Friday, August 24, 2012

Ten Things I Learned As a Debut Author by Babette James

Last August 5, I received The Call for my first novel, Clear As Day. Well, The Call was an email, but it was an email that changed my life, and the year that followed has been a rollercoaster of awesome and crazy. I thought I was mostly prepared for being a published author: I’d paid attention to my friends’ writing careers, I’d taken workshops, I’d started my website and blog and dipped my toe into social media, etc., but BEING a newbie published author has still been a huge learning experience.

1. Calendars and Spreadsheets Are Your New Best Friends. Things will get hectic, you will not remember everything.
Spreadsheets: I use Excel spreadsheets to track:
Guest blog spots: when, where, what about, when due, and giveaway if any
My giveaways: where, who, what, and when sent
Yahoo loop, Facebook promo and other sites: Groups and pages and types of promo and days allowed
Miscellaneous spontaneous promos where I might post an excerpt, where, and what excerpt I posted so I don’t repeat the same post at the same site.

Calendars:  One master calendar = fewer headaches. I use my office calendar for my blog guest spots, my guests at my blog, reminders for those spots, my work events, holidays, church events, even chores around the house. Don’t want to use a paper calendar? There are numerous online calendars and calendar apps out there. I like the calendar at

2. There’s No Such Thing as a Stupid Question. What’s an Art sheet? Galleys? What are good giveaways? Blog tour? STET? When do they want it? What are good Yahoo loops to join? I have to use Track Changes? How do I upload an avatar? Do I really have to friend that person back? Questions can swarm faster than mosquitoes in July. Save your stomach lining, swallow hard, and just ask. Don’t be afraid to ask your editor, your critique group, your RWA chaptermates. There was a day when they didn’t know either.

3. The Dreaded Promo. Research the type of promo you’d like to do and how much you’re willing to spend in time and money way ahead of your release. Not all promo costs money, but all promo consumes time. Check out successful authors you like in your genre and investigate how they promo. Remember to give yourself enough advance time to book the blog tour company you want to use, the bookstore you want to hold a signing, or to get on the calendars of the blogs you want to visit.

4. Learn the Tools. Learning Facebook, Goodreads, Twitter, Wordpress, etc. at the same time you’re learning to promote your book is a good way to increase your stress. Research the kinds of social media you will enjoy using for promotion and reader interaction. You don’t have to do them all, but starting and learning to use the various accounts ahead of release can make life less stressful. Signing up is easy, but the learning curve and managing details can be time consuming. That website, Facebook header or Twitter background your favorite author has might be custom artwork or might be a simple click and use theme, but even with simple click and use finding what you like can be time consuming. Learn how to keep your blog and/or website updated regularly, how to insert clickable links, how to make a useful signature for your emails, and how to make it easy for your readers to find you and your books on the web.

5. The Blog Slog. Brainstorm topics, stockpile blog ideas, and write the posts before your book release or blog tour begins. After completing a 100k word novel, writing a 500 word blog post may seem simple, but life always seems to toss in hiccups and roadblocks and the muse goes on coffeebreak. Writing a blog at midnight the day your post is due is not good for the blood pressure.

6. Drafts Save Time. Keep a document handy that has your bio, excerpt, social networking links and buy links all in one place so you can copy and paste as needed. Keep copies of your cover and your photo in a few smaller sizes such as approximately 200 x 300 for easy posting in blogs. Save various draft Twitter posts, Facebook posts, Yahoo Loop promo posts, etc. in a master document so you don’t need to draft a new one completely from scratch each time. However, be careful when copying a Word document straight into an email: characters such as apostrophes, quote marks and hyphens can turn your email into gobbledygook when posted. You can keep clean drafts of promo email in your email’s draft folder, then copy and paste from the draft into a new email and hopefully avoid the gobbledygook.

7. Writers Write. Don’t forget to give yourself time to write. Once that contract is signed, editing and promoting can consume your time and burn you out so easily. Give yourself time to really write. Start that next story. Jot down that plot bunny. Have fun with a crazy short story idea. Let yourself be creative.

