As a Latina First-Time Book Author, Here’s What I Would’ve Done Differently

Writing the book is one thing, and it's the most enjoyable part, but then you have to market and sell it

Suanny Garcia writing guide

 Credit: Suanny Garcia | Courtesy

Writing my book has been the greatest accomplishment of my life thus far, and I say that without hyperbole. For The New Latina, I interviewed 100 millennial Latinas and distilled their stories into one hundred beautifully crafted pages. To borrow a phrase that’s often used today, but one I’ve believed in for years: it is absolutely the book I needed when I was younger. Describing it any other way wouldn’t do its significance in my life justice. When I was younger — and I’m going to age myself and mention it was before social media — I didn’t have images of Latinas to look up to. I thought to be successful I had to be an actress or a singer. I wanted this book to motivate Latinas to believe they could be anything, that their careers didn’t have to be in the medical or law field to be a success.

I wrote this book to tell stories that would guide Latinas toward success and help us overcome the impostor syndrome that shadows us as the “first” to achieve so many milestones in our families. Publishing the book brought many successes, but today, I want to focus on the failures — or as they call them in corporate America, “learning opportunities.” These are the things I would do better next time and the lessons I want to share with you so that you’re prepared as you write your own book.

Writing the book is one thing, and it’s the most enjoyable part, but then you have to market and sell it. I want to prepare you for what’s to come. So, let’s dive into the nine things I wish I had known as a first-time author.

  1. Consider your publishing options 

I am truly grateful for my publisher because they gave me the freedom to create without much interference or restriction. I will always be thankful for that. Yet, nearly three years later, I often wonder what might have happened if I had explored other publishing options, especially with someone who had expertise in Latinx publishing.

At the time, I didn’t realize that shopping around for publishers was even possible for a first-time author. I felt fortunate to have found a publisher at all, thanks to a series of serendipitous events. To make a long story short, I met my publishers at a restaurant while having a casual conversation with a group of people. I mentioned I wanted to write a book, and they let me know they were book publishers. Since I knew little about the publishing process as a first-time author, I was grateful they were even interested in learning more.

I still am grateful for the opportunity, don’t get me wrong. But I never even considered pitching my idea to other publishers — I didn’t know that was an option. So now, I’m telling you, you do have options. Whether through an agent, Publishers Marketplace, or word of mouth, you can and should shop around for publishers to find the best fit, even as a first-time author.

  1. Doing everything yourself 

You’re going to have to do everything yourself — much more than you might expect. If you don’t hire an agent, a marketing team, a public relations team, or a tour planner, you will have to take on all of those roles. It’s not your publisher’s job to handle these tasks, which was a reality check for me. If you ask any author, they’ll tell you publishers “don’t really assist all that much.”

Here’s a solution: if you have even a small budget, consider hiring someone to help with these crucial tasks. If I had to prioritize one area, it would be hiring a professional for social media and marketing. Creating content and promoting yourself takes a lot of time and effort. It’s best to hand this task over to an expert who can develop your social strategy, edit videos, and manage your content calendar. Content will be one of the most important ways to spread the word about your book, so investing in this area will be highly worthwhile.

I also recommend joining a community of authors who have been through the process. It’s important to get second opinions and support when you’re navigating this for the first time.

  1. Start public relations [PR] efforts well in advance  

I definitely waited too long to start the PR for my book. Since I was doing everything myself, I didn’t have time to work on PR while writing, so I had to wait until after the book was published. This was already too late. PR for your book — pitching editors, sending advanced copies, and crafting a newsworthy story — should begin months before your publication date, sometimes even a year in advance. 

Fortunately, my background in PR helped me successfully pitch my book and story, securing some valuable press. However, in hindsight, better timing could have made a significant difference. Here’s my suggested timeline:

  • 6-12 Months Before Release: Develop a comprehensive marketing and PR plan.
  • 4-6 Months Before Release: Start planning your book launch event and focus on building your email list.
  • 2-4 Months Before Release: Send out advance copies, schedule media appearances, and set up pre-orders.

Following this timeline can help ensure your book launch is set up for success. I now teach authors (and entrepreneurs in other industries) how to handle their PR and marketing efforts because I now have a better idea of how to work the system.

  1. Understand the importance of presale timing  

Now, let’s talk about timing. While I did most things right when I published my book, I got the timing all wrong. You might think the presale period is a time to relax — you wrote a book, it’s going to print, and soon people will start reading it. Unfortunately, this is absolutely not the time to relax. *Cries in Telenovela*

The presale period, the three (or so) weeks before your publishing date, is crucial. This is when you can get your book accolades and onto bestseller lists, such as #1 new release on Amazon (which isn’t very difficult if you place it in a strategic category). If you’re publishing with one of the big five publishers, this is when they determine if you’re on any bestseller lists. Many lists won’t consider you unless you publish with a big five publisher but it’s worth looking into. To learn more about Latinx publishers or how to find a book agent, check out Latinx in Publishing.

