Annie Bourne | Before You Publish, Do These 5 – no, 6 Things!

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Dear Whitney,

You are about to publish your book. What an accomplishment! I can’t wait to read Dare Dream Do, and hope to catch a glimpse of the galleys before your publication date on May 8.  I'm also delighted to share with you what I learned in publishing my first book. These tips are by no means comprehensive, or even the best, but they are gems I discovered and will carry them with me into marketing The Second Secret of Edwin Hoff. My only major recommendation has to do with timing:  Please do these things BEFORE YOUR PUB DATE. Once your book comes out, you will be tumbling forward, responding to readers and inquiries and book clubs — with little time to spare, or think. 

1.   Build a bank of 30 blogs. You already write and tweet very helpful content for your followers. Consistent blogging – one a week – is one of the best ways to sell books. I learned this post-launch and from others’ successes. Apparently, a blog will impact book sales for 3 days while a tweet apparently shows impact for a few minutes. I wish that, pre-launch, I had built a bank of well-written, short pieces that I could post, once or twice a week, to build consistency. Whenever a current idea moves you, you can of course blog about it. But while you are busy with other post-publication demands, it would be fabulous to have a bank of blogs on hand to establish consistency and maintain it. A “Blog Bank” should be mandatory on every pre-pub checklist.

2. Write the outline of your next book. In the course of submitting The First Secret of Edwin Hoff to publishers, my agent also sent it to a book-to-film agent in Hollywood. We were delighted that he saw in the main character potential for a series, and asked to see The Second Secret. So, in the lull between submission and publishing, I wrote the outline for my next book. We sent it off; he said he’d like to see the manuscript; and then the outline went into a manilla folder to wait while we were consumed with the launch of “Edwin 1”. This was lucky timing for two reasons:

First, I had learned things to apply to “Edwin 2”. These lessons came out of another manilla folder full of rejection letters and emails from agents and publishers. I scoured them for consistency. There was some, particularly around the concept of “traditional plot structure.” What’s plot structure? Exactly. So I googled, and studied, and learned. My personal goal for Edwin 2 is a tight, driving, traditional thriller plot structure that still surprises. On pub day for Edwin 1, my best efforts for Edwin 2 were outlined and in the folder.

This was a good thing, because readers’ responses really affected me. If they had been bad, it could have made me stall. But they were surprisingly positive. And this cut the gas line completely. How would I live up to their expectations? How did I even write the first book in the first place? Edwin 1 evolved through so many revisions, where on earth did I start? How could I create another book I loved that much again? See? Dead halt. So I didn’t start writing, and didn’t start writing, until one day, three weeks ago, it was time to follow my one writing rule: Apply Ass to Chair.

Then I reached into my drawer and found something wonderful: the outline. Yes, much will end up under the red pen. Much will be sent to clipboard purgatory, cut and never to be pasted again. But I have a place to start – it’s a running start – and a goal built on lessons learned at my most advanced point as a writer. And for that, I am ever grateful. Because it is hard, and not fun, to create under the burden of expectation. So build yourself a runway for your next effort when you have space to think, analyze, learn and improve, and before the expectations from the first – for good or ill – can befall you. Edwin 2 is coming along faster than I’d hoped, and is a lot of fun to write.


3. Tech Up. Before you start needing to use twitter and facebook and your web campaigns effectively, learn the tools at your disposal for doing so efficiently and for monitoring them. Set up your analytics. Learn how to save time and be more influential. I’ve retweeted this article.  Have I read it? Yes. Absorbed it? No. Followed its advice? Nope. This remains on my “to do” list. This too should be on the mandatory pre-pub checklist. Please, geniuses on the web, create a service that does all of this for us poor scribes. Free us up to write. (Actually, someone is….stay tuned, writing friends, for something good soon comes our way….)

4.  Make a Strategic Business Development Plan. Think like a deal junky. Who, beyond your friends and relations and business partners – and their friends and relations and business partners – are likely to enjoy your book. Build a plan to reach out to them. Maybe get in touch with them early; tell them what’s coming. Offer to speak or skype with them. Again, I must slot this in the “lessons learned” category, but you have time to do it now. As the publishing/marketing wave crashes overhead, it will be helpful to have tethered yourself to a strategy that lengthens the long tail of your book.

5. Make Author/Book Business Cards. Spend money on business cards. Put your book jacket cover on the front left third of the card, and your author name and contact info, including twitter handle, facebook pages, and author website on the right hand side. On the back, put quotes, Amazon rankings, logos of outlets where the book can be purchased. People look at, hold and collect business cards. But postcards are expensive, become clutter and get tossed. Anecdotally, I’ve found nearly a 50% sales effect per business card distributed. (I’m sure that number is overly high.) But today, for example, I gave out two cards. Shortly, Amazon notified me, at the request of one of the recipients, that she had bought the book. How fabulous! Which reminds me…

There’s an all important 6th…do this before pub date, and every day after….

6. THANK EVERY READER. Books are sold one at a time. They certainly are read that way. I am deeply grateful for each person who devotes their valuable time – part of their life – to read my pages. I really am. So, thank you, Whitney.  I hope you enjoy meeting Edwin.

Good luck with Dare Dream Do, Whitney. The book will be a smash!

Your friend,
writing as A.B. Bourne, author of The First Secret of Edwin Hoff, c. 2011 Watch Hill Books

P.S. I loved Annie's book which I do hope will become a movie.  You can visit her blog at and follow her on twitter @anniebourne. Or follow Edwin by clicking “like” on her Facebook author page.

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