishers care about my social media presence and prowess?
Short answer: Absolutely. Publishers’ marketing budgets have shrunk and more of the responsibility has fallen onto the shoulders of authors and agents to publicize your book, so a strong social media network has become vital. This is especially true if you are a first-time author. This does NOT mean you should go out and buy 3,000 Twitter followers for $25. (In fact, don’t do that—never do that.) It does, however, mean that you need to take the time to build a real group of readers. Having this kind of authentic “reader community” sends a strong message to publishers and agents that your book is more likely to sell well because there are already interested readers.

2. Do I need a blog or a website before I’ve finished my book?
It depends. Do you think your readers would be interested in your process? I find that a blog is a great place to store my research, to ask questions of my audience and to collaborate with other authors. If you plan to use your website <just> to sell books then no, you probably don’t need to launch that before you have a book deal. But if you plan to be strategic and build your audience (your “reading community”) so that by the time your book launches you have a rabid crowd of readers clamouring for your book, then yes, launch a website while you’re still writing.

3. Do I need to be tweeting and Facebooking before I’ve finished writing?
This is a lot like the previous question. If you’re only tweeting to sell books, chances are you will get 35 followers and all of them will be other authors or people trying to sell you something. If, however, you want to create a following of like-minded writers and readers, then yes, ideally, you would start your Twitter and Facebook feeds the day you start your author website.

4. I have some chapters finished. Should I post them on Wattpad?
Tricky question. There are a lot of online software packages available to upload your work to, from Wattpad to Inkitt to Inkubate. Personally, I find that they’re great spaces in which to get feedback on my writing. So if that’s what you’re looking for, go for it. Also, several of those spots have contests that promise agent attention, like this one from Harlequin and Wattpad called ‘So you think you can write.’ And of course, everyone knows the 50 Shades of Grey story, which began as Twilight fanfiction. Figure out what your goal is with posting your story on Wattpad—is it to get feedback? Exposure? Fans? And then I suggest experimenting. That’s what the rest of us are doing in those spaces, I promise you.

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