Write the Book First

Which comes first? The book or the bling? I’ve been stumbling across more and more writers who construct book trailers, book-based websites, book covers, and Facebook pages LONG before the first draft of their book is complete. While it is advisable to establish an author platform before you publish, how much is too much? Does an unfinished book need a trailer? Is this a good tool to get potential readers excited about the upcoming book?

I’m sure everyone has differing opinions on this matter, but I believe it’s important to finish at least the first draft before getting too carried away with the extras. Certainly, social media, book trailers, and promotional items can wait until closer to the book launch–especially when we’re talking about your first book. When it comes to a series where you’re releasing a much-anticipated third or fourth book, you already have a fan base anxiously awaiting anything that has to do with your beloved characters. If this is the case, feel free to put together a teaser trailer or post snippets of your work-in-progress to your blog. If you’re working on your first manuscript? It’s too soon to worry about bling or to bombard your blog with book excerpts. If you try to start a buzz too early, you run the risk of people being sick of hearing about your book long before it’s ever published.

How do we establish an author platform without doing too much too soon? It’s okay to establish a blog where you post informative articles. It’s not okay to post book excerpts and character interviews if you’re only halfway through the initial draft of your manuscript. It’s good to start an author Facebook page, but it’s overkill to have a unique page for each book and each character. It’s an excellent idea to design your blog or website in such a way that your brand is clear, but if you’re commissioning a book cover and creating a book trailer for a book that isn’t finished, you’ve probably gone too far. Likewise, it’s good planning to order business cards to hand out at conferences, but hold off on the bookmarks until your book is close to release.

Some of you might be asking, “Why? I’m really excited about my book, so why shouldn’t I spread the word?”

I know it’s fun to play with book trailers and websites. It’s a creative outlet. Believe me, I understand the urge to design things. I’ve been there. I’ve lost numerous hours re-designing my website. Numerous hours (and dollars) designing bling on Vistaprint. Numerous hours perusing websites looking for the perfect stock photos that represent my characters and settings. I’m not saying any of these activities are bad–but they do take away from your writing time.

As a new writer, your primary goal should be finishing your book. Your author platform should be built on a solid foundation–informative blog articles, networking with other authors, establishing strong friendships. Designing bookmarks is not a solid foundation for your author platform. Neither is playing around with book trailers. So much can change during revisions and rewrites (particularly if you work with a publisher). The title might change or the main character’s description might be tweaked, Major changes (or even subtle changes) will mean all those hours of hard work were wasted.

A couple of years ago, I met an author on an online writers site who was about eight chapters into her first book. In the short time since she’d been writing, she’d set up a website for her book, put together a music playlist, bought stock photos to represent her characters, and crafted a book trailer. She spent so much time working on the extras, she never finished the book. Today, it is still unfinished.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met authors who have spent a great deal of time and money creating book trailers, some which are so elaborate, they resemble a mini-movie. I know authors who have spent hundreds of dollars on bookmarks, keychains, stickers, banners, pens, etc–and this is all before the book was complete. In the long run, this might be a savvy marketing tool. But, in the long run, they might never finish writing their book.

It’s so easy to get derailed. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s much easier to play with bookmark designs than to sit down and write through a rough spot in your manuscript.

What is the better use of your time: Creating book marks you hope will get readers excited about reading your book, or crafting a well-written book for readers to enjoy? Yes, you can do both, but which should be your first priority.

If you’re pressed for time like most of us are–if we must choose between writing and playing–choose writing! Finish your book BEFORE you do anything else.

21 thoughts on “Write the Book First

    • Do whatever you have to do to stay focused! If it works for you, then it’s the best way for you to do it. I’ve noticed some authors get sidetracked by the trappings of being an author and never finish their books because of it.

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  1. I know they say it’s advisable to get some momentum going before publication, but there is such a thing as too early..! By the time the book is out, everyone will already be bored with the idea. A couple of months before publication is time enough to raise interest, but not so long that people lose interest waiting.

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    • You are so right! Sometimes I’ll see a post on FB announcing a new release and think, “I thought that book was released ages ago.” With my first book, my release date got pushed back and I felt like I was promoting my “soon-to-be-released” book for an eternity. Sometimes it’s beyond an author’s control. Other times, it’s the author getting distracted by all the shiny things that accompany a new book idea–so much so that they don’t have time to write.

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  2. I started and stopped so many books over the years, I was afraid to commit to the one closest to being finished. When I was editing, I finally found a small photo I inserted as a temporary cover. Then I had to ask others to read it. Oh oh, another chance at rejection and desertion! My beta readers are just starting to make comments, and the initial comments are good! But the process has taken more than a year. Glad I didn’t start hyping it too early. Still waiting a little longer, but I feel a little more comfortable with the process.

