Andromeda Romano-Lax: Making the Most of the Wait, Part I: Relationships and bridges

Many of my book coaching clients are currently seeking agens for finished manuscripts or, in the case of some pursuing hybrid publishing, already in the pipeline with pub dates set for their work. The most common comment I hear, whether a new author hopes to be published in 2022, 2023 or later, is “It’s so long a wait!”

And it is. But equally true is how fast those months fly. The greater the competition in publishing, the more media noise (and fewer actual book reviews) clamoring for our attention, the more an author has to do herself—whether she is conventionally published or self-published, and whether or not she has the help of a paid publicist. All of this takes time.

Even if you’re still in revision mode, with no contract, it’s never too early to start laying some groundwork. Trust me: I won’t be telling you to go out and get a million strangers to follow you on Twitter. Yes, you’ll need a platform—but that concept has nuances. Before I lose you, let me promise that what you’ll do in the years leading up to your publication can actually be rewarding, creative and in the best world, about real relationship-building, not selling.

I used to think a book’s promotional period was like a pregnancy: six months pre-pub, three months after. Then you were allowed to move on. Now I think pre-pub is a two-year phase, and post-pub up to another two years, if you’re lucky and your book has legs. What used to be a pregnancy now feels like four years of college. But like college, it can be profoundly educational. I just wish someone had taught me this stuff ten years ago. That’s why I’m writing this, sharing the lessons I missed and hoping it helps. (If it does, let me know!)

This post has two parts.

You’re not selling anything to readers yet—no cover, no purchase links—and that’s a blessing. In addition to finding an agent and/or publisher, you are finding your way into a community and starting to build bridges so that people, including readers but also fellow writers and maybe even some “influencers” (that dreaded word). The brilliant Allison K. Williams and Ashleigh Renard (, who host an excellent free webinar series and moderate a closed Facebook group for platform-builders, actually talk about platform as a bridge. In other words, it’s not something you stand on and shout from. It’s a way to reach out and be reached—often quietly.

Relationships with authors: Here’s the main thing I wish I’d learned earlier, and my savviest author friends say they same. Why didn’t we reach out more, especially when the stakes were low? Why didn’t we follow every satisfied reading with a quick note of appreciation to the author, whether that person is famous or a debut author, a national star or a person we admire who lives in our town or region? Most of our emails won’t get replies. Most casual interactions won’t lead to deep relationships. But some will. And though you shouldn’t be focused on outcomes—that’s the road to despair—it’s just possible that an author you befriend via email or social media, or the author whose work you recommend visibly and often, will be the one to blurb your book, provide an agent introduction, co-host an event, or help spread the word about your future work. The key, as with most platform building, is to expect nothing, be authentic, and only do what gives you pleasure and meaning. This tip is so important I wrote this entire post just as an excuse to evangelize on this point. Reach out!

Website: Yes, you need one, and it can be basic at first, upgradeable once your book is pubbed. Don’t overthink or expect too much of it. Don’t park blogposts there (and nowhere else) and expect the world to find you. That happened back in 2004. Not anymore. It’s just a calling card.


Social media. Some literary authors survive without bowing down to Facebook, Twitter and Instagram, and more power to them (they probably have another way of getting attention, like writing in The Guardian). For the rest of us: Jane Friedman uses the term “marketing trifecta” to encompass your website, your newsletter list—yes, you should be capturing and saving contacts’ email addresses for years, so that can send a few big mailings when your book is published, if not more regularly—and at least one of the main social sites. What I wish someone would have told me: you don’t have to excel at all of them. If you’re a digital minimalist, just pick one.

FB (Facebook) is mostly about people you know or once knew IRL (in real life), except for its closed groups, which in my opinion are where the less argumentative, more helpful interaction takes place. Especially for women and BIPOC writers, there are #binder and other groups that specialize by genre, geography or interest. If FB seems like a wasteland, spend less time on the main feed and go searching for the hidden tribe you’d actually like to engage with. Tip: group size matters. Too big and you won’t as easily forge real connections.

