Over a cup of tea at Barnes and Noble, I asked TJ Wray, author of Surviving the Death of a Sibling (Random House, 2003) and co-author of Grief Dreams (Jossey-Bass, 2005) what advice she would give to a new author.
“You’re getting into a new business. You wouldn’t attempt to trade stock if you know nothing about the market. Why would you publish your book without understanding the field of publishing?” Good point, Tina. Inspired by Tina I have put together a list of my favorite resources on the publishing field: Lisa’s Pub Picks.
“Learn the lingo before you speak to your publisher. I thought a pub date meant going out for a beer. I didn’t want to say, ‘Huh?’ so I kept quiet. Later, I wished I’d asked sooner.” Tina’s advice rang so true, I decided to add a glossary to my website. After you read this article, you can click on my Glossary of Publishing Terms, and learn all the things Tina and I learned the slow way.
“Are there other things you didn’t know, things that your agent and publisher assumed you did?” I asked her.
“Things like, I have to pay back my advance?”
“Wow, must have been a bummer the first time that statement came in with a few thousand books in sales and no check.”
“I wasn’t very assertive. I thought I was being nice and easy-going, but the truth is I neglected to research. I tell my students, ‘Knowledge is power,’ and here I was giving up all my potential power. I would advise new writers to understand the entire publishing process before the book ever comes out. Then they can actively develop a timeline and plan for promoting the book.”
I chime in, “Yeah, many writers assume that the publisher will promote their book. Even those of us who know it’s our job often think the publisher will provide some guidance. By the time we figure out that there isn’t going to be any guidance, we’ve missed the boat on some of the important, pre-publication work.”
Tina, full-time Professor of Religious Studies at Salve Regina University and the mother of three teens, tells me her secret is working one hour every night on book promotion efforts—writing letters, making calls, working on her website, answering e-mails. “Publicity isn’t challenging or difficult, it’s just time consuming. I follow up on every lead I get. My publicist just did the standard mail-outs with no follow-ups and he didn’t like to take direction or advice from me. Every single radio appearance and interview I got, I got on my own. Of course, he’s busy working on other books written by more trade-worthy authors. If I relied on him my book wouldn’t sell.”
Have you published a book? Send me your “What I wished I’d known” if you’d like to post it on my site and share it with others.
Lisa Tener is a writing coach who teaches students five steps for creative flow and success which she terms, “Magic for Your Muse.” She is co-author of Good and Mad: Transform Anger Using Mind, Body, Soul and Humor (along with Jane Middelton-Moz and Peaco Todd) and founder of the South County Writer’s Seminar.
Lisa has appeared on ABC World News with Peter Jennings, PBS-TV Rhode Island and WCVB-Boston’s Chronicle and HealthBeat. She has been quoted in Glamour, Family Circle, the Boston Globe and more. She is currently working on a series of books for artists and writers to help them complete creative projects successfully. Visit her website at www.lisatener.com.
Copyright 2004 by Lisa Tener; This article may be reprinted without permission only if you retain it in its entirety with the author bio and this copyright notice. If you would like to reprint a portion of this article, please e-mail me for permission at [email protected]