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    • Good luck with your book. It’s a good sign your getting positive feedback. I think we all start and stop books at first while we’re still learning. It seems you’ve hit our stride. I’ll be rooting for you!

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  3. Great post, and I agree. I post WIP excerpts on my blog, but that’s as part of a blog hop through which I’ve made some amazing friends and found valuable beta readers. It has nothing to do with promoting my work. I’m years past the first draft stage for the first book I’m going to release, have just hired an editor, found a cover designer… and I’m still not even thinking about creating “buzz.” It just seems silly to promote something that doesn’t even have a release date. I won’t start promoting until edits are finalized, because until then it doesn’t feel real to me.

    Honestly, I see the importance of building a platform (and I just finished a fantastic book on the subject), but unless one has an established audience, I don’t see much point in promoting unreleased works early-on, at least not unless you have pre-orders set up. If I see an amazing trailer or promo photo but can’t click over and buy the book right away, there’s a 95% chance I’m going to forget all about that book and move on to something else. Sad, isn’t it?

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    • You’re absolutely right about building an author platform. You can build a fan base without promoting a book. You have to offer other content on your blog that people will keep coming back for. If an author platform is all about promoting a book readers can’t buy, people won’t stick around for long. Unreleased early books are okay to promote if part of a series, but too many people are promoting books that are nowhere near release. I think is IS okay to have a page on your blog or website that talks about WIPs. Readers can click there to check out your upcoming books if they want, but it isn’t the primary content on the blog. What book did you read about author platform?

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      • Rise of the Machines: Human Authors in a Digital World, by Kristen Lamb. I enjoyed reading it (like, forgot about the rice and burned it because I was reading), and it’s quite informative. She talks about reaching out and connecting in a genuine way, rather than blasting people with book promos and thinking that’s going to accomplish anything. It’s a method I can definitely get behind. 🙂

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        • I LOVE Kristen Lamb. I read her first two books, but haven’t read the new one. I like her theory about keeping it simple and sticking with one FB page, Twitter, and blog. Too bad I didn’t read her books before I set up two FB pages and two websites. Oh, well. Live and learn.

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  4. Totally agree! Well, for the first book in a series, yes. Once you’ve decided that you’re doing a series and you’ve got the first book out and published and well-received, I think it’s all right to start dreaming in bling, because you’ve proven to yourself that you can actually successfully complete a novel. But for a first time author’s first book? Get ‘er done, son!

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  5. Great post again, Tricia, the book is the most important thing, get that done first before you plunge into anything else. It’s also very true that some authors absolutely bombard their readers with a constant stream of promotion that just ends up turning many of their fans off, not only are you tiring your reader so that when your book eventually comes out all the momentum has been spent, but you have alienated many potential readers who take umbrage at a daily promo bash over the head.

    As with all things, I think we writers tread a very fine line between good promotion – building a platform, interesting your fans and creating momentum, and bad promotion – a constant daily bombardment which just ends up becoming a banal stream of posters and snippets that fall on deaf ears or becomes irritant spam to others. Very tricky.

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  6. Reblogged this on Sophie E Tallis and commented:
    Another very useful blog post here. Forget the glitzy swag, the posters, the business cards and bookmarks, the trailers and websites – WRITE THE BOOK FIRST! An oxymoron? Well, you’d be surprised how many authors fall into the trap of using their creative time on such endeavours without actually having finished or even written the book itself! Great advice from fellow fantasy author and Mistress of Blogs, Tricia Drammeh. Check it out folks! 😀

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  7. This post is a cracker. Very, very good advice. It takes me so long to write a book that, frankly, I really can’t spare the time to do anything much for my social platform. Although I have to say, I got completely stuck half way through book two and spent the time drawing pictures of my characters. Then again, it’s hard to find real people who look like something orange and clammy with antennae. That probably helped.

    As to the buying bling from Vistaprint, have to fess up. I’m guilty! Phnark.

    Cheers

    MTM

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  8. Couldn’t agree more. Advertising creates a momentum that you have to keep up or lose your audience altogether. Of course, a certain amount of build-up is necessary, but unless you are some kind of magician, you can’t keep an audience enthralled indefinitely.

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  9. I like this. It’s very practical. When I only had one book to work on I worried about those things, but fortunately for me I didn’t have to money to do all of it. After I released my book I slowly began to dabbling in these extras.
    The only thing I slightly disagree with is the posting of excerpts, but only for a very specific reason. I post limited excerpts on my blog of my WIPs to gage audience interest, but I have every intention of making changes and improvements when I do so.
    I totally get where you are coming from with this. It’s one thing to build a buz; it’s another to give the whole story away and bore people with a constant bombardment of information.

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  10. Pingback: Blogdom Oct. 23-Nov. 20 ’13 | Welcome to the ToiBox

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