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Countdown to publication:
5 things I wish someone had told me sooner

“Suddenly, about six or seven months before your book hits the shelves, the switch is flipped. Your editor calls. Your e-mail inbox explodes. New deadlines appear. Why didn’t anyone warn you there’d be so much more to do?”

— Andromeda Romano-Lax

By Andromeda Romano-Lax
The world seems to spin more slowly while you’re waiting for your manuscript to be accepted, edited, and published. As the last corrected galley proof heads south, you find yourself surfing or rehearsing award-acceptance speeches, assuming – falsely – that your job as an author is complete. Suddenly, about six or seven months before your book hits the shelves, the switch is flipped. Your editor calls. Your e-mail inbox explodes. New deadlines appear. Why didn’t anyone warn you there’d be so much more to do?

An ideal mentor would have told me to stop twiddling my thumbs and start working on these five tasks a full year or more before publication:

Start fishing for blurbs. You know those glowing pre-pub testimonials on the back of book covers? They don’t appear out of thin air. It may take several rounds of letters and calls to colleagues, conference acquaintances, friends or friends-of-friends to find a notable author willing and able to comment on your work. Even if your publisher doesn’t make you flog your own unpublished book, they’ll want you to brainstorm a dream list of appropriate blurb-meisters.

Map out your publicity network. In addition to the above, your publisher will ask you to compile a list of your contacts – all the people and publications who might be interested in promoting your book. (Sometimes this is called an author’s statement.) You might have a connection to a talk-show host, magazine, bookstore owner, alumni association -- keep brainstorming! -- that your publisher doesn’t. It takes a while to remember names and find old addresses, so start now.

Have your author photo taken. If you received an email today saying your publisher needed just the right publicity photo of you Fed-exed tomorrow, would you be ready? What’s the chance of your hair and skin cooperating with that kind of sadistic pressure? (And what if your publisher decides -- in January -- that they want a summery, outdoor photo backdrop? It’s happened to me.) Have a friend or professional snap a few shots months before d-day, so that you can make sure you’re happy with the photo that will grace not only a book jacket, but also press releases and book reviews.

Build your Web site. It can take weeks to correct glitches and months to get search engines (like Google) to recognize your new presence on the Web. Start early and you’ll have an active Web address the very first time you talk to interviewers and potential readers.

Get started on your next book. Publicity is important, but you’re a writer, not a celebrity. (I was reminded that on my last book tour, when I toured just days behind a yoga-book-touting supermodel. Guess who got the bigger crowds?) The surest way to deal with the euphoric highs and abyssal lows of publication is to be engrossed in your next creative project. Enjoy.

About the Author
Andromeda Romano-Lax is the author of Searching for Steinbeck’s Sea of Cortez: A Makeshift Expedition Along Baja’s Desert Coast. Visit her at

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