pile of books with no time to read

Getting Published: The Magic of the First Page

So, You Want to Be an Author

You’ve probably spent years of your life hunched over your newest novel, affectionately referring to it as your “baby.” This is the culmination of your life’s work. It’s got it all: an interesting protagonist, a brewing mystery, the perfect romance, and an idyllic setting to ground it all. You’ve eagerly sent it off to all the local publishers who have reputable connections under their belt to launch your dreams of being published. Now you are impatiently waiting for that acceptance letter to hit your inbox.
You finally hear back from those sluggish publishers, and there you see it: rejected. Rejected. And rejected, again. It feels like years of your life have been thrown away like it was a haphazard poem scribbled on a Denny’s napkin, submitted on some drunken whim.

Think Like an Editor

Each year publishers receive thousands of submissions from hopefuls just like you. According to Sophie Playle, a writer for Liminal Pages, publishers receive “between three and ten . . . of thousands” of manuscripts per year. While editors would love to slush through each and every submission for the next best-seller, it just isn’t feasible.
Imagine you’re an editor at one of your local indie publishing houses. A slush pile of submissions stares back at you every day, overflowing your submissions inbox. One of your volunteer readers acquires one manuscript among every fifty; the first page kicks off without much of a bang, and the setting is described in a way that is reminiscent of the pastoral poetry of (way) yester-year. Maybe the volunteer reader has the time to graze the second page. More rolling hills. More “a whole lot of nothing.” The manuscript is tossed into the rejection pile along with eighty to ninety percent of the other submission hopefuls.
Now, imagine you’re an editor for a mid-range publishing house. They’ve got the higher-up connections of your dreams, and a few catchy titles to back them up. Their slush pile is about twice the size, if not more, of the indie publishers’. You pick up a manuscript, eye the lengthy, adjective-laden prose, and off it goes into the rejection pile. You dive into the next submission without a second thought, just waiting for the magic.
Publishers often have volunteer readers perform the preliminary acquisitions process in order to sort through their growing mound of submissions. These readers are typically undergrad or grad students who are engaged with literature in their programs. These readers don’t have time to sift through one hundred pages of every manuscript to wait for the storm to finally brew: if the magic isn’t there from the beginning, forget about it.

Think Like a Reader

According to Michael Shymanski, one of Ooligan’s Acquisitions Managers, think of your first page as the reader’s initial impression, much like “meeting your friend’s spouse for the first time.” First impressions can be insignificant, even disastrous, or they can be absolute magic. If the magic is there, an editor will know it immediately.
It’s no surprise then that pacing is crucial. While you wouldn’t want to jump straight into all the juicy details in the first paragraph, the first impression needs to “hint at an underlying theme,” and demonstrate a “nuance that provides depth to conflict and characters” (Shymanski). You want to give away just enough so that the reader gets a sense of the story’s direction and they can’t wait to continue reading.

Creating the Magic

So how do you create that “magic”? Shymanski suggests that it’s pretty simple: be original. A submission that may need some developmental or copyediting will receive more attention if it’s “beautifully written” and utterly original.
Hammering in on the importance of the first page, Lincoln Michel, author, editor, and Buzzfeed Contributor Extraordinaire, suggests that if your story can’t captivate the editor in the first page, the chances of it capturing a “random reader” are nil. Michel suggests constructing your story backwards if all the action begins on page three hundred.
Don’t be afraid to dive deep into “diversification and experimentation of voice” (Shymanski). Let your characters shine in a new light. Keep your reader craving more. And if the magic is there, maybe that editor will turn the page.
Oh, and please read the publisher’s submission guidelines before you submit your Harry Potter fan fiction to a poetry house.

#PitMad: Your Quick Ticket to Pub

For many new writers, the question is how to break in, get an agent, and get published. There are many tracks to getting to the peak, but the route is often long and arduous, and authors can go many months—which can compound to years—without hearing about the masterpieces on their hard drives. How can a writer get noticed and noticed fast?

Like with all contemporary remedies, the internet has a hand in getting new authors noticed.
According to Pitch Wars, the curators of the event, “#PitMad is the original twitter pitch event, where writers tweet a 280-character pitch for their completed, polished, unpublished manuscripts. No previously published works. Agents and editors make requests by liking/favoriting the tweeted pitch.” It’s really something like speed dating, where agents and editors get to peruse the quick pitches and interact with authors. It doesn’t guarantee that you’ll be published, but you will have eyes on your manuscript’s idea.

