Rule # 3: Keep Your Day Job!
Do not even consider packing up your desk belongings or handing over your name tag during the much anticipated celebration of you signing a book contract.
You may earn an advance, but it will most likely be a small one, in the low five figures or dare I say, four figures...and you'll need every penny of that to promote your book because your publisher will only allow so much of their budget into promoting you as their author (for more perspective on this, check out TLCG contributor Marcela Landres' excellent post about how a writer should budget). You'll also need to sock some of that advance money away to create your own promotional materials. Your publisher's PR department should be able to supply you with supportive material, but if you want a large poster advertising your book signing, etc., you'll need to come up with the dough for that. And that goes for extra copies of your book. You can expect to receive about 10 or so copies on the house, but the rest you pay for, at a reasonable discount.
If you have photos, graphs, illustrations, etc., you'd like to include in your book, not only is it your job to track those down, but it's also your responsibility to come up with the cash to foot that bill as well. Are you getting the picture?
Here's something I've heard more than once for writers, "I need that check from the publisher because my rent is due next week!" Writers, never EVER plan your finances around the publishing payout schedule. While you can expect your bi-annual royalty payments to come on time (if you've sold lots and lots of books), the advance payment structure can be rather, unpredictable depending on when your editor accepts your final manuscript, when the official pub date is, etc. Then that check must clear your agent's bank and then they'll send it to you. This whole process can take months! While it is your agent's job to get you your share of what's due to you with alacrity, it's not your agent's job to make sure your personal finances are in order, so plan wisely, create a budget and keep that day job! For now.
Rule #4 Make Some Noise About Your Book!
This expectation is probably the most difficult for writers, especially for those of you writing fiction, to truly feel comfortable with. Once you get a book deal, your publisher will expect you to be vocal about your work. And seen. Often. Talking about your work and literally putting it in the hands of people is the only way you're going to sell it. Look at it this way - you're passionate about writing, you love your characters/message/narrative. The point you decided to find an agent is the point you decided to get really serious about showing the world what you can do with a few sentences. Good for you!!! Go with it! Be proud of your creation! Let that passion flow over to your promotional and sales efforts.
What's the easiest way to promote and sell your book? Just make friends. All the time. There's nothing complicated about promoting and sales, my dears, it's just building relationships. Most every successful PR exec and sales person will tell you that. Connecting with other human beings about your book will only seem complicated if you lack confidence in yourself or your work. You're stepping out of your comfort zone and that's always scary. My quick fix advice is to fake it - all of us at one time or another have felt like phonies when we're doing something new or have moved up a level and are playing with super smart, talented, lovely people...and most everyone feels awkward at first, until you get into a good groove. So fake confidence and comfort until you truly feel those feelings authentically. You've already been accepted into the club, so wear the jacket that's been tailored for you and act like a member.
The long term fix, the one you should definitely address, is why you feel uncomfortable or lack confidence. Are you afraid of success? Afraid of putting yourself out there? Afraid of rejection? Any of these issues would stop a talented writer dead in their tracks. Can you imagine if some of your favorite authors, musicians, artists put their work away after just not being able to cope with success and everything that's required to keep that success moving forward? Identify your fear and commit to overcoming it no matter how long it takes (I coach writers one-on-one about these issues). Are you going to let fear stop you from achieving your dream and doing something you're truly passionate about? I didn't think so.
Back to what a publisher expects from their authors...your publisher will have a limited budget allotted for promoting your book, as I mentioned in Road Rule # 3. So plan on hiring an independent PR professional before your book hits the shelves or partner with your publisher's PR pro to synchronize your efforts, making the most out of your launch. They'll be happy to share great ideas and tips with you because, remember, this is their book, too. And a final word...your publisher's PR people are tremendously overworked and there's literally only so much time they have available to work on your book before they're scheduled to move on to the next book. I can't stress enough the importance of CLEAR communication and planning with this group for the overall success of your book. And, it's always a nice touch to send them something edible or a few gift cards to Starbucks for all their hard work. They like to know their efforts are appreciated.
There are many ways writers can better prepare themselves for what lies ahead on their path to publication, but these four rules are crucial to understand and apply in your writer's life before you take your first step. Understanding these publishing truths now will put you so much farther ahead of others vying for an agent's attention. While there's no way to communicate this confidence easily in a cover letter to an agent, they will see it in your approach, nevertheless. Confidence is easy to spot...it looks like a writer who knows where they're headed.
Have a beautiful fall weekend, writers! I wish you every success.