Twitter is all about sassy conversations, and you’ll do best here if you’re witty and attention-seeking, good at the quick riposte (I’m not), with an appetite for indignation and/or politics. Even so, it’s possible to be a Twitter minimalist, using it mainly to thank readers or others who mention you (which you’ll easily know via notifications and don’t have to check frequently).

Instagram (IG) is more visual and somewhat less interactive, making it a mellower, quieter place for promoting books—the happy place for #bookstagrammers and people who proudly announce #amwriting, #amrevising, and so on. Do you need to use hashtags on IG? Only if you want new followers to find your posts. (So: yes.)

Stop lurking. The key to all these social media sites is to not lurk and, when possible, avoid endless scrolling. Accept this tip from someone who, until recently, did everything wrong. For my first two IG years, I scrolled—aimlessly—through Instagram, “liking” images, but not always. Here’s the silly part: I didn’t leave comments because I didn’t want the people I admired to see that I was wasting time on Instagram. I left the site feeling empty, like I’d tried to connect with something—pretty travel photos? food and flower pictures?—and somehow failed. Often, I visited only to see the post of my two kids and a couple closest friends.

Then I started learning about the importance of engagement and using social media with a purpose. If you want IG to help you as an author, you need to truly interact—leaving comments of four words or more (to affect the algorithm), prioritizing interaction with the people and sites you actually care about, including “comp” (comparison) authors whose readers might someday overlap your own. When people interact with you, the IG algorithm shows your posts to more people. If you lurk, or if your posts don’t inspire interaction, you get zero networking traction and your posts are hard for others to see. I know one author who never scrolls at all. She goes directly to those accounts with which she wants to interact—quickly on, quickly off.

If you’re already on IG, give it a try. Comment more. If you want to interact with someone notable, turn on notifications for that person only, and comment sooner. If you want people to interact with your posts, ask a question, be personal, and if you’re comfortable, show your face. (Do as I say, not as I do: I’ll admit I show my face only once every five or ten posts.) If you want to learn more advanced IG or Twitter techniques, take a webinar.

Most important, if you already have something to promote, don’t flog that book or product more than one post in five or ten. Hard selling turns folks off. Find some role models and watch how they operate—boosting the work of others more than their own, i.e. “literary citizenship”; teaching, entertaining or making the world more beautiful with their pictures or quotes; and sharing just enough with oversharing.

Here are a few of the ways I’ve benefitted from my modest Instagram (only 450 followers), Twitter and FB closed group engagement in the last six months:
• Got to know an author acquaintance from real life better; she’s agreed to partner with me on an upcoming virtual event
• Got to know about dozens of new novels in my favorite genre and bought many of them
• Got last-minute invites to virtual literary events that I would have missed, featuring authors I admire and hope to meet someday IRL
• Had the pleasure of boosting others’ books by posting covers and event links
• Discovered a niche community of Canadian book bloggers I’d overlooked
• Was asked for an interview by a top book blogger
• Was asked to be a guest on a cooking show, featuring my forthcoming novel
• Was asked to submit an essay on a specific topic to a literary journal
• Was invited to participate in a book festival

In truth, those last four items—which mean a lot to me, since I have a new novel appearing Feb 1., all happened in just the last two weeks. But I hope you notice that I spent many months before promoting others’ work. Now it’s my turn, and people are being exceptionally kind.

If you try all this and don’t like it, leave it. If your writing is high-caliber, you’re not using your public persona to sell your work (as chefs, exercise gurus, self-help folks and some memoirists must), and you despise the negative side of social media (valid!), you can de-emphasize DIY marketing. But do so because it’s a choice—not because you simply don’t know how to start. And if you do start, follow me on Instagram.

Andromeda Romano-Lax is a book coach and the author of the forthcoming ANNIE AND THE WOLVES (Feb. 1, 2021), her fifth novel, called “Engrossing…a winning anthem of female power” by Publishers Weekly and “One of the 2021’s Most Anticipated Historical Novels” by Oprah Magazine.

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