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Why Your Book Deal Is Just the First Step

Photo by Jeff Noble [1]
Photo by Jeff Noble

Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke [2], authors of Your Perfect Life (Washington Square Press) have been best friends for twenty-five years and survived high school and college together. They’ve written the story of two childhood best friends  who wake up the morning after their twentieth high school reunion to discover that they’ve switched bodies and need to figure out how to navigate their altered realities.

Says New York Times best-selling author Sarah Jio:

I loved this from the very first line (which will go down in history as the funniest, bravest first line ever). Hilarious, honest and truly touching, Liz Fenton and Lisa Steinke are two important new voices in women’s fiction who write about life in such a real, relatable way.

Liz lives in San Diego with her husband and two children. Lisa, a former talk show producer, now lives in Chicago with her husband, daughter, and two bonus children.

Follow Liz and Lisa on their blog [3], Facebook [4], and Twitter [5].

We really can’t describe the feeling when we received that email from our now editor. The one that begins: I want to buy your book! We screamed, we laughed, one of us may have even cried a little (Liz!), and we both thought one thing: This is it! We’ve made it!

Little did we know it was only the beginning…

Countless times, we’ve read debut novels that entranced us. We’d devour them, then sing the author’s praises to anyone who would listen.  And we were always baffled if said book didn’t take off and top the bestseller lists.  In some cases, the author never wrote another. How could that happen?  If a book is wonderful, it should prevail, right?

Wrong.  There are a ton of factors that go into a successful book launch and writing a fantastic book is only one of them.

As the launch of our own novel approaches like a runaway train, we hope we’ve done enough.  We pray that after all the hard work and preparation, Your Perfect Life will get into the right hands. We hope that what we’ve learned about publishing, publicity and ourselves will make the difference with our book.

Here are the top five things we’ve learned (so far):

1. A good book is only half the battle

Okay, so we might be a little bit biased, but we think everyone (and their mother) will love the story of Rachel and Casey, two childhood best friends who wake up the morning after their twenty-year high school reunion to discover they’ve switched bodies. But the real battle is getting the book OUT THERE.  We always thought our little baby would simply sprout wings and fly into every bookstore across America and directly into the hands of Kathie Lee and Hoda. But you want the hard truth? Debut authors need to roll up their sleeves and get to work. You should start by pounding the pavement the good old-fashioned way. Sure, sending an email is always great (and easier) but to really make a connection, you have to stop in your local bookstores and libraries and ask if the establishment will set up an author event for you. You should also research literary festivals (or other events) in your area, and if you can, reach out directly to see if there is a place for you and your book. And you shouldn’t stop working on spreading the word until you feel satisfied that you’ve done everything you can to control as much of your book’s destiny as possible. (And really, you will never be completely satisfied which means, keep working!)


2. Don’t be afraid to leverage every relationship you have

You’ve worked your ass off to get here, now it’s time to call in every favor you can!  We’re talking high school friends who now work at your local TV affiliate, or your cousin’s girlfriend’s sister that writes for that magazine you’re dying to have your book featured in. Don’t be afraid or too prideful—the worst anyone can do is simply say no.  (Which, by the way, is a word you will hear a lot, but don’t let it stop you! Let it propel you!)


3. Invest in yourself

We know what you’re thinking. You’re FINALLY making money at this whole writing thing. (See, Mom, we told you it was possible!) And now you have to invest your advance back into the book launch?  But the reality is that your publisher, even a great one, is going to invest very little into a debut novel.  So, set aside that check and think about updating your website, hiring an external publicist, or running your own book tour.


4.  Have an angle

Ask yourself this question: how could my book make an interesting segment/article/interview?  Print and TV media is always looking for an angle for a story so make sure you have one when pitching them.  For us, this was a no-brainer: we’re two childhood BFFS writing about two childhood BFFS.  And even though we’ve never switched bodies (we swear!), we’ve often thought the grass was greener on the other side of each other’s lives. So, we’ve used this angle to try to secure some local media coverage.


YPLCover [6]5. Network, network, and then network a little more

We LOVE our fellow authors and have been overwhelmed with how supportive and kind they have been during this process.  Make sure to connect with local writers in your area (Liz is working on putting together a group in San Diego), and also with those who may share the same agent, editor, or publisher as you.  They were also debut authors at some point, and chances are they’ll be happy to help or give you some great advice.

Any advice you can add to this list? What have you done to promote your work? What’s worked? What’s bombed?