  1. Timing your Amazon launch

In line with timing efforts, I didn’t publish on Amazon soon enough. Being on an Amazon bestseller list is a key method for growing your book’s visibility — and to help you gain authority as a first-time author. Simply put, it’s just simpler to get on an Amazon’s bestseller list than it would be anywhere else, in my opinion. Amazon makes it very simple for the author to achieve this due to its reach and accessibility.

To get on a bestseller list, you need to achieve a certain number of sales within a specific time frame, usually during the presale period.There are many strategies to achieve bestseller status, but a crucial one is understanding which category to place your book in and avoiding categories with heavy competition. In some niche categories, selling between 100 to 500 books in a short period can get you on a bestseller list. That’s why it’s essential to strategically plan the presale period to maximize your book’s success.

  1. Hosting in-person events [book launch party & book tour]

I did have a small book launch party, and I’m so glad I did, especially because many of the Miami-based women featured in the book attended. However, I didn’t go on a book tour, partly because we were just getting back to in-person events following the pandemic. Here’s what I know about in-person events: they are very effective for driving book sales.

Even if you don’t have the budget to fly across the country, you can still organize a book tour in your own city and nearby areas. For instance, you can host events at coffee shops, bookstores, or even colleges in your city. Often, you can arrange these events at no cost because businesses appreciate the exposure to new customers. And don’t feel you have to make it a fancy event with a moderator — just having a friend take the lead on instructing people will be helpful. I also read a few chapters of the book and that gave the event a much more intimate feel. 

I hosted my book launch party at one of my favorite spots in Miami. Since I already knew the owner, he allowed me to host it free of charge, knowing it would bring in a crowd.

  1. Budgeting: plan ahead! 

Speaking of a budget (once again!), everything falls on your budget. That’s it. But seriously, all costs are your responsibility, so plan ahead because you will need a budget. For example, if you want to hire a marketing assistant, a PR firm, host a book launch event, or any sort of event related to book promotion, the cost will typically fall on you. 

If you’re looking to keep your promotional costs low (under $1,000), you’ll need to think creatively to offset expenses. For example, if you have a large social media presence, you could offer to promote the venue on your platforms in exchange for hosting your event there. Another option is to negotiate a flexible payment plan with your personal assistant or any service providers you hire. Or opt to learn how to do something and do it yourself. For example, you can learn how to pitch your book to editors by taking my course and there are tons of other courses that teach similar things for first-time authors. 

Additionally, consider bartering services — if you have a skill or service that a company needs, such as graphic design, you could offer your expertise in return for their help with your promotion. By thinking outside the box, you can stretch your budget further while still achieving your promotional goals.

  1. Communicate design expectations

The last two are pretty minor “learning opportunities.” I tried to keep the most important mistakes up top while I still have your attention. Wink, wink. But I’m glad you’re still here because this is no less important! 

Although I love the cover design of my book and how it turned out in the end, I initially had a different vision and a designer I wanted to work with. Since my publisher covered the upfront costs, they had a designer they typically used. I didn’t learn this until much later, and while it wasn’t a huge deal to me because I liked their in-house designer’s work, it could be significant for others.

If you’re particular about design or if your book relies heavily on aesthetics, keep this in mind. Mention your design preferences in the initial book proposal or during the negotiation process to ensure you have a say in the final look of your book.

  1. Building your email list 

Last but not least! Did you know that nearly 50 percent of people buy something from marketing lists at least once a month?! In any endeavor, having an email list is a priority. It shields you from the whims of social media algorithms and provides you with an owned audience.

The fact is, people are much more likely to make a purchase from email marketing than they are from social media. There’s just something about opening your inbox that makes you want to open your wallet too. And now that I’ve launched a course on pitching press, I’ve learned the importance of having an email list. You’ll hear me asking everyone I know — do you have an email list?! If not, it’s time to get started.

Even if you’re not actively selling your book, you should still provide your audience with valuable insights related to its content. For example, if your book is in the self-help genre, you can share content that reflects its themes and advice, building anticipation among your readers. A highly effective strategy to attract new subscribers is to offer a freebie — a helpful PDF that teaches them something new and addresses a problem your book also solves — in exchange for their email address. This way, you can be confident that those who sign up are already interested in your book’s topic and likely to be engaged readers.

Above all, and not to sound like I’m writing in your high school yearbook, but above all: writing a book is an accomplishment in itself — you’re already doing amazing. If you need help with marketing it, I’m always here. 

You got this, amiga. I’m cheering for you!

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