Another key feature of #PitMad is the use of hashtags, not only to denote the genre of your manuscript, but also to let agents and editors know about target audience and authentic authorship. As we move forward with Ooligan’s acquisitions process, we looked at not only #YA, but also at #BVM (Black Voices Matter, for Black writers), #POC (People of Color), #IMM (Immigrant), #OWN (Own Voices), and many more. These hashtags help agents and publishers fill in gaps in their publication list, but also help promote diversity in publishing.

However, not all see this as a great use of time. Jessica Faust from BookEnds Literary Agency says that not only is #PitMad not the best use of her time as an agent, but also that she doesn’t consider “an event like this [as] querying.” She goes on to say that 140 characters is not enough for a full pitch. And while Faust isn’t wrong about the pitch length, she doesn’t speak for all agents and publishers out there. Writers do get picked up here, but it might be a bad idea to put all your eggs in this basket.

In summation, #PitMad is a way for you to meet agents, publishers, and even writers in the Twitter community. Pitch your idea of your manuscript and wait for the likes to roll in. It may not be a total success, but it’s a quick route to get there if you remember to also query for real on the side. As an acquisitions editor for a press, I’ll divulge a few pro tips to writers: pitch in the morning (and think about Eastern Standard Time), pin the post to your Twitter page, and post the pitch a few times, but don’t spam. Use the hashtags, but don’t embellish the truth. Add realistic but known comp titles—not comp TV shows or movies—to your post. I’m less likely to go for “Casablanca x Fifty Shades” than a more grounded “Love, Simon x The House on Mango Street.”

The Words We Trade: How Authors Handle Copyedits

The work of an editor, whether they are a developmental editor working directly with an author’s concepts or a copyeditor catching typos and malaprops, is never simple. As the unofficial keepers of the language in which they edit, they have more than just style guides and editors in chief to answer to on any given project. Editors must consider and balance the feelings of two groups of people when suggesting language changes: firstly, they must consider how the reader will react to the language of the original manuscript; and secondly, they must consider how the author will respond to the suggested edits.

One issue that editors and authors may encounter when communicating about editorial changes is the difference between “apologetic” and “authoritative” language. According to Ashley Nilson in her Transmit Culture lecture, “Sorry, Not Sorry: Using Language to Maintain Authority,” apologetic language is when one uses words that minimize their stance in order to appease whomever they’re speaking to. An editor, for instance, may weaken their suggested edits by prefacing them with phrases like “Sorry, but could you…” or “I just think it might be better if…” This might convince an author that these suggestions could be ignored. By the same token, an author might revise a word singled out for editing with their own version of apologetic language: sterilizing their authorial voice. This is most likely to happen after a sensitivity read, when an author who is unsure of how to make their prose “politically correct” chooses to use undescriptive and generic language in the hopes of averting future edits. However, it is possible to delve too deep into authoritative language as well: an editor who is too aggressive in demanding that a word be omitted or replaced may alienate an author to the point where they latch onto that word or even pick a more inflammatory substitution in retaliation. Clearly, a balance must be struck between authoritative and apologetic communication between author and editor.

Good communication begets good communication: an author and editor who communicate early in the developmental process are more likely to accept one another’s input down the line. Therefore, setting the tone of the editing process with a consultation meeting is an excellent way to get a feel for the author’s voice and what kind of audience they intend to write to. In addition, constructive criticism can be active, rather than purely apologetic or purely authoritative: giving two to three suggested substitutions for a given word can make an author more receptive to the revision than they would be if they were merely told that the original word was problematic. This is especially true if the suggested edits capture the voice of the author as well as—or better than—the original phrase. Finally, an editor can stand to take one final piece of advice from Nilson’s lecture: instead of prefacing their individual edits with “I’m sorry,” an editor can make liberal use of the phrase “thank you” in their editorial note. They can say “thank you for presenting me with this manuscript,” “thank you for working with me to make this manuscript the best it can be,” and most importantly, “thank you for trusting me with your art.” Phrases like these can make the editing process go more smoothly, all with minimal page space.

Mind Your Style Sheet

I once took a class on book editing, and one of our assignments was to copyedit a section of a manuscript. When the instructor returned my graded assignment, she included the following comment: “I wish you had made more use of the style sheet.”

She was right—I hadn’t made good use of the style sheet, and that was because I didn’t fully understand what style sheets were or how best to use them. I knew the style sheet was a document where I was supposed to record all the editorial decisions I made while copyediting the manuscript, but I was fuzzy on the details.

