Looking through a lensHe was born. Decades later, he died. And in between, something so profound happened in his life that it transformed him forever.

That microcosm is what you need to capture in your novel. Sample ebook downloads average 20%, which means if your book is 300 pages the reader can read the first 60 pages before they must purchase the book to read more. If you fill the first 60 pages with background information—the mundane things that make up where and when the character was born and their boring first years—the reader will never advance beyond those first pages.

Begin your story with something that grabs the reader’s attention. Sprinkle backstory throughout the book, never in sufficient amounts to slow the momentum. If your reader is not eagerly turning the pages to find out what happens next—regardless of the genre—you are not as good as you can be.

Ultimately, the impact of your writing is your best sales tool. If you rush your book to market before it has been properly edited, you have just done the biggest disservice to your writing career possible. That is one reason why successful traditional publishers have long lead times; they allow for at least two read-throughs and editorial phases, which can sometimes involve major rewriting or deletions. Publish your first draft and you’ve just announced to the world that you are a novice.

ReaderAnother reason for the long lead time is to give reviewers sufficient time to read your book and offer a review that can be used in promotional activities. If you are self-published and don’t want to wait, look for snippets in reviews of your past work that pertain to you as an author versus the specific work, and use those reviews in the front matter of your newest release. But always ask yourself why the hurry? Are the masses really clamoring for your book? Or are you just impatient?

A third reason for the long lead time is it takes time to develop a marketing strategy. If you publish your book and then decide how to promote it, you’re already behind. The truth is, you should be thinking about the marketing efforts when you write the very first page. Is there an audience for this particular book? Who are the ideal readers and how will you connect with them? Do you have a social media strategy? An advertising strategy? A blog strategy? Personal appearance strategy? Traditional media strategy? If you’re going to compete against traditional publishers and authors, you will need all of these—and whether or not you realize it, you are competing against them.


If you’re interested in a full year of in-depth marketing for your book, check out our 52 Weeks of Marketing Success, which delves deep into finding your target audience, connecting with them, social media strategies, advertising strategies, and much, much more.

p.m.terrell is the internationally acclaimed, award-winning author of more than 21 books in several genres. Her first book was published in 1984 and she became a full-time writer in 2002. She has mentored authors for more than 15 years and is the co-founder of The Book ‘Em Foundation and the founder of the Book ‘Em North Carolina Writers Conference and Book Fair. For more information, visit www.pmterrell.com.