8. Give Yourself A Break. We all have lives outside of our writing career: children, spouse or significant other, parents, everyday job, church, hobbies. Our lives are packed and finding balance is already hard. It’s easy to think, “Oh, I can squeeze in promoting my book a little on top of everything else. I can still write every day. I can give up some more of my me time.”  You need that me time even more now. It was scary enough pitching and querying. The stresses can be bigger now. Get your rest. Read that book you put aside on your TBR pile. Have that dinner date with your friends.  Make the breaks as appointments on your calendar if you have to, but take time for yourself.  

9. Don’t Worry, Be Happy. Yep, totally need a thick skin. Readers, reviewers, blog commenters, that cranky person at church, and Aunt Susie’s cousin’s best friend are all going to have an opinion of your writing. Unfortunately, knowing you need a thick skin is easier than having a thick skin. You need a support group of writing friends who you can privately vent to and celebrate with. There will be times you will be bursting with happiness, fear, or anger. You don’t want to Twitter or Facebook when your emotions are crazy. Your writing friends will hold your hand, talk you off the ledge, and celebrate with you like crazy. I have an awesome group of writing friends and I couldn’t have made it through this past year without them. I’m also lucky in that my husband and coworkers are supportive, but they just don’t understand the writing life the way my writing friends do.

10. Celebrate Your Successes, Big Or Little. You busted your butt and got those edits in on time. Your neighbor liked your blog post. You held the copy of your book in your hands for the first time, print or on an e-reader. You got a five star review. Have that glass of wine, those fifteen extra minutes soaking in the tub with your favorite music playing, or that fancy latte at the coffee shop. Be proud of yourself. Honor your hard work.

What are some things you’ve learned on your journey?


What’s a girl to do when her summer lover wants forever?

Haunted by dark memories of her parents’ volatile marriage, artist Kay Browning keeps her heart locked behind a free-spirit facade and contents herself with the comfortable affair she has every summer with easygoing photographer Nate Quinn.

The only trouble with her plan? This summer Nate’s come to Lake Mohave to claim the lover he can’t let go. He’s done with the endless traveling and settling for temporary homes and temporary loves. Kay’s always been more than just a vacation fling, and now he must convince this woman, who sees love as a course to certain heartbreak, to take that leap of faith and learn how safe love with the right man can be.

With a splash, she erased the frustrating daydream. This wishful imagining fixed nothing. Her sheltered little camp would still be empty. Should she give in, pack up the camp, and hit the road north to Lake Mead instead? Just break her routine for once.
No, but it was definitely past time to get her tush out of the water and do something constructive. This lonely gnawing in her bones and brain was unacceptable. Kay pushed to her feet, facing out to the scenic lake created out of a stretch of the Colorado River and the rugged land beyond shimmering with heat.
Work, right, but it was too early in the day for the hard afternoon light she needed for the Coyote Point painting. She was too restless to read or fish and not in the mood to take the boat over to the marina, chat with George, and buy ice.
She rolled her shoulders and stretched, enjoying the hot air licking over her wet skin. As she wiggled her feet in the sand and gravel-bottomed shallows, a flurry of minnows darted past her ankles, and her silver toe ring glinted beneath the clear water. She paused, caught by the possibilities in the sparkling sun on water and the intricate, shifting reflections over gravel. Yes! Exactly the distracting challenge she needed. Shaking the water from her ears, she pivoted toward camp.
“Kay!” That male voice was not her imagination.
“Oh, shit!” She twisted and dropped into the water, sinking neck-deep. Mother always said, among other things, that a lady never goes skinny-dipping and must always wear a proper hat. Kay was only half skinny-dipping, but she fervently wished she’d worn something a bit more substantial than a baseball cap and the bottom half of the quintessential teeny-weenie yellow polka-dot bikini.
Shit, oh, shit, oh, shit. She so hated when Mother was right.
Okay, time to find out who’d just gotten an eyeful. The guy had called her name, so she should know him. Oh boy, if she’d flashed old George…
She wiped water from her face, sucked in a breath against her pounding heart, and peeked around.
She must be sun-dazed. Nate? With a beard? Hair curling over his ears? No way. Just because a familiar slouchy fishing hat topped those unruly, sun-bleached blond curls and just because this guy possessed the same deep-water tan and footloose taste in clothes as Nate with his electric blue Hawaiian shirt, bright orange swim trunks, and beat-up deck shoes didn’t mean—
“Hey, babe. Now that I’ve finally caught your attention, how about a hug from my girl?” He opened his arms. “Am I coming in after you or are you coming out?” Only Nate’s voice held that mellow timbre like chocolate for her ears.
“Nate! What…” Giddy delight flushed over Kay, clearing her shock. She dashed from the water and into strong arms, a wonderful hug, and a better kiss that launched her mind into a blissed-out whirl of oh, yes and why?
The oh, yes won out until the need to breathe forced them apart.
Nate gave her a long look, his usually easy gray eyes holding a new, simmering heat.
Wow. Whoa.