It wasn’t until I started copyediting manuscripts for Ooligan that I really grasped the concept of the style sheet. I learned that while resources like CMOS, Merriam-Webster, and house style guides are extremely useful when it comes to general rules, there are always going to be exceptions. Every manuscript is different—perhaps you’re working on a book that uses terminology not found in Merriam-Webster, or perhaps the author has some strong stylistic preferences that differ from the publisher’s house style guidelines—and the copyeditor is going to have to make decisions. When this happens, these decisions need to be recorded in the manuscript’s individualized style sheet to ensure consistency.

Imagine this scenario: You’re copyediting a manuscript, and you notice that the author has used the word alright. You suspect that the correct spelling is all right, but when you look it up in Merriam-Webster, you find that both forms are acceptable. Now you have a decision to make. You search the manuscript and find that alright occurs five times, while all right occurs twice. Since the author has shown a slight preference for alright, you decide to go with that spelling. You then turn to the “word list” section of your style sheet, and under “A” (because style sheet entries should always be alphabetized), you type, “alright (not all right).” Now, as you continue the copyedit, every time you run into an alright or an all right, you can refer back to the style sheet to remind yourself of your decision. When you’ve completed this pass, you can search the manuscript for every term on the list to ensure that they’re all being treated consistently. If you didn’t keep a style sheet, maintaining consistency would be much harder.

In addition to word lists, style sheets also include rules for things like punctuation, the use of italics, and the treatment of numbers. For example, a style sheet might specify that all internal thoughts should be expressed in italics. Style sheets for fiction manuscripts should include lists of character names to ensure consistent spelling, and editors should also make note of some distinguishing features for each character. If you note that Billy is described as having blue eyes on page 4, then you’ll notice something is amiss when he suddenly has brown eyes on page 203.

It can be tricky to figure out what to put in a style sheet and what to leave out. You obviously don’t need to list every single rule in CMOS or make an entry for every typo. But what should you include? As Amy Einsohn and Marilyn Schwartz observe in The Copyeditor’s Handbook, it depends on the editor. On page 59 of the recently published fourth edition, they write, “Instead of listing every individual change and decision, experienced copyeditors reduce the work of recordkeeping by simply noting the style followed in certain well-defined categories (e.g., ‘Chicago numbers style throughout’) and then just recording exceptions.… But novice copyeditors should err on the side of overdocumentation until they master the intricacies of various editorial styles.” Include whatever you think might be helpful to you, your managing editor, and the author (who should receive a copy of the style sheet alongside the copyedited manuscript).

Though style sheets can seem confusing at first, they are among the most important tools at a copyeditor’s disposal. As long as you keep your style sheet organized and record all of your decisions related to mechanics and style, you should be all right. (Or is it alright? Better check the style sheet.)

How You Approach Editing a Manuscript

There are many moments to stop and appreciate in the editing process: cracking open a Google Doc; diving into a brand-new word document; lining up fancy red-ink pens and curling up on the couch with The Chicago Manual of Style. Or maybe you prefer the middle of the editing process, when you’re halfway through the manuscript and you can finally start seeing the light at the end of the tunnel. Or perhaps you crave the every end, when you’ve completed an editorial note that leaves you and your author emotional and weak in the knees.

Yes, there are so many moments to take in during the editing process, but perhaps one of the most basic considerations is how it all happens. There are certain things that have to happen, but they might not always happen in the right order or in the same way for everyone. If they happen and they happen well, is the how really that important? Maybe. Maybe not.

There are different schools of thought—at times, it seems like working in the book-publishing industry consists entirely of navigating different schools of thought. There are some folks who take at least one or two passes over a manuscript before even starting the developmental edit. There are some who read the manuscript once, take notes, and then reread sections as the edit unfolds. There are some managing editors who edit alongside their team, while others wait until the teamwork is completed and edit the manuscript as they compile. There is a lot of variation in personal preference and style, and there is likely some amount of superstition involved too: wearing red socks during the editing process; starting immediately on a fresh new manuscript while the editing fever is hot and heavy; working on only one edit at a time; bouncing between multiple edits for short time periods.

There is no right or wrong way to approach editing a manuscript if the edit itself is done well. There are people who swear by certain techniques, but those techniques are not always going to work for every person. Nor should they. And let’s face it: some of them are just plain weird and would only work for a specific individual anyway.

One of the steepest learning curves for editors who’ve just started out in the publishing world is learning how they approach editing—what works best for them. And the only way to discover this about yourself is to edit. It’s to dive in with both feet (and, of course, some education and guidance) and see where the editing stream takes you.

