After promoting other people’s debuts here, it feels weird to be promoting my own, but here I am. Save My Soul: Book One in the Kemmons Brothers Baseball Series was released March 25. What I like most about this book is it’s not what normally passes as category-length, contemporary romance for me. When I wrote it years ago, I was heavily influenced by paranormal’s popularity, and honestly, I was in a confusing space in my life.

Rather than prolong this self-promotion, I’ll leave with this. Nicole said it best: “If you like vivid writing, sparkling sexual tension, and emotional reads check out Save My Soul.”

Save My Soul by Elley Arden

Buy it now at: Amazon and iTunes (BN.com to come)

For more about Elley and her books, visit her website.

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Because I was a public relations minor in college, I always figured PR would be the least of my worries when I finally sold a manuscript. As a result, I didn’t think much about marketing while I wrote my earliest manuscripts. I did sign on to various email lists and frequent writing/publishing websites, but I did so more to learn craft than to start the recognition ball rolling. Soon, I was reading emails and posts about getting a jump start on branding, so I scrambled over to Twitter and dipped a toe in. God, those waters were choppy. I had no idea what I was doing over there. And more than once I wondered if I was simply wasting my time. Shouldn’t I be writing?

Years later, I have a little hindsight, certainly not enough to make me an expert on the subject, but enough to share. As far as publicity goes, here’s what did and didn’t work for me at various stages of the game:

Before the manuscript was even finished…

• I worried too much about doing everything everyone else said they were doing. Twitter, tumblr, instagram, Pinterest. (How I avoided Facebook, I’ll never know. Lol.) I thought it was all so critical to building an audience, and yet I had no idea who my audience was. I hadn’t written enough, submitted enough and received enough feedback to know.
• I didn’t give enough thought to real vs. penname. I wasted a lot of time and squandered some publicity by switching names mid-stream. Looking back, I wish I’d spent less time being social online in an effort to build a brand I eventually changed TWICE.
• I wasted money on domain names and hours on brainstorming ideas for gimmicky branding that no longer fit by the time I actually sold a book.

Bottom line: At this stage in the game, writing is more than enough. Seeking to better your writing in the form of workshops and critique partners is the next step. You’ll get to know people this way, too. And knowing people is a big part of publicity.

During the submission stage…

• I really engaged in social media, hoping to find the key to who was publishing what and how I could get picked out of the slush. But instead of finding that, I ended up worried too much about doing everything everyone else said they were doing—AGAIN. (***This is a big pitfall of social middle.) She submitted here. I wanted to submit here. This one submitted there. I wanted to submit there. Read about an editorial call—Count me in! Contest announced—How do I enter? It was ludicrous. I got so damn confused I was taking 80K-word manuscripts and cutting 20K words just so I could respond to one of these impulses. Not only wasn’t I building a brand, I didn’t recognize my manuscripts anymore.
• On the other hand, engaging in social media meant I had other writers to commiserate with while I was waiting to hear back on submissions. These other writers have been a huge boost to my ego when it was flailing, and they’ve stepped up over and over again to help me promote my successes.
• I built a website, because, heck, why not? I was WAITING, and I hate waiting. Building a website seemed more productive than checking my inbox a million times. Of course, writing would have been most productive, so this one could go either way—positive or negative. I’ve had several incarnations of my website since I started on the publication path. That tells me I started with the websites too soon. And you know what? I yanked a site down when I settled on a penname, and I went without a website for many months. So what was the point of it all in the first place?
• I started this blog, another commitment that took me away from writing, BUT it also gave me a place to gather my thoughts and connect with likeminded people.

Bottom line: There were some positive marketing steps taken during this stage, ones I surely don’t regret, but once again, the best thing I did while I waited to hear back on works out on submission was write more manuscripts and work with my critique partner to polish them.

After I sold a manuscript…

• I built my current site.
• I joined another group blogging effort.
• I opened up to my friends and family in greater detail about my writing, including them in my publicity efforts. (I’ll talk more on that in a later post.)
• I ordered author cards (business cards with my name, genre, and website listed) and stickers to affix to the back of the cards. (The stickers have the book name, release date and location availability.)
• When my other group blog asked for authors to donate prizes for various promotional efforts, I ordered personalized items, like pens and post its, and I assembled “swag packs” to giveaway.
• I joined Facebook. (Gah! I’m soooo clueless over there.)
• I paid more attention to my Twitter account (that is, until I needed to finish the second book in the series I sold) and Goodreads.
• I accepted invitations to guest blog.
• I created a contest to run during my release month.
• And I’m sure there’s more and there will be more…

Bottom line: Nothing can really prepare you for the branding blitz that happens when you sell a manuscript. You can think about it. You can observe what others do. But until you’re ready to implement the plan, it’s all just speculation…speculation that takes you away from writing.

I hate to sound like a broken record, but if you’re early in the publishing game, don’t stress over what you should or shouldn’t be doing as far as publicity goes. You SHOULD be writing. 🙂

Save My Soul will be my first published book, but it was my FOURTH completed manuscript. Change My Mind, the second book in this series, will be my second published book (unless something crazy happens!), and it’s my EIGHTH completed manuscript. No rhyme or reason, huh? Just another reminder that writing is the name of the game, and nothing—not even building your brand—should take you away from that.

Elley

The Changing Writer

February 6, 2013

Twenty-four weeks. That’s six months, isn’t it? (Math and I don’t get along. I’m sure I said that before.) Why am I asking? Because in updating my submission tracker I noticed I’d be waiting SIX MONTHS for a response from one publisher. And that in turn got me thinking about how long it might actually take to get to a contract point should I be lucky enough to make the grade. AND THAT got me thinking about how at any given time what’s being published isn’t always representative of what a writer’s writing now. (I hope that makes sense.)

Here’s an example:

Save My Soul, my contemporary romance to be published by Crimson Romance next month, was written three years ago, during a very emotional time in my life. As such, I wanted to write a romance tinged with a bit of darkness and ambiguity, something the felt paranormal but wasn’t paranormal, something that spoke to the struggles of finding happiness despite life falling short of expectations. I’m not sure I accomplished all of those things, but questioning my own direction in life at the time I was writing, I figured at the very least there’d be authenticity in those pages. When I was finished writing, Nicole critiqued the manuscript. She gave generous feedback—as always—and left me feeling good about what I’d written. That was two years ago.

I submitted. I waited. I got rejected. I submitted again. I got rejected again, and again. I put the manuscript away. More than a year went by since I first sent the manuscript out into the world, and I decided it was time to give up. Still, something (rereading Nicole’s complimentary words, probably) had me pulling it out again. I rewrote a lot of it, using feedback from editors’ rejections, and I sent it off again.

When the manuscript sold, I was shocked. The longer I sit with that truth the more I wonder how to bridge the gap between the writer I was (when I wrote Save My Soul) and the writer I am now. (My last few manuscripts have been light, fun reads.)

Has this happened to you? Have you noticed a difference in what you’re writing now as opposed to what you were writing a few years ago? Does it worry you when it comes to building a reader fan base?

Just curious. I’m probably overthinking this like I overthink everything else. 🙂

Elley