Three Things to Do Before Your Book Comes Out (Other Than Your Laundry)

By Kathleen Barber

As I mentioned in a past diary, I was a nervous wreck in the weeks before the release of Are You Sleeping. I tried to quell that nervousness by assuming a feeling of control, which means that I planned my outfits down to the tiniest detail (including spending more time than I’m willing to admit sourcing the perfect shade of yellow nail polish to coordinate with my book cover), rehearsed my script for readings until I could perform it in my sleep, worked on answers to the questions I anticipated receiving from readers, and wrote down a few questions to plant with family members in the audience.

I was so bound and determined to be prepared for every contingency that I also spent a good chunk of time scouring my writers’ groups for hints as to what I could expect during release week and searching the internet for variations on the question “what should I do before my book launch?” Surprisingly, the most frequent piece of advice I encountered was that I should do my laundry before the book came out.

I ignored this advice—there were so many more pressing things to worry about than clean socks! —but soon came to regret dismissing it when I was packing for book events out of state and realized that I was severely lacking in clean clothing. So, take it from me, the advice about doing your laundry is sound and should not be ignored. Learn from my mistake.

Speaking of, here are three other things that I wish I had considered before my book released:

Know Your Elevator Pitch

When your book launches, you will want to tell everyone about it: your doorman, the girl ringing you up at CVS, strangers on the corner as you wait for the light to change. It’s an exciting time, so spread the word! But be prepared for the inevitable follow-up question: “What’s it about?”

Right after Are You Sleeping came out, I regularly fumbled my way through answers to that question with something along the lines, “It’s about this podcast … wait. Did you listen to ‘Serial’? No? Okay, well ‘Serial’ was this podcast about …” By the time I had finished, I had usually sold the person on downloading “Serial” but I wasn’t sure about the book. Avoid this pitfall by investing the time in developing your elevator pitch—a short, snappy hook that will make them want to pick up a copy!

Be Aware of Spoilers

As the author, you know your plot and characters like the back of your hand. You’ve probably spent years working on the book, and, by the time the book launches, you will have read and reread it so many times that you can probably recite whole sections of it from memory. But this familiarity can be a trap if you’re not prepared!

Keep in mind while choosing sections to read and when discussing the book that many of the people in audience haven’t read it yet, so be careful to avoid spoilers—something especially important in the thriller genre. Before the launch of Are You Sleeping, I choose readings from the beginning of the book so as not to give anything away, but I hadn’t considered how I would answer questions about the plot. On a couple of occasions, I was caught off-guard by questions from readers or interviewers and had to stop myself from saying something that would reveal something in the book. I’m pleased to say I never accidentally revealed the ending, but I did give several inarticulate answers that could have been avoided had I simply been prepared.

Stock Up on Swag

You never know when you’re going to have a chance to promote your book, and carrying around swag is the best way to ensure you can make the most of an opportunity. My publisher sent me a bunch of promotional Are You Sleeping bookmarks, which I carried around to events and tacked up on the bulletin board at my local coffee shop. I also snagged a couple for personal use, using them in books I was reading.

One afternoon, I was in an Uber Pool with a chatty woman who wanted to know what I did for a living. I told her about Are You Sleeping—just released!—and she seemed really interested in it, even having me repeat the title a few times so she would remember it. Suddenly, I remembered I was carrying around a book with one of my own bookmarks inside, so I pulled it out and handed it to her before she was dropped off. By the time I had reached my own destination, she had followed me on Twitter (my Twitter handle is on the bookmarks) and tweeted about the book!

Let me tell you, I haven’t gone out without a stack of bookmarks since then. Get some swag and carry it on you! I like bookmarks because they’re easy and lightweight, but I’ve also seen small cards and pens and all sorts of other stuff. There’s no substitute for pressing something tangible into the hands of a potential reader.

Kathleen Barber was raised in Galesburg, Illinois. She graduated from the University of Illinois and Northwestern University School of Law, and previously practiced bankruptcy law at large firms in Chicago and New York. When she’s not writing, Kathleen enjoys traveling the world with her husband.

To learn more about ARE YOU SLEEPING, click on the cover below: