When I was in college, I had the coolest professor ever. She taught history and politics through early hip-hop culture, where the human beat-box and the flattened breakdance cardboard were tools of the revolution. She taught philosophy through a book—a zine, practically—called Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing. That book introduced me to DIY as a commitment, a lifestyle. Do It Yourself, ironically, has led to my success in getting big-house published.
Tales of a Punk Rock Nothing’s take on DIY is different than the glossy, wood-grained version competing with HGTV on cable. Punk’s DIY ‘tude has its roots in screw the ignore the system. You don’t need ties and money and hair gel to get a thing done; you need your own brain and fingers. I’m no punk rocker, so don’t quote me, but…I think punk’s DIY ethos might flip off frown at the costly cameras filming the DIY Network’s projects. And also at my dreams of New York Times bestseller status.
But if we’re doing it our own selves, we should be making up our own goals, amirite? Doesn’t punk ethos respect individuality? My individual goal is to be a bestseller. Yours too? Here’s how: plan to do it all yourself.
My YA memoir The Dead Inside, currently a #1 new release on Amazon, was published by Sourcebooks, currently the 10th biggest publisher in the U.S. How’s that DIY? Well. It was originally self-published as Straightling. And I logged a trillion DIY hours to get that bitch that thing into a position where it would snag me an agent, a publishing contract, and a mega-lunge closer to my non-punk goal.
In a nutshell, that’s my big, vital piece of advice, if your goal’s the same as mine: expect nothing from anyone. Expect to work your ass off and to do it, to do everything, for yourself.
A: I got up at 4:30 in the morning, every morning, and wrote. For five years. I’m sorry. It’s true.
B: I ruthlessly cut every scene, every line, every word, every comma, that seemed excessive, that clanged wrong. I slaughtered my words to get my manuscript so sharp, your man could shave his throat with it.
C: I reached out—humbly, sincerely—to authors whose work I love. I told them exactly why I love their work. I told them I wondered if they’d consider blurbing my book.
D: When those authors wrote back, as 99.9% of them did, to say “Thank you, I wish I could, but I’m drowning in my own writing,” I took it as a miracle win. My frigging hero just wrote to me! The impossible is possible! I used that energy to keep on DIYing, even when there was 0% “success” to be seen.
E: I found an up-and-coming graphic designer whose work I loved, and whose fee I could afford, to design, tweak and perfect a standout cover.
H: As a result of the above, I got my chops up and—following the experts’ advice—meticulously followed agency protocols, and wrote personalized query letters to only the agents whose interests matched my genre. Within a week of sending my three queries, I had two requests for partials. Within a few weeks of sending out my fulls, I had an agent….
I: …who used the 20-page manifesto I wrote, explaining how engaging, no-B.S. YA is the fix we need in our ailing public schools, to snag me a two-book-option-for-a-third publishing contract.
I’ve been obsessive with this book thing for a decade now. I have like one friend, and a husband who’s hanging on by a thread. I don’t go on vacation, to the movies, or to the gym. I write, I do book promo stuff, and I sleep. So not punk rock. But it’s working. I’m getting there. I’ll have a life, maybe, when my book’s on the bestseller list. Or maybe when book number two is. Or…you know.
Like the early rappers making music with their fists, like the first British punks spiking their hair with egg, I know one thing for sure: I’ve gotta do what it takes to get what I want. Emphasis, extra heavy, on the I’ve. You wanna get up here with me? Fool Friend, do like all the renegades before us, and start doing it for your damn self.
For a more detailed plan on developing your book marketing, purchase Rachel’s new book, The BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge now on Amazon!
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Rachel Thompson is the author of newly released BadRedhead Media 30-Day Book Marketing Challenge: How to energize your book sales in a month - created to help authors market their book. She is also the author of Broken Places (one of IndieReader's "Best of 2015" top books and 2015 Honorable Mention Winner in the San Francisco Book Festival), and the multi award-winning Broken Pieces, as well as two additional humor books, A Walk In The Snark and Mancode: Exposed. Rachel is published by Shadow Teams NYC and represented by Lisa Hagan Books. She owns BadRedhead Media, creating effective social media and book marketing campaigns for authors. Her articles appear regularly in The Huffington Post, IndieReader.com, The San Francisco Book Review (BadRedhead Says…), 12Most.com, BookPromotion.com, and Self-Publishers Monthly. Not just an advocate for sexual abuse survivors, Rachel is the creator and founder of the hashtag phenomenon #MondayBlogs, #BookMarketingChat (co-hosted with Melissa Flickinger) and #SexAbuseChat, co-hosted with certified therapist/survivor, Bobbi Parish all live Twitter chats. She hates walks in the rain, running out of coffee, and coconut. She lives in California with her family.