Write the Book First

Which comes first? The book or the bling? I’ve been stumbling across more and more writers who construct book trailers, book-based websites, book covers, and Facebook pages LONG before the first draft of their book is complete. While it is advisable to establish an author platform before you publish, how much is too much? Does an unfinished book need a trailer? Is this a good tool to get potential readers excited about the upcoming book?

I’m sure everyone has differing opinions on this matter, but I believe it’s important to finish at least the first draft before getting too carried away with the extras. Certainly, social media, book trailers, and promotional items can wait until closer to the book launch–especially when we’re talking about your first book. When it comes to a series where you’re releasing a much-anticipated third or fourth book, you already have a fan base anxiously awaiting anything that has to do with your beloved characters. If this is the case, feel free to put together a teaser trailer or post snippets of your work-in-progress to your blog. If you’re working on your first manuscript? It’s too soon to worry about bling or to bombard your blog with book excerpts. If you try to start a buzz too early, you run the risk of people being sick of hearing about your book long before it’s ever published.

How do we establish an author platform without doing too much too soon? It’s okay to establish a blog where you post informative articles. It’s not okay to post book excerpts and character interviews if you’re only halfway through the initial draft of your manuscript. It’s good to start an author Facebook page, but it’s overkill to have a unique page for each book and each character. It’s an excellent idea to design your blog or website in such a way that your brand is clear, but if you’re commissioning a book cover and creating a book trailer for a book that isn’t finished, you’ve probably gone too far. Likewise, it’s good planning to order business cards to hand out at conferences, but hold off on the bookmarks until your book is close to release.

Some of you might be asking, “Why? I’m really excited about my book, so why shouldn’t I spread the word?”

I know it’s fun to play with book trailers and websites. It’s a creative outlet. Believe me, I understand the urge to design things. I’ve been there. I’ve lost numerous hours re-designing my website. Numerous hours (and dollars) designing bling on Vistaprint. Numerous hours perusing websites looking for the perfect stock photos that represent my characters and settings. I’m not saying any of these activities are bad–but they do take away from your writing time.

As a new writer, your primary goal should be finishing your book. Your author platform should be built on a solid foundation–informative blog articles, networking with other authors, establishing strong friendships. Designing bookmarks is not a solid foundation for your author platform. Neither is playing around with book trailers. So much can change during revisions and rewrites (particularly if you work with a publisher). The title might change or the main character’s description might be tweaked, Major changes (or even subtle changes) will mean all those hours of hard work were wasted.

A couple of years ago, I met an author on an online writers site who was about eight chapters into her first book. In the short time since she’d been writing, she’d set up a website for her book, put together a music playlist, bought stock photos to represent her characters, and crafted a book trailer. She spent so much time working on the extras, she never finished the book. Today, it is still unfinished.

Over the past few weeks, I’ve met authors who have spent a great deal of time and money creating book trailers, some which are so elaborate, they resemble a mini-movie. I know authors who have spent hundreds of dollars on bookmarks, keychains, stickers, banners, pens, etc–and this is all before the book was complete. In the long run, this might be a savvy marketing tool. But, in the long run, they might never finish writing their book.

It’s so easy to get derailed. I’ve done it. We all have. It’s much easier to play with bookmark designs than to sit down and write through a rough spot in your manuscript.

What is the better use of your time: Creating book marks you hope will get readers excited about reading your book, or crafting a well-written book for readers to enjoy? Yes, you can do both, but which should be your first priority.

If you’re pressed for time like most of us are–if we must choose between writing and playing–choose writing! Finish your book BEFORE you do anything else.

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