You’ve signed a contract with your publisher and made it further than most in the literary world! Congrats! Now what? Now the real work starts! In a highly competitive business, what you do during and after the publishing process is what will set you apart from the millions of other books out there. I’ll take you through the publication process of Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day, the award-winning first book of the Alycat series. This is my journey.
THE EDITING PROCESS
Although all publishers are different, Mascot Books will immediately assign you an entire team of experienced individuals to help publish, market, and distribute your book. Notice I said help—not do it completely for you. A project manager will be assigned to make minor edits and correct minor mechanical, grammatical, and formatting issues. Think of it as a good polish to the manuscript.
After editing comes the fun part! Your project manager will split the manuscript into storyboard spreads for you to supply detailed character and illustration descriptions—if you’re not also the illustrator. When describing your storyboards, it’s a good idea to leave some details up to the illustrator. I like to be brief in my descriptions and allow the illustrator to put their own spin on it. However, if there are essential details that are necessary to the storyline, make sure you include those details at this point.
After outlining storyboard illustrations, get ready to look through several portfolios to determine which illustrator will provide an accurate vision for your characters. After narrowing down the portfolios, a test sketch will be requested from a small list of chosen illustrators. Please, make sure you choose the best test sketch for your project—not the best portfolio.
After your illustrator is under contract, they’ll draw a black and white version of your storyboards. Finalize those storyboards and make certain that you have no other changes. After you give the green light, your illustrator will spend some time coloring the spreads.
IN THE MEANTIME
Time to get a jumpstart on that marketing!
- Build an author website and/or book website. WordPress is a great starting point for those willing to accomplish this task by themselves. Since I published other books prior to the Alycat series, I have an author website www.alyssonfotibourque.com and the Alycat series website www.alycatseries.com.
- Set up a social media presence with Facebook, Instagram, Google, Pinterest, Goodreads, and Twitter.
- Use your black and white storyboards as coloring pages for children at your signings/readings. Add a logo or website address to the coloring page for contact information.
- Order book signage, tablecloths, bookmarks, brochures, and other book swag for your future author visits once you have your colored storyboard images. A few of my favorite online sources are Vistaprint, Zazzle, Etsy, and Office Depot.
- Mascot Books provides a sample press release, order form, and other press kit documents if needed. I used these as a guideline and added my own spin to the forms.
- Have a current picture/headshot taken of yourself to include in your press kit and about the author book page.
- Whether you use your publisher’s marketing team or an outside public relations firm, it’s beneficial to have their expertise working with you at least 3 months prior to your book launch and after.
- Start planning your book launch party!
- Work with your marketing team on a scheduled book tour after your release.
- Send out galleys of your book for reviewers and award submissions.
FINALIZING THE PRODUCT
So your marketing plan is in place and you’ve received your colored storyboards. You’ll be asked for the back cover blurb (a short summary of the book to entice the reader and any future news) and an about the author paragraph. Yes, paragraph—this is not your autobiography and/or life story! Finally, a dedication page will need to be drafted. Remember, this acknowledgment is forever.
It’s now time to review every detail of the PDF to make sure it’s final. Fortunately, your project manager is amazing and basically an editing superhero. Once you have given the final approval, the book goes to the printer. This can take several weeks, so follow up with those booksellers, order more bookmarks, schedule school visits, and make final preparations for that book launch party!
Your publisher will send you copies of the book once they receive it. Your unboxing and first look of the book is a great way to start the excitement for the release. Make sure you film this reveal, take pictures, and include your nearest and dearest. And don’t forget to have a box of Kleenex nearby if you are a softy like me.
GETTING IN THE DOOR
This is the hardest feat. As a new author, booksellers can be reluctant to schedule a sit and sign event if they have not heard of you. This is why you promote and market before the book launch! Think of it as being both an author and yes—a salesperson (something I hate calling myself). The book should sell itself, but the literary world is overflowing with new books every day! So how do you open that door? First, start with mailing a press kit and book/galley to the bookstores, introducing your book and YOU to them. Your press kit should include a sell sheet, press release, headshot of the author, and a picture of the book cover. Make sure your sell sheet outlines the ideal audience, number of pages, word count, brief pitch of the book, and a short bio of the author. Next, follow up with the bookstore by dropping by with your press kit in hand, and ask if the manager has a moment to speak with you or if you can get a business card with their email. If you get to speak with a manager, sell, sell, sell your book and yourself—in a non-aggressive way, of course. Hit on key points such as awards won, local connections, availability, and what you could offer the bookstore. Make sure you give the impression that you are willing to work with/for them to make this happen. They do not work for you.
Lastly, follow up with emails, telephone calls, or drop by again, but not too often! Be patient. Be kind. Be professional.
ENJOY WHAT YOU DO
When things are meant to be, they just work out. I know being a children’s book author is what I am meant to do and this is the journey I am supposed to be on. I visit schools nationwide reading the Alycat series and leave feeling like each child has made a special impact on my life. I attend book signings in different cities and walk out with my heart exploding with joy. I donate books to shelters, libraries, and hospitals in neighboring communities knowing that there are still people out there that love to hold a book in their hands and daydream through stories. Now, I am working on the second book of the series, Alycat and the Monday Blues, and the excitement of publishing still keeps me up at night. It just works out.
Guest Blog Written by Alysson Foti Bourque, author of Alycat and the Thursday Dessert Day