Your approach to an edit is going to be different and look different from the approaches of the editors around you, but there is one essential element that remains the same: you should always be willing to point out the error, suggest ways to fix it, and accept when you need to step back. There are so many things you can do in an edit. But just because you can make a certain edit doesn’t always mean you should.

In that way, editing is less an exercise in practice and more an exercise in philosophy. And along with the practical decisions (e.g., reading a manuscript twice, reading once while taking copious notes, editing a paper copy with a pen and transferring your edits to a digital format later, reading on a Kindle, etc.), one of the most important elements to consider is your approach as an editor—what you will do, and why you will do it. What is your editing goal?

Knowing yourself as an editor, as a reader, and as a writer is going to shape how you approach a manuscript. That kind of knowledge can’t be taught in a classroom or at a job. It’s deeply personal and something only you can figure out. Good luck out there.

Editing while Writing: Temptation, or Good Advice?

Whether in English 101 or Fiction 312, you’ve probably heard the exact same admonishment from many an instructor of writing: resist the urge to edit while you write! Just get your ideas out, flesh them out, and worry about the fine points of editing later. But despite the numerous voices in your head and from those around you pleading for you to resist the temptation, is this really the best advice to take as an author, in any and every situation?

There is one central goal in the mindset of those who plead and beg of you to “just write”: finishing what you’ve started. After all, you won’t earn a grade for that research paper meticulously written and re-imagined, no matter how good it is, if it isn’t finished; similarly, there’s no publishing a story idea without at least a partial manuscript to submit. Finishing what you start is the prerogative that enables you to move on to the next project, whether academic, professional, or personal.

Nonetheless, there are situations in which editing as you write is not only helpful but necessarily rewarding in the long run. One of those situations is when new information comes to light: a new and too-relevant-to-leave-out source for that nearly-finished discussion section, or a newly-conceived plot twist that would make prewritten material contradictory. For the sake of saving yourself the pains of rewriting entire sections or sometimes entire works, these had better be dealt with sooner than later.

Manuscripts that are cumbersome in nature would also flourish from an edit-as-you-write scheme. Ryan J. Pelton, author of seventeen fiction and nonfiction books, contrasts the process of waiting until the end to edit versus editing as you write in his post from The Writing Cooperative, “Edit as You Go and Why You Must Try”. After he had re-read his hammered out manuscript with no simultaneous editing, he remarked:

…when I got to the end and saw the pile of first draft nastiness. This heaping pile of squalor, this thing not resembling any form of literature, a mound of nonsense staring back at me. The motivation to edit went out the window and I gave up.

After using and refining his method of editing as he wrote, however, his first-draft manuscripts took on a more polished appearance; to his writing community, he stated, “By the time you’re done with your story, or non fiction work, you’ll have cleaned up your work multiple times over. It will be clean, punchy, and ready for your editor. He/she will thank you.”

Making sure that consistencies remain consistent and that characters’ personalities and recurring ideas don’t contradict themselves early on will save a writer much stress from finding out that there are core elements in their manuscript that need to be scrapped or reevaluated. Your editors, primarily those who specialize in developmental editing, will also have an easier job not only editing, but also understanding the key features of the work.

Like writing an incredibly rough, unedited but ultimately complete first draft, editing as you go is not a universally optimal way to write. But at the same time, it should not be thrown out prematurely as a hindrance to finishing a manuscript. Evaluating this method to see if it could work for you is worth a go, especially if the writing itself is not the struggle, so much as liking what you write.

Normalizing Queerness: Tips on Inclusive Editing for the LGBTQ Community

The role of an editor is to ensure throughout each stage of the editing process that the writer communicates their view of the world to the reader in the best way possible. With such a responsibility, editors should look at the ways in which the language and manuscripts they edit affect the world around them. Editors should look at how the representation of life and people on the page shape and change society’s understanding of real people in the real world. To gain further distance on the path towards impartial inclusion, here are some tips for inclusive and mindful editing in regards to the LGBTQ community:

