Wednesday, October 14, 2009

What I’ve learned in my first year as a published author

As of today, October 14, 2009, Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different (Delacorte) has been out exactly one year. Here’s what I’ve learned over the past 365 days:

-Your friends and your family will be your top salespersons. They will pass your name and title along to their bookstore/library/teacher. They will come to your booksignings. They will review your book on Amazon and in other places. We love them for doing this. Remember to say thank you. (Thank you, friends and family! J)

-At any given moment, it will be difficult to know how many books you’ve sold. Royalty statements come out twice a year. Too, publishing houses have four months to compile and mail these statements. So for my book that came out last October, I’ve received one royalty statement, reflecting sales between October 2008 and December 2008. But if you have an awesome editor (as I just so happen to have!), you can ask her intermittently for an update.

-The rankings on Amazon are as addictive as caffeine and should be avoided as such. I say this as a raving coffee addict. But seriously, they reflect only the ranking of your book as it relates to sales of other books IN THAT HOUR. There are sites that track your Amazon ranking over time, but these appear to take your average sales rank by day, not your top rank of the day. Stay *away* from the sales rank. If you can.

-Speaking of Amazon, many, many readers prefer to give their business to local, independent bookstores (yay, indies!) Support your indies by asking them to host your launch parties (see more below) and visiting and purchasing from them often. Too, link to on your website – give your site visitors the option to purchase from whomever they choose.

-Bad reviews sting and good ones make you feel like a superstar. You have control over neither.

-Book bloggers rock. They live to read and discuss books. Find them and talk books with them (and not just yours!). They are wondermous.

-Social networking sites rock. These are FREE outlets that help you promote your book and (more importantly) connect with others in the kidlit community. Utilize them. They are worth your time.

-Things that have not been worth the time (as far as I can tell):

---Mailing postcards to bookstores and gift shops in the area in which the story is set (but note here – contacting them in other ways, like via email, has been fruitful).

---Contacting media in areas in which you are doing a signing UNLESS this is done early enough to get on the community calendar (in other words, don’t expect the paparazzi at your signings).

---Agreeing to/trying to do too much – as in all areas of life, spreading yourself too thin means nothing gets your full attention.

-Getting your book into specialty stores is time-consuming, but can be worth it. Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different is an historical fiction account of the beginnings of the Great Smoky Mountains National Park. I’m grateful that the book is now available for sale in the park bookstores. But getting there took months of review and a unanimous vote from the buying committee. Be prepared for specialty stores (like tourist attractions and gift stores) to take a lot of time if you wish to break into them. Too, the salespeople within your publishing house have little if any time to devote to a location that *might* purchase 8 copies of just your book (understandably), so you will likely be doing much of this legwork yourself.

-Doing more than two bookstore signings in any one community might stretch your audience too thin. The first two signings I did in each community were well-attended; the third rarely was.

-BUT: do more than one launch party, if you can. I did two in my hometown, and one in the town where I grew up. All were wonderful; all sold out. I’m blessed with wonderful friends and family (see point one).

-Librarians rule the world. They love writers; I have yet to meet one who doesn’t. You can track your book in libraries throughout the world by visiting and clicking through individual libraries to see if your book is checked out! Too awesome.

-School visits are exhausting, but are so totally worth it. Kids love meeting authors, and you will never feel more like a rock star than when you do school visits. If possible, see if you can sell books at the visit, though honestly, many schools frown upon this (which is understandable – it’s difficult when not every child can afford a new hardback book). Always bring postcards to the visit (enough for each child in your presentation, even if that’s hundreds) and ask teachers to put these in the backpacks to send home. I’ve had many parents thank me for doing this; they want to buy the books of the author who visited their school, if they can.

-You can always do more. It can really stress you out at times, thinking of all the things you COULD do to promote your book. Be creative, have fun, but don’t let it sweep you away from the important things.

-All the work? It’s worth it when you get emails that say things like this:

---“I am by no means a professional book reviewer, but coming from someone who reads a lot of books for this age group, I LOVED your book! I started to tear up when Autumn heard those 53 bell rings and kept crying right up until the end!” Fourth-grade teacher from Kentucky

---“I really love reading your books and I really like the front cover.” Third-grader from a school at which I did a school visit

---“I like to write and thought that one day I might be an author like you. I have written a few stories. I have been wondering if you and I could keep in touch. I really liked your book!” Girl from a school at which I did a school visit

---“i loved your book autumn winifried oliver does things different….I loveeeeee tennessee, and i understand you live there. My mom grew up there and half my family lives there, but guess what i'm stuck here in georgia!!!!!" 10-year-old reader (my favorite part – look at how “Winifred” is spelled! :-) )

I love this job. I hope I am blessed enough to do this forever.

And NOW: in celebration of Autumn Winifred Oliver Does Things Different’s one-year anniversary, I will make a $1.00 donation to Friends of the Smokies for EACH VALID COMMENT I receive in the comment section of this post between now and October 31. GO! :-)

Thank you again, friends and family.