Bio: Babette James writes contemporary and fantasy romance and loves reading nail-biting tales with a satisfying happily ever after. When not dreaming up stories, she enjoys playing with new bread recipes and dabbling with paints. A teacher, she loves encouraging new readers and writers as they discover their growing abilities. Her class cheers when it’s time for their spelling test! She lives in New Jersey with her wonderfully patient husband and three extremely spoiled cats.


Clear As Day can be found at: – Paperback & Kindle

Come fall in love at the river.


  1. Congratulations on being published! Your excerpt is wonderful.
    And thanks for the 10-point post. Sometimes it seems 'safer' to stay a wanna-be than to cross that finish line.

  2. Hi Babette, so nice to have you here today! Congratulations on your first book. Great advice, especially about giving yourself a break. We need to do that more often. Thanks for being a guest today!

  3. Hi, Ana, thanks! It does feel that way some days, but crossing that finish line is an awesome feeling. ;)

    Hi, Jennifer, thanks so much. I'm delighted to be here today. I think giving ourselves a break can often be the hardest challenge.

  4. Great list, Babette! I think we all have to travel that steep learning curve of promotion and marketing, and sometimes it seems a thankless and never-ending task! One just hopes that it has has some results somwehere (even if you never know just how far your promo and blogposts actually reach).
    Loved your excerpt!

  5. Great post...7 & 8 should be tattooed on an author's arm.
    Thanks for the advice...I like #2...that is my biggest worry

    good luck

  6. Awesome post, Babette! Gonna bookmark this - it's a great list!

  7. Thanks, Paula! The promo so often feels like casting seeds to the wind and crossing fingers that they takes root, doesn't it?

    Hi, Joe, you're welcome. It can be so nerve-wracking to have to ask, and most of the time the worrying is worse than the asking.

    Hi, Marlo, thanks!

  8. Great blog. Having just gone through the entire thing myself, I can honestly say you are spot on! Especially the part about the need to keep writing!

  9. Great list! I can't even begin to imagine all the things to know. Having this list helps. Great excerpt. Enjoyed your book!

  10. Hi Babette,

    Welcome to Heroines with Hearts. Sorry I didn't pop in was one of those days that got away from me.

    Congrats on your first release! Like you, I was so overwhelmed with the non-writing things involved with being a published author. You've definitely hit on the key element: organization.

    Great excerpt and blurb. I wish you many sales. Good luck!

  11. I have to agree with Kate above. You are right on.

    The process can be simply overwhelming if you don't get organized. Great tips!

  12. Excellent advice! I hope it helps other debut authors same time, energy, and several gray hairs!

    So happy for your successful and highly acclaimed book launch.

  13. Wow! Great information here. I hope to put all of these into use soon. Thanks for sharing your experiences.

  14. Hi, Kate, thanks! Congrats again on your Wild Point Island. :)

    Thanks, Maria. So glad you enjoyed Clear As Day!

    Hi, Debra, thanks. Organization definitely helped keep my head above water.

    Thanks, Lisa. Getting and staying organized is an ongoing effort. I just added a fun new tool to my organization efforts a couple days ago: my first smart phone.

    Hi, Lynne, thanks so much!

    Hi, Joanna. Fingers crossed for you! :)