January 24, 2017

Street Smarts

by Gary Fearon, Creative Director, Southern Writers Magazine

A few months ago, a new shopping mall opened a couple of cities away from me.  As new malls tend to do, it has attracted patrons from all over. Ironically, no one in my circle has been there yet, and they all give the same reason: they don't want to fight the traffic.  Indeed, the roads leading to and from the new mall which were busy already, are now said to be oppressively congested with frequent traffic jams.

One of the town planners for my own burg says it's a classic case of putting the cart before the horse. Instead of planning for the future and widening the streets in anticipation of heavier traffic, those particular developers simply built the mall at a popular location, leaving the rest of the details to sort themselves out.

A wise planner, explained my planner, leaves nothing to chance. An impact study would have dictated a more visionary sequence of events that would have accommodated both the mall's goals and its customers' convenience.  Instead, the mall is experiencing as much negative word of mouth as positive.

Writers can likewise benefit from strategic planning and implementation.  The many steps in between deciding to be a writer and vacationing in Nice to write your twentieth bestseller warrant an eye for detail and an ability to look down the road.

I'm not referring to the actual authoring of a book as much as what happens after that.  As writers often ask, "I've written a book. Now what?"  Here's a short list:

We've all done it.  We rewrite and revise and tweak to death until we're certain every word is perfect, only to spot a grievous error the minute we hit the Send button.  Another set of eyespreferably several setsare absolutely vital for any serious writer.  Have at least one experienced editor review your manuscript and ensure nothing gets overlooked.  In the words of the prophet, check yourself before you wreck yourself.

Admittedly, some authors prefer to maintain visual anonymity, so this step may not apply. For the rest, you will need at least one good photo for your website and press kit (next on the list).  I mention this as its own entity to emphasize the importance of having a high quality head shot versus a selfie (although some cellphones do take amazingly good pictures).  When you become the cover story of a fine upstanding writers magazine, one of the first things you'll be asked for is a high-res photo suitable for framing.

When potential readers (and agents and publishers) want to know who you are, they're going to look for your website.  Not a Facebook page, but a website.  Yes, have a Facebook page too, but visitors want to see your photos, bio, book covers, and supporting materials all in one place on a website that bears your name. Don't wait until your book is on the market; the time to start publicizing yourself and your work is immediately, if not sooner.  Cash in on the free promotional tool that is the Internet.

Basically this is a tangible translation of your website that you can hand out. A well-done press kit says "pro" and is handy to have when you attend writers conferences or, of course, meet with anyone who can further your career.  On a related note, be sure and send a press release to your local newspaper whenever your latest book is available.

If you want to woo a publisher, don't skimp on your book proposal.  W. Terry Whalin offers lots of free tips on his websites at and His Book Proposals That $ell: 21 Secrets to Speed Your Success is also sage advice, especially for nonfiction proposals.

Every month, a billion viewers watch videos on YouTube. If you've overlooked this enormous opportunity to get the word out, it's never too late to hop on the book trailer bandwagon.  Some authors commission a slick video presentation complete with music and sophisticated graphics, others very effectively get on camera and talk about or read an excerpt from their book.  It's a highly visible way to promote your latest release, and even an ideal means to generate new interest in an older title.

The above list isn't all-inclusive, but successful writers consider these items among the must-haves for a writer's to-do list.

There will be over 300,000 new books published this year.  Before yours hits the streets, avoid congestion and stand out in the crowd by creating a platform with a solid infrastructure.  It will get you on the road less traveled.

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