April Henry is the author of eight mysteries for adults and teens, including the New York Times bestseller Face of Betrayal, co-written with Lis Wiehl. Next year will see the release of her second in the series, Hand of Fate, as well as Girl, Stolen, a stand-alone teen thriller that will be the lead title from Henry Holt, the YA division of Macmillan.
April lives in Portland, Oregon and, in addition to workshop appearances, contributes articles to Writers Digest and other periodicals.
Things You Should Do After You Sign the Contract – But Before Your Book Is Published
Contributed exclusively to Storyfix.com by April Henry
If you are being published by one of the bigger houses, you will probably get a publicist assigned to three months before the book comes out. This person will be 22 and sharing a two-bedroom apartment in Yonkers with five people because she makes close to minimum wage. Your job will be to supplement what she does. Following are what I wish I had known when I was a first-time author.
• Register your domain name NOW. Five days before I tried, some other April Henry took .com, .net and .org. Even if you don’t have a web site for a while, you will have it registered for when you do put one up. (Mine is AprilHenryMysteries.com.)
• Don’t rely on your publisher to get you “blurbs” – nice quotes from published authors about the book. Find out the deadline for the catalog that goes to booksellers, and the later deadline for the jacket is. With my first thriller, I didn’t personally know any thriller authors to ask for blurbs. I e-mailed several at their Web sites. I kept my request light and funny. Six of the seven I contacted said I could at least send a manuscript, and three came through.
• Ask if you can proof the copy about your book in the bookseller’s catalog and the copy on the dust jacket. These are often written by someone fairly low on the totem pole, and it’s not unusual to find errors, spoilers, and odd turns of phrase.
• Ask if you can have extra galleys for your local bookstores. Then hand deliver them.
• Start keeping track of the book reviewers for papers in your area. Share their names and addresses with your publicist.
• Take your time to fill out the author’s questionnaire. With luck, they’ll really use it. Point out if there are special interest groups who would have an interest in your book. Does your book have a topical hook that will allow you to be an “expert” on something?
• Gather names and addresses of groups or publications that might be interested in your book, such as alumni or professional publications. I got a notice in my college alumni magazine. Submitted articles about myself – all ran – to three professional groups I’m a member of. Made sure I got written up by the writers’ group I belong to – they love success stories. Since my first series involved license plates, I pitched the idea of covering it to a national publication that goes out to all the state DMVs- and they bit.
• Your hometown paper may be interesting in doing a story on local girl makes good.
• It’s unusual for a first-time author to get a book tour. But you may be able to use your publisher’s travel agent – and their very substantial discounts – if you do strictly book-related travel. Thanks to the HarperCollins travel department, I flew from Portland, Oregon, to Washington, DC, for the Malice Domestic conference for about one-half the price of the lowest listed fare.
• And after your book is out, send thank you letters. Bookstores tell me it’s rare that they get after a signing. For exceptional service, find out the name of the person’s boss and send the thank you to them. Not only is it right and polite to thank people – but it may well result in better service down the line.
• Start going to readings now. What makes each one succeed – or fail? What makes the audience laugh or ask questions? What makes people look at their watches?
• Choose a passage to read that can stand on its on, and can be read in 5 to 10 minutes. Oftn it’s the first chapter. Don’t do what one author did. When the bookstore told him he should allow about 45 minutes for his talk, he said, “Great! I have one passage that takes 45 minutes to read.” He ignored all hints that this was too long a stretch for even the most devoted audience.
• People who attend aren’t there solely to hear you read. They want to hear about how you came to write the book, and your experiences as a published author.
• A week before the event, call the bookstore to make sure it has your books on-hand. This is especially important if it is a chain or one that does a lot of signings.
• Bring treats to the bookstore – for the staff. Have a little note, “Compliments of So and So” so that they will think of you fondly in the break room.
• Even if your reading is sparsely attended, remember, you are there primarily to make friends with the booksellers. They will be there, recommending books to customers, long after your signing is over.
• To double your audience, think about teaming up with another author who writes in a similar vein.