When my agent sold my debut novel, Little Lovely Things, to my publisher, Sourcebooks, I had no idea what the next steps were. I had an eighteen month run up to publication which seemed beyond an eternity at the time. And my brain was, well, a little frozen by the whole experience. Thankfully, I functioned enough to understand the depth of my ignorance, and the job I had just quit (yup, quit!), was as a strategic planner for a biotech company.
The only thing I knew with any certainty was that I needed a plan.
Creating My Plan
The very core of my approach was to learn as much about launching a book as quickly as possible, to compile a strategy and to execute it with support if I needed, but for me to be the driver of my plan. I also understood instinctively, that I would need to identify my personal strengths and use them to my advantage since I had no social media presence – nada, zip – as my business had flourished via referrals.
In the social media arena, I wasn’t starting from the ground floor; I was starting in the basement. But I have a bulldozer work ethic and creativity. Two killer strengths.
Did I mention I’m a slow learner? It’s true. In a mea culpa moment, I enlisted strategic help (remember I said sometimes support is required?) from the stellar Rachel Thompson. She explained basic concepts to me about book publicity and social media in general. Rachel had to speak slowly and repeat things to me (she still does). And for some reason, step one, creating a platform, immediately proved a challenge.
I cannot explain why this concept was so difficult for me, except that my thoughts at the time were that politicians and other important people have platforms. I was just a lowly not-yet-published writer. It seemed, well, off-putting.
But once I understood that we were talking about branding, not for Little Lovely Things, but for who I am as an author, that I needed to brand myself, not just one aspect of my work, I was able to embrace the notion that crafting a platform is an organic thing, one that encompasses all components of a launch strategy.
The key was to identify my message, and then be consistent in theme and content when I shared it.
Brainstorming five strong words that conceptualized what I represent, how I want to be portrayed, was actually fun. It forced me to dig a little bit deeper and play around with to tease out my identity. Once I created this basis for a theme I began to post on social media, incorporating visuals and quotes that remained consistent, essentially becoming my ‘brand’ over time.
It can be easy to get caught up in ‘thematics’, and overlook that it is important to create a ‘human’ presence behind posts. For example, In addition to being an author, I am an amateur photographer and painter. Since two of my keywords are inspiration and creativity, I have made a point of including some of my non-professional work in my posts to demonstrate my creative side beyond just writing.
I discovered at this early stage that attention to small details can pay off in big ways. Selecting a color scheme and a font size for posts is one. Fortunately for me, the cover of Little Lovely Things features bright colors on a dark background. Since I love vibrancy, I adopted this boldness in color and tone to make a statement about who I am as a person.
Scheduling posts to appear on a regular basis has benefits as well; it helps with time management and also sets an expectation in the social media world that you are a reliable source of input – which makes you attractive to follow.
You do not have to be a master on every social media channel. In fact, research has shown that our brains are wired to be preferential to different styles. That being said, you should be able to identify the channel that you are getting the most followers and responses to your posts and maximize your efforts there.
A quick note here on impatience. My eighteen-month timeline quickly disappeared by all of the activities I was engaged in, including revisions for my editor. Social media seemed like a slog and I wanted to hurry up and get followers. I wanted to magically skip steps. Don’t be tempted to purchase schemes offering instant followers.
What they really offer is a fake audience which ultimately leads to an endless cycles of spamming and social media limbo.
Instead, adopt the mantra, if I build it, they will come. People are naturally curious. They will want to know about you if you are genuine. Allow your audience to grow organically.
If you remain consistent, with no shortcuts or gimmicks, you will be rewarded with followers who are loyal and interested.
Once I established adequacy at selecting material and posting on social media (I’m still no expert), the next phase was to branch out more and included entering into the blogosphere. I had initially targeted to have this underway twelve months prior to launch but got caught up in pitching for author blurbs and other requirements related to the book itself. But I didn’t panic, because I stuck to my carefully tasked–out strategy, in which I built in contingencies in the event that I deviated from my self-imposed deadlines.
One of these was to begin reaching out to book vendors and other authors. I made a point of introducing myself to Indies and chain book stores in my area by popping in and offering a friendly face along with basic information about my book. My goal was to generate early enthusiasm so that when I returned later with copies of my ARC, we would already be acquainted.
As to authors, they are a built-in wealth of information and support and provide insight you can find nowhere else. Facebook is rife with all kinds of author groups if you just do some clicking around.
One misconception I had about blogs is that they should be very short – around three to five hundred words. But after researching, I learned that readers expect some meat with their potatoes, and keeping their interest over time means supplying them with posts that run close to a thousand words.
By the time I became active in blogging, it was natural for me to incorporate the same principles I applied to branding on social media. By weaving the same key concepts into my blog posts, and used related images to break up large blocks of text, I achieved consistency and a familiar tone with my audience.
Advance Reader Copies (ARCs)
About three to four months before launch, ARCs are issued. At this point, the most important thing is to elicit reviews from readers. It was also a critical time for me in that I found I was drowning in writing and posting and researching and editing and, well, you get the picture. My whirlwind of activity transformed into a hurricane. I feared that any additional tasks would threaten the quality of all my activities.
In analyzing my daily efforts, I discovered that pitching for reviews was a black hole time-wise. Deciding to go with a blog tour saved my sanity by providing the best return for my investment in time and cost. There are many available at different pricing levels, so even very small budgets can be accommodated.
Finally, as the launch date for Little Lovely Things loomed within six weeks, I actually found myself in control. By crafting a strategy and sticking with it, I remained in the eye of the storm, rather than being whipped around by chaos. The rewards were monumental. I had well over five thousand followers on my social media channels and over a hundred reviews on Goodreads.
My Street Team
Most importantly, I was prepared, both mentally and operationally, for the big day. This sense of accomplishment allowed me to engage in one last activity just before launch, something I consider the icing on my cake, the establishment of a Street Team on Facebook.
Consider this amazing concept, a group of people willing and dedicated to supporting you! Basically, it’s an audience of cheerleaders eager to amplify your signal. I will admit that I had help with this. Once again, I enlisted Rachel to pull the details together, but I remain the driving force behind the execution.
Final Plan Thoughts
The outcome of a carefully detailed plan of action allowed me the ability to prepare for a positive outcome. By establishing a social media presence, including a blog, that remained consistent with the overall platform, kept me on a clear path forward. The addition of a street team at the eleventh-hour pre-launch was possible because I had set the stage timing-wise, early on.
I’m thrilled to conclude that the result of the hard work and planning (with a little help) resulted in a resoundingly successful launch of my debut novel, Little Lovely Things.
"Connolly’s lyrical writing style and the fast-paced narrative draw in the reader right away. This is a riveting novel bolstered by its flawed, believable characters."
Maureen Joyce Connolly
Maureen is a former owner of a consulting firm that helped specialty drug companies to develop medications for ultra-rare diseases. Maureen received her Bachelor’s degree in physiology from Michigan State University and her Master’s degree in Liberal Studies from Wesleyan University. Her background in science and love of the natural world informs and inspires her writing. LITTLE LOVELY THINGS is her debut as a novelist. She is also an award-winning poet, published in diverse outlets such as Emory University’s Lullwater Review and Yankee Magazine.
Maureen is a foodie and appreciates interesting recipes. She also enjoys painting (especially flowers and sycamore trees), competing in races with her dragon boat team (Go Fierce)!, and reading (of course). She relishes spending time with her three children, her husband and her pets; a ridiculous terrier named Huckleberry, and a plump orange cat, Pumpkin.
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