Years ago an episode of Sex and the City featured Carrie dating a fellow writer. In one scene he's telling her about a photo shoot he has to go to when he jokingly says, "I love being a writer. There's so little writing involved." To anyone who spends their days agonizing over their writing and worse yet trying to make it their occupation, the reality of what it means to be an "author" isn't always quite as funny or glamorous.
Writers become authors because we love writing and can't imagine doing anything else. It's a privilege to earn our living doing something we are compelled to do simply for pleasure. We love the creative process -- the artistry. Whether we are getting lost in the imaginary, sharing our own story or the stories of others, writing allows us to weave, orchestrate and build through words -- it is a craft and an expressive art form and it is this creative process that writers cherish. However, in the life of an author the creative process or act of writing, that is, doing our art, is only one of three phases in the life of a book. [Please note I'm writing about those who have a publishing agreement or are self-publishing, so there is no advice on securing a publisher in this piece].
Often when we complete a final manuscript and hand it over to our publisher (or decide to self-publish), we think our work is done and now it is in "their" hands. The part we love is the creative bit and when we're done with that we simply think we're done. However, there are two more phases in the life of our book: production and promotion. While these phases may not be what draws us to our profession, they do take some creativity and vision and are just as important if we want to see our vision through, not to mention if we want longevity in our writing career. Yes, it's true that if you're a household name you may be willing to turn these aspects over to your editor, agent and publicist, but most authors can benefit greatly from being actively involved in production and promotion. Further, if you have a clear vision for your book and your body of work as a whole, you won't want to relinquish control over these parts of the process.
While the production process is largely about copyediting and final revisions, it is also about the aesthetics of the book. Decisions you may want to be involved in include all aspects of the interior and exterior design such as the font, layout, coloring, cover image and back cover description.
Next comes promotion. Book simply don't sell without PR and whether or not you intend or even hope to earn a meaningful income through your writing, surely any writer longs for readers. Aside from the standard reaching out to your own professional and social networks and using social media, come up with different pitch angles to promote your work (for example, linking it to current events). Bear in mind that even one sentence can set the tone for how readers enter your book so spend some time producing different one sentence descriptions, a longer synopsis and blurbs pitched to different audiences. Yes, of course if you are working with a professional publisher they will have a team that will also assist you with all of this. However, I still advise that you take the time to do it yourself because your ideas may influence the decisions your publisher makes. I have worked with more than half a dozen publishing houses for my books, as well as a publicist, and I always stay involved in this part of the process. Remember, no one knows the book better or is more invested in its success than you are.
Because you may view production and promotion dismally, I suggest working on another creative project during production of promotion in order to stay contented as a writer. That being said, production and promotion do require creativity as well so regardless of your experience with the industry side or comfort level with business decisions, you can apply creative thinking to these aspects of authorship.
Patricia Leavy's latest novel, American Circumstance (Sense Publishers), is out now. Her latest nonfiction book, Fiction as Research Practice (Left Coast Press), is also widely available.