After The Call: How Should You Spend Your Book Advance?

"After the Call" is a new feature on my blog! It chronicles what happens after an agent offers you representation: how to choose the right agent, how to communicate with your new agent, what the revision process is like, etc. For previous posts in this series, please see the "After The Call" sidebar to the right.

I don't have a book deal. *Insert sad face*

But that doesn't mean I haven't thought about how I'd like to spend my advance! *Insert happy face*

In my daydreams, I often hope I'll get a large enough deal that will let me buy all sorts of stuff that I've been craving for years. A MacBook Air! A trip to Spain! A shopping spree at Anthropologie! A Ragdoll cat!

Short aside: I adore cats and I really want a Ragdoll because 1.) they're adorable, 2.) they have bunny-like fur, and 3.) they're very docile and friendly. But these freakin' cats can cost anywhere between $700 to over $2500! Yipes!

I haz high price tag. 'Cause I poop out diamonds.

But when it comes down to it, I'll probably spend my advance on more practical things. Like placing it into savings. (Exciting!) Or using it as a down payment on a house. (Whoa, so fun!) Or putting it toward marketing my book. Ah, yes. Marketing. The word we shy writers fear like the plague. (Marketing! Boogity boo!)

But marketing is a necessary evil when it comes to publishing. Thus, here are a few things you might want to think about once you get your first check in the mail:

1.) A website. 
About a month ago, I came across a cool-sounding book on Publishers Marketplace and I decided to Google the writer. Unfortunately, I couldn't a website. Or a blog. Or even a Twitter account. I was majorly bummed 'cause I wanted to learn more about this book! Moral of the story: you should get a website. After all, your website will be the number one way in which people will find you on the vast interwebs.

If you're a do-it-yourself kind of person, you can try your hand at making your own website. My agent-sisters Jessica Spotswood and Robin Talley created their websites/blogs through WordPress and their sites look clean and professional. As for me, I made my website through free site where you can create Flash-based web-pages. (I do, however, pay about $70 a year for my domain name and hosting.)

But if you'd rather hire a professional to create your website, there are a lot of options to choose from. For a more affordable option, you might want to poke around Etsy because a lot of graphic designers offer their services there. (I like this shop.) Or you might want to hire a designer who specializes in author websites. Biondo Studio, for example, has created some awesome sites for writers like Rebecca Stead and Jenny Han. (I'm in love with Jenny Han's site. Adorable!)

2.) Author pics. 
Ah, author pics! You know you've truly arrived once you get these taken!

In my mind, author pics are a lot like author websites: they're useful for publicity and marketing but you have the power to decide how much you want to spend. If you have a decent camera, ask your spouse/best friend/mother to take a few shots of you. Author Gayle Forman had her husband take her photo by the Manhattan bridge. (She blogged about it here.) If Gayle Forman is a DIY-er, then so can you!

But not all of us have photograph-savvy relatives. And so, you may also want to hire a professional to capture the picture that will grace the back cover of your book. Places to look for a photographer? Wedding websites, your local university, Craigslist. You'd be surprised--a lot of great photographers advertise on Craigslist. Don't hate!

3.) Book swag. 
Postcards. Bookmarks. Pens. Swag is a way to promote your book and get your name out there. it necessary? Agent Jessica Faust has a great take on this matter:

A client once asked me if I thought she should reorder her promotional items and my response was that she really seemed to enjoy her items. She loved passing them out to readers and potential readers and using them as a way of introduction. She agreed. To her they were fun. She reordered. Promotional items don’t do any good without a personal connection. If they are simply picked up off the table they only become another pen at the bottom of a purse.

So if you're the type of person who enjoys meeting new people and who doesn't mind a little self-promotion, then you should consider getting some swag. You can give it away on your blog or mail it to your friends or give it to your mom so she can do the work for you. (That's what mothers are for, right?) Plus, I think swag is a great way to do marketing if you're kind of shy. If someone asks about what you do, you can just hand them a bookmark! Easy as pie.

4.) Book Trailers
Book trailers are all the rage now it seems---I've seen trailers for books that won't come out until 2012 and I've seen trailers for books that don't even have deals yet! A book trailer can be a great way to celebrate your novel but here comes the ever-important question: is it really necessary?

Hmm, the jury is out for me. I think, right now, a book trailer is something fun to show to your friends and family. I also think a book trailer may be a good idea for a big-time author to stir up excitement for a new book. But I haven't bought a book based solely on a book trailer---and I haven't heard of many other people doing so either. Perhaps in a few years a book trailer will be necessary for marketing but I don't think this is the case at this point in time.

Still, if a book trailer is something you want, then go for it! A few book trailers I've liked include Maggie Stiefvater's video for "Linger" (it's pretty amazing) as well as the trailer for "Sense and Sensibility and Sea Monsters."

To close, I'd like to post another quote by Jessica Faust because she is incredibly smart and spot on:

So what is my feeling on what you can do to sell your book? The truth is that the best thing you can do is write the best book of your life and follow it up with an even better book. The rest, the Web site, the blog, the pens, the postcards . . . should only be done if they are fun for you. If you use them to make a personal connection with potential readers. Remember, the point of promotion is not just to pass things out to those who love you and your work already, it’s to introduce yourself to someone new.

Bottom line: the best way to market yourself is to write a damn good book. The other stuff can help but it's all about the writing, baby.

Guess I'm going to buy myself a Ragdoll cat! I'm kidding! Kidding.

Kind of...

So what do you guys think? What do you plan on spending your advance on? And what do you think of book trailers?