  1. Ask members of that group how they would like to be referred to. Having someone in a position of privilege assign a name or term to a minority group can lead to further misunderstanding and misrepresentation. No one knows how to better represent and write about a group than a member of that group and hearing their real-world experiences will only deepen the authenticity of the story.
  2. Look for manuscripts that show structures other than the typical male-female relationship. The existing representations of gay and lesbian relationship in literature is a step in the right direction but simply not enough to truly represent the depth and range of human sexuality. Editors can look for manuscripts that don’t just normalize homo-sexual relationships but bisexual, transgender, intersexual, asexual, and pansexual relationships as well (to name a few).
  3. Look for manuscripts that don’t solely focus on a character’s sexual identity or how other characters are not accepting of it. If the story focuses on a gay male character’s career, the editor can make sure that the author talks about his sexuality in a way that does not make the reader assume his gayness as a detriment to his career. Unless the manuscript specifically discusses the horrors of sexual prejudice or historical homophobia, editors should look to ensure that the character’s gender identity or sexuality is discussed in a way that does not label it as abnormal.
  4. Try not to assume heterosexuality when not specified. When writing queries to the author or making suggestions in the manuscript, the editor can reference the character’s “partner” or “sexual relationship” as opposed to their “boyfriend” for a female character or “girlfriend” for a male character. This way of normalizing the homosexual and de-normalizing the hetero- will place the terms on a level playing field that does not assume one as superior to the other.
  5. Avoid terms such as “the opposite sex.” This assumes the gender binary of male/female and excludes the multitude of other gender identities that do not fall under the strict male/female understanding.
  6. Employ the use of gender-neutral pronouns. By using the singular “they/their/them” in place of the traditional he/she, the reader will not automatically assume the gender of a character, allowing space for the author to include genders that fall outside the male/female binary.
  7. Avoid referring to transgender peoples in terms of pre- and post-operation and only mention any sort of operation when absolutely pertinent to the story. Again, ask how transgender peoples want to be referred to, and use that name and pronoun. Note that this is usually the post-transition name, even when talking about the person before the transition. Taking this into consideration, editors will want to avoid reducing the transgender experience to a single surgery, as the process takes months if not years, as opposed to the commonly-misconstrued notion of it happening overnight.
  8. Turn the focus from a person’s appearance as the primary indicator of gender or sexual identity. Don’t reduce the character to their appearance and whether they dress as a “typical male” or “typical female.” Instead, writers and editors should allow space for persons to define themselves through behavior and personality as opposed to appearance.

Better to Split Infinitives than Hairs

Hopefully you can see the merits of this blog post, irregardless of your feelings about what it’s comprised of. How irritating did you find that sentence? How many mistakes did you see? I bet it was four. More importantly, did you understand the sentiment behind the words? Would you have enjoyed reading the sentence more if it said: “It has to be hoped that the merits of this piece are apparent, despite any misgivings with regards to its composition?” This is the difference between prescriptivism and descriptivism in editing and writing. Maintaining the attitude of a descriptivist when editing, particularly for fiction and memoir, is crucial to preserving an author’s voice.

Prescriptivism, as you may have already guessed, is the tendency toward rigidly following the rules of grammar—writing as it is prescribed and presumably as taught in schools. (As the Dalai Lama said, “Know the rules well so you can break them effectively.”) Descriptivism, however, is more concerned with the fluid and ever-changing nature of language. To the descriptivist, the moment a new word is created and used it is a proper and acceptable part of the language. Even the Oxford English Dictionary (a medium one would assume to be staunchly prescriptivist) chose the “crying laughing emoji” as its word of the year for 2015, as emoji are now solidly in the realm of widely used language. That is not to say that emoji would or even should be considered a normal part of literature. (Though some sites have reduced classic works to a few hundred emoji, and the stories are still remarkably understandable, though obviously somewhat lacking in nuance.) And while language as casual and grammatically unsound as the first sentence you read here should never make its way into academic papers, there is little reason for an editor to cut that sentence to shreds if they were to read it in a manuscript.

If a sentence like that were presented as dialogue, the descriptivist editor would strive to maintain as much of the original language as possible while a prescriptivist would aim only for perfection, even if it changes the tone of the speaker. Who are you to say how a character should speak, how a narrator should think? Writing can and should feel natural, like the author is having a conversation with their readers. The more an editor changes the author’s words unnecessarily, the more of a divide the editor creates between the writer and the reader. An editor’s purpose is to facilitate the transfer of an author’s ideas and language to an audience, not to strip it of personality for consumption. Authors like Mark Z. Danielewski are prime examples of how evolving language elevates a novel, and his trademark style would not be conducive to prescriptivist editing styles. Stuffy, rigid prose has its place in literature, and true mistakes or ambiguity ought to be corrected, but your average book needs to be accessible, inviting, and edited descriptively. As long as y’all understand the sentence as written, it’s okay if it ain’t perfect. See?

