BY BELLE BRETT AND CHERYL SUCHORS
Once you sign that publishing contract, you enter a whole new world. The transition from writing in private, where you control everything, to pushing yourself out there to market your book can trigger an emotional roller coaster. If you are a debut author, as we both are, this new job, which could easily be full–time, can feel overwhelming. Buddying up with another author in similar circumstances can provide not only much needed emotional support but also an additional source of information and help.
We found each other through our publisher, She Writes Press (SWP). We discovered we were each desperately trying to learn all the new jargon and skills now required. Belle’s book, Gina in the Floating World, is fiction. Cheryl’s 48 PEAKS: Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains is a memoir. The difference in genre is a blessing because it’s nigh on impossible to avoid comparing your just-born author self with every other author out there, new or established. Rather than compete, we have chosen to support and share with each other.
What We Do
By the time we met, we were both in the manuscript review stage with SWP, involving several rounds of extensive proofreads. We had agreed on our final front cover designs, labored through the challenging process of obtaining endorsements from other authors, and created our websites. With seven months until publication, we were heading into the mysterious realm of marketing and promotion.
Although we each had a publicist, we understood that the bulk of marketing and promotion efforts would fall to us, and these became the focus of our buddy relationship. Our joint participation in an online webinar for authors, Social Media Bootcamp, offered by BookSparks, gave us a common starting point. But the kinds of help and support we offered each other evolved as our awareness of what needed to be done and our consequent anxiety increased. After an initial meeting to see if we clicked enough to work together, we interacted through email, in-person meetings at each other’s houses (once every week or so), and the occasional panicked phone call. It has been vital to our success as publication buddies that we create deadlines and meeting dates—and stick to them.
Our activities fall into several categories:
We shoot each other emails with resources we think might be of interest to the other person, including free webinars on launching a book, tax information for authors, and various aspects of social media; less obvious organizations that offer author visibility, such as BookBub, the American Library Association, and the Independent Book Publishers Association; local opportunities for readings and presentations; relevant articles/posts; and reasonably priced printing options for bookmarks, business cards, and postcards. If we can’t both participate in a webinar, the other person takes notes and shares them. In these ways, we save time as well as broaden our opportunities for learning.
Sharing Progress and Personal Initiatives
Our in-person meetings always begin with an update of our recent book-related activities. These check-ins serve as personal affirmations of progress and sometimes as prompts to the other person to act. For example, Belle learned early on that Cheryl had secured a date at their local bookstore for her launch as well as at a nearby restaurant for her after-party. This awareness prompted Belle to set her own wheels in motion and avert possible disappointment from waiting too long to book her desired venues. Belle’s short video of her opening her box of Advance Reader Copies (ARCs) that she posted on social media-inspired Cheryl to make a video when her books arrived. We don’t always mimic each other. Cheryl has plans for a national book tour; Belle determined early on that she would focus more on the local reading landscape.
In addition, we’ve obtained ideas from each other’s websites, social media posts, and email newsletters. We’ve shared our proposed budgets and costs for publicists, advertising, and promotions; our publicity plans; and the emails we’ve written to secure readings. This sharing of progress and information is empowering. It also encourages us to appreciate what we’ve done and spurs us onto tackle what we haven’t done. We’ve found that as our trust has grown, we’ve divulged more of our personal lives so that we know and care about each other more, and thus are even more invested in our mutual successes.
Promoting Each Other
To be most useful to each other, early on we exchanged manuscripts. We talk up our buddy’s book to friends and on social media. Fortunately, we admire each other’s work, so our enthusiasm is sincere. We make a point of “liking” each other’s Facebook and Instagram posts, commenting on these, and sharing where appropriate.
Interviewing Each Other
We decided that we wanted to interview one another on different aspects of our writing journeys and other book-related matters to create content for our blogs and Facebook Author Pages. We brainstorm topics. Before an interview, the interviewee prepares a list of possible questions, which the other person edits and augments. Although we tape each practice interview, the mock-interviewer also types the responses in real time for efficiency’s sake. (Fortunately, we’re both quick typists!) In addition to providing us with material for our websites, these interviews prompt us to consider ideas that can be developed into essays/posts for other publications. They also prepare us for future media interviews as we answer potential questions in front of an “audience.”
Sharing Moral Support
The journey to publication has its high points: the arrival of the ARCs, a positive endorsement, the successful creation of a panel of multiple authors,a new reading venue, or a glowing review. Although family and friends can be happy for us, as travelers on the same road, we’re able to express our joy for one another with a deeper level of understanding. Likewise, we are comfortable venting to each other when something isn’t going well or when worry or self-doubt overtakes us. We can reassure and prop each other up at those moments in ways that others, much as they love us, may not be able to do.
Cheryl Suchors is the author of 48 PEAKS, Hiking and Healing in the White Mountains, an inspiring story of redefining success, overcoming cancer and loss, and connecting with nature. 48 PEAKS will be published September 11 and is available for pre-order wherever books are sold. You can find her on Facebook at CherylSuchorsAuthor, on Twitter at @cherylsuchors, and at cherylsuchors.com.
Belle Brett is the author of Gina in the Floating World, a psychological suspense novel in which a young American bank intern slides into prostitution in 1981 Tokyo. It will be published September 25 and is available for pre-order wherever books are sold. She can be found on Facebook at BelleBrettWriter, on Twitter @bellebrett, and at bellebrett.com.