When I first started publishing I believed that getting the novel out there was the most important thing.

Then I thought I could create a sort of grass roots movement to buoy my efforts.

Haven’t we heard of people who got successful doing this kind of thing?

Christopher Paolini self-published his book Eragon didn’t he? And he sold how many thousands of copies before a publisher came on board!

Why can’t we do something like that?

Well, the problem is you have to start with a good product, and too many times if many publishers have passed on your project, often it means the project wasn’t complete or polished enough. I tried reading Eragon, couldn’t get past the first few pages.

There are two kinds of writers.

The kind that plug into all the social networking sites and always carry business cards and are always bugging friends and media to buy buy buy their books.

I’ve met a number of authors like this.

Their marketing strategy and media savvy can be remarkable!  I even know of a Muslim author who was so good at this she got a spot on Breakfast Television, our local news station, plugging her book.

Then there’s the kind of author who doesn’t even have a website, but who’s an international phenomenon all the same. Deborah Ellis comes to mind.

Maybe she doesn’t need one.

People pursue her, rather than the other way around.

But in order to get to the point where people are pursuing you, YOU HAVE TO PAY ATTENTION TO YOUR CRAFT!

You have to learn to write well!

Many of those first kind of authors who market the heck out of their stuff but don’t bother to learn their craft will get to a certain level of success, depending on how useful what they’re selling is, BUT THEY WON’T GET ANY HIGHER.

Whereas the second type will put minimum effort into the marketing and their craft speaks for itself.

Basically it comes down to the fact that you have to have something people want to read!

With Deborah Ellis, she writes about social justice topics she’s passionate about, and she writes well!

I guess I’m in between. I don’t do the facebooking and tweeting stuff, but I do have a website and this blog. And most of all I am constantly working on my craft!

For that reason I’m going to make a list of Writng and Marketing do’s and don’ts.

Rukhsana’s Do’s:

1. Do learn the craft of writing!

This might seem obvious, but I’ve known many people who have wonderful ideas who don’t bother learning how to write well! The best idea in the world won’t sell if people can’t stand to read it! Use rhythm, use all the writing techniques at your disposal to make the words flow: alliteration, onomatopoeia, foreshadowing, assonance, puns, similes and metaphors–appropriately! If you learn your craft then your work will immediately stand apart from most of the drek in slush piles.

2. Do persevere in finding a good publisher!

Sometimes getting published is all about getting your manuscript on the desk of the right editor at the right time. Personally I believe that there are no accidents and if a story is meant to be published, it will. It’s up to you to write it in the best way you can.

3. Create a website!

A website is the single most useful tool to get your work known.  Some authors don’t bother and get famous anyway (see below for just one example) but for most of us, it’s the best way to get known, and it’s non-obtrusive and it works even when you’re sleeping.

4. Develop a presentation that highlights your book

It’s odd but many authors and especially children’s authors, are often paid more to talk about their books than they’re paid in royalties, at least for the first few years.

One thing I do is I develop a presentation or a way to incorporate my new book into a presentation to help promote it when I’m invited to speak at schools and libraries. Those books that I talk about tend to sell the best! This serves two functions. It provides you with a livelihood while your’e developing your craft and it puts you in touch with your audience.

5. Do pursue all opportunities no matter how small

I heard a saying once. Write every book, even if it’s for a small publisher, the very best you can, because then eventually you’ll write yourself up into a higher category.

Small publishers can open the door to publishing when larger ones won’t even look at  your work. I began with small publishers and eventually my work improved to the point where larger publishers were taking notice.

And you never know when small opportunities can turn into big ones. But beware. Not all small publishers are created equal. Some are little more than vanity presses and their books are not taken seriously by the establishment when it comes to awards.

6. Do take courses and attend conferences and workshops

Although expensive, these are investments in your career! They’re very important. You’re paying to learn skills that these people took years to acquire. A course or workshop you pay for will include feedback from a teacher, and professional feedback is what new authors need the most.

7. Do give everyone the best advice you can!

It helps when you believe that your provision is already planned for by God.

It’s only fair and ethical. Wouldn’t you want the best advice from others?

If they take your advice and become successful with it, then that’s all good, it means they would have been successful anyway. And their success does not take anything away from you. God had decreed it for them.

And if they hate you, they won’t take your advice anyway, but you’ll feel good that you gave it properly.

8. Do act professionally with everyone in the field

Treat people with respect and dignity, in an upfront and honest way and you’ll cultivate good working relationships. And conversely, if publishers don’t act professionally with you then run! Don’t work with them! It’s not worth it.

Rukhsana’s Don’ts


I think one of the most odious things about this business is the idea some people have that “I’ll buy your book if you buy mine”. I’ve actually heard of established authors saying words to this effect, complaining that so and so did not ‘support’ her by buying a book. Having been extremely poor, I would never expect friends or family to shell out to purchase my book. If they do so, it warms my heart, but if they don’t, I certainly don’t take it personally! In fact I’ve started giving my books as gifts and have found that the same relatives who wouldn’t buy them are happy enough to receive them as gifts. (Or at least that’s what they tell me.  They might plausibly toss it in the trash when my back is turned, but at least I don’t know about it.)

You have to produce writing so valuable that perfect strangers will plunk down their hard-earned money to have a copy. I know, I know, not easy, but whoever said that writing was easy?

2. Don’t bother with a book launch

Unless you’re J.K. Rowling or someone else of that stature, most publishers don’t shell out for a book launch. I’ve heard publishers say that it’s money they can better spend on promotion. If you insist on having a book launch then just make it a family party celebrating your success. But for some even the energy they put into that party can be better spent of developing a website and bettering their writing!

I know an author who had two book launches: one in her home town and one where she flew into Toronto on a cold November day! About six people showed up at the Toronto launch. Spending all that money on airfare and goodies for six people and maybe ten sales, is crazy.

3. Don’t sign with a lousy publisher just so you can say you’re published!

More and more it seems there are authors out there who are becoming unpaid sales people selling books for their publishers. More odious than the encyclopedia sales men that went door to door and only a step up from self-published authors!

It has definitely diminished the field.

I know a person who had FANTASTIC story ideas! So fantastic in fact that she got a number of agents interested in looking at her manuscript just on her pitch. But they didn’t end up taking her on because she hadn’t developed her craft! Her writing was not up to par. So they nibbled but they didn’t swallow the bait. She ended up signing with a lousy publisher.

But at the same time, there are many small publishers who are doing their best to create quality work! Distinguish between those publishers and publishers who are just trying to turn you into a salesman to sell their books. (A step up from vanity publishing.) One way to tell if they’re a good small publisher is if their books appear on readers’ choice award lists.

4. If you have friends who are doing all these don’ts, DON’T WARN THEM…Unless they ask you for your opinion

And even if they ask, and you tell them the truth, they might not thank you for bursting their bubble and you’ll only break the friendship. Let them learn the hard way, even it’s painful to watch them waste time and resources, and be there to help pick them up when they fall down.

5. Don’t quit your day job

Not until you become so busy with the writing that it can sustain your income. I struggled for many years even after I got published before the writing actually started paying the bills.

Well, these are all I can think of right now. I might add more to them as time goes by and I think of things.

Tomorrow I’m headed up to Sudbury for a week. I’m taking my computer so I may be able to blog (things have been super hairy the last little bit!) but we’ll see. I’ll be presenting at 10 schools in five days! Yikes!