Dear Author Enablers,
After building a local platform by self-publishing, selling by word of mouth, becoming a reading group selection, giving lectures at high schools and churches, donating to literacy fundraisers and receiving unsolicited praise for my book, what do I do now to spread my net wider? My efforts to find an agent and a traditional publisher have come to naught.
Jill Schaefer
Lompoc, California

It sounds to us like you’re doing a great job, but no one ever said that success as an author will be easy or guaranteed. We can offer a few additional resources: Publicize Your Book, by Jacqueline Duval, provides ideas for grass-roots publicity and marketing. Finding a lecture agent or publicist could be another way to go; most self-published authors find their best sales are generated by speaking engagements and media appearances. Keep watching for public-speaking opportunities, and hone your skills as a presenter. Start blogging regularly, and submit short pieces to print and online publications. And don’t forget to start writing your next book before too much time goes by.

Dear Author Enablers,
I have been reading Stuart Woods’ latest Stone Barrington crime thriller, Kisser. I noticed that Knob Creek bourbon is mentioned frequently as Stone Barrington’s adult beverage of choice, eight or 10 times if it was mentioned once. Is this now a fixture of modern entertainment fiction—literary agents auctioning off naming rights for products supposedly preferred by the story’s characters?
R. Haines
Pittsburg, Pennsylvania

Most novelists wish they could sell product placement in their books! Kathi is still waiting for that check from Martin Guitars, the ungrateful wretches. But seriously, while we can understand cynicism when so much is for sale in the media, we cannot assume that what you observed is the result of a commercial agreement. Without more concrete evidence, we think it’s more generous to assume this reflects the author’s personal beverage preference. Now you know what to get Mr. Woods for Christmas!

Dear Author Enablers,
I’m writing my first book, number one of a young adult fantasy trilogy. Even if it never gets published, I’ve had a lot of fun writing it! I’m constantly thinking of new things to work in, like personality traits, flashbacks, subplots, etc. My list is so long that the next rewrite could take years! So, when do I step away and say, “That’s enough!” and find someone to submit it to? It’s been three years in the making, and I think I could spend the next 20 on it without feeling like it’s done. When do I quit and start on book two?
John Turtle
Decatur, Indiana

Congratulations on getting this far—it’s a real accomplishment. You sound like you’re having a little too much fun, though—remember, writers are supposed to be tortured-artist types.

We think your next step should be getting some feedback on your book while you begin the process of finding a literary agent. Perhaps you can join a writers’ group; maybe you can start one. (Check with your local library or bookstore to see if they sponsor writing workshops.) Give your manuscript to two or three people you trust to proofread and critique. Fix what needs fixing and then you are ready to say, “It’s done.” It’s time to head towards the finish line—which means settling on a completed first draft, and moving toward publication.

One more thing—maybe some of your wealth of ideas could be incorporated into your next book.

Email your questions to Kathi and Sam! Please include your name and hometown. 

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