This is the last in a series of five blogs about developing your own business plan as a writer.
A disclaimer here. I have sold numerous short stories to the "True" magazines over the years, which is one of the reasons I chose not to publish with the smaller e-pubs. The money is comparable. However, I have not as yet signed a contract with a large print publisher.
That does not mean that I shouldn't develop a business plan which includes future events. A good business plan will go three to five years out.
So, what do you do after your book sells? Remember Joe Konrath's statement that eighty percent of his time was spent marketing, not writing? How do you market yourself?
It's all about name recognition. So make your name recognizable. Attend conferences, offer to sit on panels, teach short courses, do book signings. Volunteer at your local chapters to donate critiques of unpublished authors. Karen Kelley, a chick lit author (http://www.authorkarenkelley.com/home.html), and Catherine Spangler, a paranormal author (http://www.catherinespangler.com/), did free critiques for me last year. Their advice was invaluable. I own every one of their books and will continue to buy everything they publish.
I am one of those persons who loves to get up in front of a room. I wasn't always that way, but I started out as a high school teacher. You get better with experience, and I've done all kinds of classes since that time. I even taught crisis intervention techniques to the Dallas SWAT team once upon a time.
I have already done two programs for my Sisters-in-Crime group and I'll do more, whenever they ask me. I plan to do online courses, in-person courses and panel discussions whenever I get the chance.
One of the dilemmas new authors face is to maintain the level of quality of their early work. You apply intense scrutiny to your first few manuscripts; you polish them within an inch of their lives because you're trying to break into a new business. Once you get in the door, remember to maintain that early quality.
How often have you, the reader, loved a new writer, only to be disappointed at their second and third books? Some of this is inevitable; the later books no longer have the benefit of novelty and surprise. Some of this is the result of the pressure to publish. Publishing houses begin to push for the next book before the first one is even out.
It's up to you, the writer, to monitor the quality of your books. You never want to hear a reader say, "Oh, I quit buying her books. I got tired of the same-old-same-old all the time." Make sure you continue to get critiques on your work, and that you pay attention to what your reviewers are saying.
One last word: this is your business. Treat it as such, with respect. If you don't act like a serious professional, don't be surprised when professionals don't take you seriously.
Don't get drunk at conferences, or throw yourself at members of the opposite (or same) sex and joke about it later. This is a small industry, and people have long memories. Sure they'll laugh with you about it, but they'll laugh with others about it, too. Respect your name. Don't allow cr*p to become attached to it. It takes a long time to shake it off. Find the few people you can trust and let your hair down with them. To the rest of the industry, remember your brand and present that image in public.
Do not respond to snarky reviews or complaining fans. Remember the lesson that Anne Rice taught about this. You cannot win. Ever. No matter what people say to you, do not respond in kind. You CANNOT win.
This has been a fun couple of days. I've enjoyed writing these blogs and hope that you've enjoyed reading them. Good luck with your writing career. I'll be pulling for you.