Amy Sullins said...

What an amazing year for you and your family, Kristi! May Autumn enjoy many more autumns in publication.

Christi Atherton said...

Kristin, I remember seeing you tear up at last year's Midsouth SCBWI conference when they announced that your book would soon be out. I had just barely met you, but I knew right then that I liked you and wanted to read your book. I ordered it from my Barnes and Noble after I got home and was so pleased that I did! I am now a devoted fan and can hardly wait until your next book is out.

Hardygirl said...

What a great year and what great advice! We rarely get to hear about what happens AFTER the book comes out--all of us wannabees are so focused on that contract.

Great post!

Sarah Frances Hardy

Sarah Campbell said...

Great idea for a post. Thank you for sharing what you've learned. I wondered what those Amazon rankings measured; they're always all over the map. It seems the ranking is pretty much worthless. The Libcat thing is tres cool. Hope to meet you in the world of kitlit someday.

Kimberly Pauley said...

I can definitely agree with everything you posted, though I didn't try the postcards myself (glad I didn't, I think...) :-) I'm glad Autumn has had a good year!

Cathy C. Hall said...

I'm going to bookmark this post, Kristi, so that when I get my book published, I can check back for your wondrous tips!

(P.S. I think I'm in love with the title of this book. And maybe the trailer, too. Hope a Southern Breeze blows you my way soon!)

Irene Latham said...

Kristin, as an author on the brink of release, I am loving the wisdom of this post. And I love that you are donating to Friends of the Smokies. Good karma, girl! Off to tweet about you. :)

Anonymous said...

Loved reading this post. I'm going to refer to your advice for the rest of the year. You are amazing, my friend. Congrats on all the great things happening with Autumn, but I'm ready for a "Hope" galley. *Big Hug*

Denise Jaden said...

Wonderful advice! Thanks so much for sharing (and congratulations on your book-anniversary!)

Lindsey Leavitt said...

Very cool. Thanks for sharing.

Kristin Tubb said...

Thank you all for visiting and for commenting! I hope we can raise a ton of money for Friends of the Smokies! :-)


TrewCrew said...

Happy Anniversary to Autumn! Fun to read all the wonderful things you have learned this past year. It seems whatever your topic, you find a clever way to share...I bet your grocery list is even entertaining! Please tell me there will be cake in the Tubb home to celebrate Autumn's big day! :)

Sandra said...

Hi Kristin--Thanks so much for doing this piece. It's given me a lot to think about. Congratulations on such a successful year! Sandy Flatau

Anonymous said...

Thank you for this, Kristin. So useful! It'll be on my bookmarks, too!

Evelyn said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Evelyn said...

Hi Kristin! I've been meaning to write you and tell you how much I enjoyed meeting you at the Nashville conference, so this invitation to your blog was just what I needed. Thanks for all you did to help make that such a wonderful event! And thanks for a very informative blog today. Congratulations again on your book and here's wishing that its second year is even better than its first!

[Sorry about the deletion. I don't know how to edit and I didn't want to leave my spelling error. ;)]

Wanda said...

Hello! This is a great post, full of ideas, and I plan to send the link to several friends. And I hope you raise lots of money! What a beautiful thing to do, Kristin. Thanks for your beautiful book, too. Can't wait to read the next one!

Shelli said...

great points!

Doraine Bennett said...

What a helpful, informative post. Thanks for the great ideas. And just plain fun reading, too. I love your voice.

Leslie Muir said...

Thanks for some great thoughts. I've been waiting...oh, forever (yawn)...for my first book to come out. It's always fun (and helpful) to hear about the experiences of those already there! Congrats on Autumn and cheers to your big heart for the donation!

Chuck said...

Congrats, Kristin!

Courtney said...

Happy book birthday!

Mark said...


Good stuff! Thanks for sharing. I just ReTweeted it. All new authors can really benefit from your insight.

As far as Amazon Sales Ranks are concerned, I agree and disagree. You are right when you say that Amazon's Sales Ranks "reflect only the ranking of your book as it relates to sales of other books IN THAT HOUR". I also agree that if you check your rank at random sporadic intervals the data can be utterly useless and can drive you mad.

With that said, I challenge you to try Metric Junkie. It's a free web service that allows indie-Authors and Publisher to track their Amazon sales ranks for up to 10 books. The cool thing about it is that it can estimate when a sale occurs and tell you in real-time. No waiting months for royalty checks to arrive in order to determine if that book signing you had was worth it and if you should consider holding another. You know if a sale occurs every hour. You can also compare your book to your competitions and Metric Junkie will show you your market share compared to your competitors.

Metric Junkie automatically gets your sales rank on an hourly basis and communicates a wealth of information regarding your books performance through a combination of graphs, charts, icons, and tables. Best of all, it's free. Completely free. Did I mention it's free. You have anbsolutely nothing to lose. Give it a try and I guarantee it will change how you feel about Amazon Sales Ranks.

How do I know? Because I am an indie-author/publisher myself who not only uses Metric Junkie to track my books, I created it!

I assure you, if it wasn't that good I wouldn't waste my time telling you about it.

Check it out here:

Rita Monette said...

Thanks for all the good advice, Kristin. Now I just need a book deal so I can use it. Congrats on your success.

Kristi Valiant said...

Kristin, you rock, girl! Thanks for sharing all this wonderful advice and for donating to a worthy cause. Autumn's voice was just so exactly perfect in your book - it was definitely one of those that was hard to put down. I know there's even bigger published books in your future. You're such a great writer and even more incredible person - you exude care and love, dear.

Jen said...

Loved your post. I don't have one author bone in my body, but I still read every word. Very interesting!

Elizabeth O. Dulemba said...

SO happy for you - sounds like an amazing year! And this is some sound advice - thanks for sharing. I hope 'Winifried' goes on forever!

Sandi Cerveny said...

Kris, I am SOOO proud of you!! This is such a great way to raise money to support the preservation of our national parks. I wish you nothing but continued success in your writings and look forward to reading them ALL!! Love and miss you!!!

Hannah Dills said...

It has been a wonderful ride watching all of this happen for you! Thanks for sharing your experience with all of us! This couldn't be happening to a better writer, friend, person... I hope Autumn takes you along to her next big party (after taking off without you to Washington D.C. Happy Book Anniversary! Hannah

HP girl said...

As one of those adoring family members who loved Autumn Winifred Oliver and raved about it to her friends, I can't believe its already a year old! How wonderful to know you've made a difference in so many lives with your book. I teared up reading your emails from your fans. As an aspiring author myself, I loved your tips. I'm almost done with my second draft of my chick lit novel and hope to start sending out query letters to agents next week. Any tips?

Hester Bass said...

Must. Not. Check. Amazon. Ranking. Again! Good advice, as is your entire post. Thank you for sharing your journey. And I feel like we were roomies at the National Book Festival - yippee for us both! Best wishes as you travel toward the second book, and bless your giving heart.

Kristin Tubb said...

Wow - we're up to 30 comments! Thanks, all! I'll try to get through the questions and suggestions:

-HP Girl (hugs to you, sis! ;-) ): I highly recommend visiting and scroll through the samples there - gives you a great idea of what agents like/don't like
-Thank you Hannah and Sandi!
-All: Elizabeth's picture book SOAP, SOAP, SOAP was just released - yay, e!
-Thanks, Jen! :-)
-All: Kristi just illustrated the gorgeous CORA COOKS PANCIT. You must see it!
-Thanks, Rita!
-Thanks for the suggestion, Mark! I will check it out.
-Thank you Courtney, Chuck, Leslie, Doraine, Shelli, Wanda, Evelyn, Jessica, Sandra, the Trew Crew, Lindsey and Denise.
-Jill - thank you! I'm ready to see some SELLING HOPE galleys, too! :-) All: go pick up a copy of SWEETHEART OF PROSPER COUNTY. Fantastic YA, and a WONDERFUL Texas voice - funny and heartwarming!
-Irene - I'm all about the karma! :-) All: Irene's LEAVING GEE'S BEND comes out in January; watch for it!
-Thanks, Cathy!
-Thanks, Kimberly! All: Kimberly's YA SUCKS TO BE ME may the funniest vampire book you'll ever sink your teeth into. Great stuff!
-Thank you, Sarah! And to all, Sarah's WOLFSNAIL: A BACKYARD PREDATOR won the Geisel award for pbs - check it out!
-Thank you, Sarah, Christi and Amy! :-)

Whew! I hope I didn't miss anyone or his/her book; if I did - leave another comment (it's one more dollar to the park, too! :-) )

Kristin Tubb said...

Hester, your post beat mine to the punch! :-) Thanks for visiting. All: Hester's gorgeous picture book is THE SECRET WORLD OF WALTER ANDERSON. If you love art and nature, you have to see this one!

Donna J. Shepherd said...

I SO enjoyed reading about your amazing first year. Thank you, too, for the great tips.

Tricia J. O'Brien said...

I ambled over from Shelli's blog and really enjoyed your overview and advice. Great trailer, too. Such a beautiful park and fun storyline.

Anonymous said...

Kristi your post rocks! The Campbells look forward to your next Birmingham visit. Maybe your visit can coincide with your next book and you can do another Riverchase Elementary visit. Melissa can be your personal assistant. It will be great! Keep writing.

Rae Ann Parker said...

Kristin: Congratulations on Autumn's one year anniversary! It is a fabulous book. Thank you for sharing the wisdom you gained through the first year. Here's wishing you many more years of writing and more wonderful books for us to read.

Alan said...

Congratulations on your first year, Kristin! Here's to many more...

Barrie said...

Loved reading your list. And Happy One Year to you and Autumn!

Anonymous said...

Don't stop posting such stories. I like to read articles like this. By the way add more pics :)