Andromeda Romano-Lax: Making the most of your launch and the writing of promotional “supplementary essays,” Part Two.

Last month, I wrote about things you can do—like developing relationships with other authors and engaging authentically on social media—one to three years before your book is published. Today I’m going to talk about a narrower yet still significant opportunity window, up to a year before pub date and for many months after.

Obviously as you get close to your book’s birthday—say, three to six months away—you are going to want everything working: website, social media (if you didn’t start accounts or if you let them go quiet). You might decide to custom-design some bookplates. You’ll start getting your email list ready for at least one blast to announce your book, and more blasts if you plan to do a steady, regular newsletter for subscribers.

Especially once you have ARCS (advance reader copies, whether physical or digital), you might approach some potential interviewers or book bloggers—or at least signal your willingness for them to contact you by sharing information about your book on social media. The conventional wisdom may be that a publicist should do this sort of work for you. But some of us don’t have publicists. And even those who do may notice that a publicist’s hands are too full to be proactive in all matters.


I leave book reviews to my publicist, but I take an active role in getting complementary material—especially essays—published. If you’re lucky to have a big publisher and a very active agent, you may not have to pitch to magazines or newspapers. But call me crazy. I was a freelancer for years and I like ferreting out some opportunities and specialized audiences on my own. As for topics: if I’m asked to do a favorite book roundup or an op-ed, my answer is nearly always, “Yes, please, and thank you.”

Often, though, I have my own ideas for topics, and whether or not my publisher is patting me on the back, I’ll keep quietly pitching off to the side. Let me give you three reasons why.

One : Promotion, pure and simple. Any essay or blogpost that appears will function like a free advertisement reminding readers that I have a new book out—all the better if the essay overlaps some topic or theme in my book.

Two: Creative control. There’s a lot you won’t be able to control as your book rolls out (reviews, distribution, sales) and you may not be able to line up any interviews on your own, either. But here’s one thing you can control. Supplementary writing, even if it’s unpaid, can give the writer a welcome feeling of agency and buffer some of those new-book jitters. I can’t control whether my new novel, Annie and the Wolves, will sell out its first printing, though I’ll certainly be burning candles and looking for shooting stars. But I can control using this pre-launch moment as an extra opportunity to connect with readers about topics that matter to me.

Three: Practice for live events and honing one’s messages. This is the least obvious of the three. Writing essays over the last two months has required me to review the research that is the basis for my novel. It’s pushed me to articulate more efficient and candid answers to that old chestnut, “What inspired you to write this book?” It’s helped me start drawing boundaries around what I’m prepared to say or not say at upcoming virtual events. I’ll admit that I started feeling frantic in November when I realized how much time is consumed by this extra work until I realized it was saving me prep time right before pub day itself. Now that I’ve gotten warmed up to the task, I’m on a roll and enjoying the process.


Did I mention that I got busy writing ancillary material only a few months pre-pub? Do you understand why I’m now wishing I would have dug into this essential homework six or more months pre-pub, and why I urge you to do the same, especially if you’re feeling antsy?

On the other hand, there’s also something to be said about letting the present moment inspire you. Two of my not-yet-published op-eds mention Doug Emhoff (soon-to-be Second Gentleman) and the recent attempt at insurrection. But note: when topics are super timely, you’re in a competition with everyone else writing about today’s news.


Caroline Van Hemert, Alaska author of The Sun is a Compass, is a role model for writing the supplementary essay. She appeared in the New York Times less than a month into COVID with the essay “What the Caribou Taught Me About Being Together, And Apart.” Brilliant angle and timing!

In the same month-long period, she published her Outside piece, “How to Survive Quarantine with Your Partner” and her Vogue essay, “How a Year Living off the Grid with Kids Helped Prepare Me for the Global Pandemic.” In both articles, she used examples from the expeditions that are the subject of her memoir as well as from her lifestyle and applied them, in extremely timely fashion, to a subject of national interest.

But don’t let me give you the impression that Caroline only started publishing these great promotional pieces when COVID started. She found interesting, diverse angles and published a total of thirteen pieces in just over a year, starting when her book released, in spring 2019.

Even if you write fiction, keep an eye out for nonfictions angles to your work, since essays and op-eds (much more than fiction excerpts) are great ways to connect with your readers.

For the publication of Plum Rains, my 2018 novel starring a quickly evolving robot, I wrote for LitHub about the challenges of writing speculative fiction set in the near future. Note I never mention the title of my book, though I did write about my inspirations, themes, and opinions about the genre. I also wrote two articles for Medium, one about “Seniors in a Cyberage,” which was subsequently picked up by the publication “Predict.”

For the publication of Behave, my 2016 novel about behaviorist psychologists in the 1920s, I wrote one of my most-read articles: “Father Knows Worst,” a historical round-up of bad parenting advice, with direct reference to my main character, John Watson, who wrote a famous (and horrible!) parenting guide.

For my forthcoming novel, I’m writing some historically-focused articles about Annie Oakley, but I’m also writing some intimate pieces about my relationship with my father, who was a predatory child molester and—as it turns out—not my bio-dad at all. What does that have to do with my novel? Everything, as this essay explains. This personal essay is slated to run soon in a magazine called Severance, about DNA surprises and family disruptions.

I also have a short essay about my experiences as a young writer slated to run in the Brevity blog; a playlist (to accompany my novel) expected to run at a music blog, and an essay circulating about the psychology of revenge, among other nonfiction pieces I’m pitching. Every one of those pieces ends with a bio mentioning my new novel, of course. The more materials I generate, the more ideas I have and the more grateful I am not to be relying only on bookstores and reviewers—as wonderful as they are!—to help me spread the word.

If you’ve read this far, you may have started generating new ideas of your own, and you probably realize why this work should be started well ahead of launch day. But if your book is already out, don’t throw in the towel. There’s a long tail when it comes to selling some books and there’s no expiry date on interesting essays that help your readers find you.

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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