The Importance of Tone in Editing

What tone to use when writing a letter to an author or making queries on their manuscript is often one of the most crucial yet most challenging parts of an editor’s job. There are many factors to consider: Where are you at in the editing process? Are you speaking to the author directly, or are you addressing a senior editor? Is this the author’s first novel, or are they more experienced? With so many factors to juggle and so many tiny nuances, it’s no surprise that this is the area that trips up most novice (and sometimes more senior) editors.

When you are addressing an author that is new to the editorial process, a more gentle tone is worth considering. Because they are not used to how the publishing industry works, it sometimes comes as a surprise just how much change their novel goes through during the editing process. Establishing a good relationship with the author is always recommended no matter where they are in their career, but in the case of a new writer, it provides reassurance that their novel is in the hands of someone who cares about it and wants it to succeed. That’s not to say that more experienced authors don’t appreciate this as well—after all, authors that have proved themselves often already know what good editing is, so if you write something that offends them they can easily move on to a new editor. Having an open line of contact with the author prevents miscommunication and allows them to express any questions or concerns that they might have. If you are in either the developmental or line-level editing phases, don’t be shy about also pointing out where the novel really shines. This not only gives the writer confidence, but it highlights the areas of their novel that they should emulate throughout their writing.

There is an important line to walk when you are being considerate. You do not want to come across as too harsh, but it is equally important to convey that you are sure of yourself. You need to project confidence in your skill so that the author has confidence in you. Sometimes when editors are trying to be careful with their phrasing, they start to write queries with so many qualifiers that they look confused. “I’m not sure,” they write, “but I think this sentence might be too long. Maybe rephrase it?” Do away with some of the qualifiers, and avoid saying you aren’t sure of something.

There are times, however, when the tone you use is expected to be slightly different. Sometimes editors are working for managing editors, and the notes that they make are not for the author. Notes for an editor are expected to be more direct in order to help them quickly pinpoint problem areas and look for solutions. But in the case that the author does not see your comments, you are still expected to be polite. You never know what might get back to them, after all. As a general rule, take the time to reread everything you’ve written whenever you’re giving editorial feedback. How would you feel about receiving this feedback about a project that is incredibly important to you? If what you’ve written gives you pause, then your answer is clear—it’s time to reword your edits in a more tactful way.

Getting to Know a Book Through Marketing

Book marketing is a great way to get to know a book. It not only allows one to be involved with a manuscript through the entire publishing process, but it gives those responsible for marketing books the chance to tell a story about the story. Sometimes these stories work really well, and other times ideas fall flat—that’s marketing. Nevertheless, coming up with a solid marketing plan, or even a functional concept that works well for a book, typically comes from the text itself. But even before those ideas roll out, the marketing process has started; it begins as soon as a manuscript arrives at the press.

Make no mistake: book marketing starts at the acquisitions desk. To illustrate this point, we started our marketing plan for Fifty Hikes in the Tillamook and Clatsop Forests (Ooligan Press, 2018) when we acquired it back in December. This early, our marketing plan solidifies primary, secondary, and auxiliary audiences. We also have a pretty good idea on where we’ll position our guidebook on the market along with how we intend to talk about it over the coming months. While we are still in the planning phases of marketing 50 Hikes, we’ve gotten to know this book quite well by researching the text beyond the confines of its pages.

Nevertheless, looking for intertextual cues is one of the best ways to get to know a manuscript during the marketing phase. For example, when I worked on Kait Heacock’s Siblings and Other Disappointments (Ooligan Press, 2016) I focused on the realness in which Heacock wrote about family. I also wanted to stay current with social media trends while creating that digital campaign. From there, I worked with a concept inspired by the amazing Humans of New York blog, so I tied the themes of that blog with those found in our book. What I came up with was an Instagram campaign centered on real people and family members pictured with Heacock’s book, along with quick text reactions that accompanied the visual content. I wouldn’t have come up with that concept had I not cozied up with the manuscript beforehand.

Marketing different types of books helps to build genre awareness as well. Yes, it’s fairly obvious our approach to marketing a hiking guidebook is entirely different from how we promoted Heacock’s short story collection last year. However, working with different types of books forces us to contemplate what we know about genre by researching different books.

Book marketing also allows us to become more involved with the press. Our press relies heavily on digital marketing to promote our books, and this is pretty much the norm across most presses our size. Digital marketing not only allows us to keep in touch with our social media followers, but the freedom in which we can create our digital content allows us to shape the image of the press through content we make.

I know we are all dying to edit the next great American novel, but book marketing is another way for any writer to get to the front lines of a manuscript.