When I first started in publishing, there were times when I (and my colleagues) used the phrase “It would be nice, but you don’t need an online presence.”
Sadly, those days are now long gone.
The debut author of today doesn’t necessarily need an established presence when they sign with an agent. But they better be ready to start creating one, and pronto. In fact, debut authors need to be prepared for more than just a presence online. They need to be ready to create extra content. To keep up with others online. To correspond with their readers.
Debut authors (and veterans alike!) need to be ready to interact with the market.
The ability to do so is both a blessing and a curse. On the one hand, it is amazingly cool that we, as readers, can actually correspond with our idols. If this platform were available when I was a kid, I would have definitely taken advantage! (Roald Dahl, you dodged a bullet, my friend.) And now that I’m an adult, I do often partake in conversations on Twitter or leave comments on blogs of authors I admire. I mean come on…if you could say something witty to Neil Gaiman without the fear of looking like a complete dolt in person, wouldn’t you?
On the other hand, this interaction can sometimes lead to bad feelings, disappointment, having to see every negative review of your book in a neat and tidy list of stars…and other situations that might be considered unpleasant or uncomfortable.
But everyone, and I mean Everyone, is online. And if we want to reach readers, that’s where our authors need to be, too, in one way or another. So part of my job is to help the author get there.
When I consider a new client, I do my research on him/her first.
Step One: Check out any website or blog links in the query letter.
Step Two: Google!
Step Three: If on Twitter or Facebook, I look at old correspondence for any unprofessional behavior that might affect the writer’s overall online presence.
Step Four: I ask questions. I always speak with an author before signing them, and this includes questions about publicity and promotion. Do they have any ideas? Realistic contacts? Etc.
Even if the writer doesn’t have anything set up yet, I probe further to discover how open they are to get to work on that. I need to know if I have a partner in this journey, not just someone who expects everything to be done for them. And I don’t need this information for my submission to editors. I need to know how much an author is going to step up to the plate come publication time.
Authors, if you don’t know this yet, know it now: most of your publicity and outreach to the general market is up to you.
I work with some amazing publicists at the major publishing houses, and by no means am I trying to sell what they do short. They do a TON of work on each book that makes it to the shelves at their particular companies. But the reality is, they only have so much time and money to devote, and a LOT of books to split it between.
Whereas you, the author, have just your book.
You need to be ready.
Here are a few articles that might be helpful in getting started: