Thursday, 13 July 2017

The Writer's Triathlon

by Jeanette O'Hagan

Cycling to the top of Mount Kosciuszko

'Everyone has a book inside them' or so they say.

Yet most people don't write a book and many who start one never finish it.  Finishing a book - a creative non-fiction memoir or self-help book, a novel or a book of poetry - writing or typing 'The End' on the last page of your magnus opum is a great achievement, a wonderful feeling.

Yet in many ways, that is just the beginning. Rather than a sprint, writing is more like a marathon, a mountain climb or, to be even more accurate, a triathlon. 'How so?' you ask. Let me explain.

A triathlon is a race that involves three legs - a swim, a bike ride and then a run (often 10k or more). It is a three stage race in which the competitor has to change gear, skill-set and tactics, and each of the legs involves endurance.

So, what are the three legs of the the Writer's Triathalon?  Penning, publishing and promoting.

Penning (or writing) the book

There are many forms of writing - journalism, report writing, poetry, articles, devotions, blog posts, short stories. All of which have their place and are worthy endeavours, but for this post my focus will be on writing a book - a novel or a memoir or some other form of creative non-fiction. The first step is writing or typing your book and this isn't as simple as it first seems.

To write a good book you need:

  • A great premise or idea
  • Good and contemporary writing style (or writing craft)
  • An understanding of story structure, characters and plot. 
  • Knowledge of your genre and audience. 
  • Multiple edits
  • Feedback from critique partners, beta-readers and editors.

This is the first leg of the triathlon - where you have dived into the water, swum against the tide and the waves, maybe found your head under water from time to time or with a noseful of salt. But despite all, you've preserved, you've made it to the end, and now you can rest of your laurels, loosen the champagne cork and let off the fireworks.

Yet, it is the end of the race only if you wrote the book for yourself and no one else - or perhaps close friends and family. If you want readers you need to front up at the next starting line.

Publishing your book baby

It's time to hop on your bike and start searching for a publisher. This means submitting to traditional publishers or it may mean publishing the book as an Indie author.  (I discuss the different approaches to publication here).

To publish you need:
  • Your manuscript 
  • A publisher (either big press, small press or your own imprint)
  • Editors and proofreader 
  • Formatting (for print and/or e-book)
  • A catchy and engaging title
  • A stunning cover
  • Blurb and pitch for the backcover. 
  • CIP registration, ISBN's etc. 
  • A printer 

Getting a book ready for publication involves a support team, time and knowledge. But once it's done, you can hold your book baby in your hands, you can smell the fresh ink, admire the gloss and lines of the cover, flip open the pages and just breath in the aroma. Your book is complete. Now surely, you can wipe the sweat off your brow and change out of those bike pants?

Sorry - there is one more leg to go.

Omega Writers Book Fair 2016

Promoting (or advocating for) your book

Isn't that the publisher's job? It might have been once, but these days you as an author are expected to advocate for your book, to promote it. And if you wait until your book is released - you've probably waited too long.

Promotion is hard for a lot of authors, especially if you, like me, are an introvert - not used to blowing your own trumpet. At the moment I'm doing the 30 authors 30 days challenge on promotion - and I can tell you it is stretching me with live Facebook posts among other things.

When we promote our book, we are making it visible, introducing it to potential readers - hopefully to people who will enjoy it and some of whom might pass it on to others.

To promote

  • Build your 'platform' (see here) - through your networks, connections and through social media (at least 3 months before your book is released, but really, it's never too early to start)
  • Have a social media presence
  • Have a website and possibly a blog
  • Start a mailing list
  • Talk about your book (but not all the time),
  • Connect with other readers and writers
  • Help others - it's not just about you

Leading up to and after the book release you can

  • Have a cover reveal
  • Give out advanced readers copies, ask for reviews
  • Put together a 'street team' - enthusiastic backers and readers that will help promote your book through feedback, reviews, shares of posts and links, and by buying your book
  • You might advertise - through social media or local press, radio etc. 
  • Have a launch - a physical launch (especially for a physical book)
  • or an online launch - (especially for a e-book). I recently had an online launch for my latest novella here
  • An author take-over - like a launch but gives slots to other authors of similar genres or audiences & so may attract new readers.  
  • A blog tour - I'm currently having a book tour for Blood Crystal here.
  • Giveaways and prizes  
  • Maybe talks are relevant groups - book clubs, libraries, schools etc. 
  • Sell your books at fairs and conventions
  • Continue to seek reviews or apply to review sites.
  • Join groups, be an active participant
  • create relevant and interesting content (memes, excerpts, short stories, teasers) etc that will draw people to your book
  • write the next book - and the next one - and the next one
  • star all over again - pen, publish, promote. 

But remember - that it's not just about spruiking your book. Readers and buyers will quickly turn off if it's just about 'buy my book' - make sure you have plenty of relevant and interesting material that draws readers to your sites, make genuine connections with others, be prepared to help as much or more than your receive.  

The third leg of the triathlon is more a marathon than the sprint. And it's not just one race. 

It's okay to write for ourselves, it's okay to write for a close group of friends and family, it's okay to write without being too worried who will read your book. If writing is therapeutic or a hobby or a way of expressing yourself. After all, other people play chess, or collect stamps or make quilts.  And we all have family commitments and church commitments.  None of what I've said is prescriptive. 

However, if we are serious about people reading our books, if we feel this is what God has called us to do - then we need to get our triathlon gear ready.

BTW love to hear your ideas on penning the words, publishing the book, promoting and connecting with readers.  

And you are welcome to join the ride with Blood Crystal blog tour.

Images c. Jeanette O'Hagan or used with permission.

Jeanette O’Hagan has just released Blood Crystal, sequel to Heart of the Mountain with four short stories coming out this year. in Crossroads anthology, Futurevison and two other anthologies  Jeanette first started spinning tales in the world of Nardva at the age of eight or nine. She enjoys writing secondary world fiction, poetry, blogging and editing.

Her other publications include The Herbalist's Daughter: a short story and Lakwi's Lament: a short story. Her short stories and poems are published in a number of anthologies including Glimpses of Light, Another Time Another Place and Like a Girl. Jeanette is also writing her Akrad’s Legacy Series—a Young Adult secondary world fantasy fiction with adventure, courtly intrigue and romantic elements.

Jeanette has practised medicine, studied communication, history, theology and a Master of Arts (Writing). She loves reading, painting, travel, catching up for coffee with friends, pondering the meaning of life and communicating God’s great love. She lives in Brisbane with her husband and children.

Find her at her Facebook Page or at Goodreads or on Amazon or on her websites or Jeanette O'Hagan Writes . if you want to stay up-to-date with latest publications and developments, sign up to Jeanette O'Hagan Writes e-mail newsletter.


  1. Great post Jenny. Love your analogy too. You are so right. Makes me a little tired thinking about all we have to do - because it's a bit like 3 marathons in one if you ask me! :) Thank you for spelling it out so clearly and beautifully. I might copy your post for future reference too. A lot of great information in there! And congratulations on your latest book and your prolific writing!

    1. Thanks Anusha. I am thrilled to have another novella published. And yes, the word exhausting did come to mind. Still, the rewards are there and I'm enjoying the journey.

  2. Love ya work Jenny! I think of the naive girl I was back in 2010 when I self capture a wonderful description of me with "..maybe found your head under water from time to time or with a noseful of salt".
    What a journey writing is!
    I am so thankful for meeting so many terrific authors along the way!
    Well done to you for your writing achievements, feeling your joy from the sidelines cheering you on!

    1. Thanks Di. I think we've all had those head under water, nose full of salt moments :) Meeting other authors - and some lovely readers - along the way is a fantastic bonus to this triple marathon :)

  3. Thanks so much for this Jenny! I'm on the last leg of penning my memoirs for family and friends and have been wondering about stage 2 and 3 if it's a goer! Very helpful!

    1. Hi Wendy, congrats on being so close to finishing your memoir. Glad the post has been timely and helpful. All the best with the next legs of the journey.

  4. Good morning Jenny :-)
    What a fabulous post, bursting with information.
    I am of course restarting the 'penning' process for my book baby, but it will be worth every minute spent on it. I am hoping that my new first draft will be better than the first. Congratulations on your successful publications, and thanks again for all this wonderful advice and information.

    1. Hi Jo'Anne - yes, I admire your courage to keep going after such a devastating loss. But then, what else is a writer to do and I am positive that this next first draft will be better than the last. May the words flow.

  5. Great post, Jenny. How much nicer would it be for us introverts if we could just focus on the writing! I think the benefit of pre-publication is the chance to write the next book (& the next) before the crazy fun of promotion begins.

    1. Thanks Carolyn. I think you're write. Once one book has been launched on the world, we can't just focus on the next one = and often have all three streams occurring at the same time. Though they do say each new books helps sell the rest. All the best with your new releases.

  6. Great way of looking at, and thinking about the writing journey, thanks for sharing.

  7. This is amazing!! Thank you for writing this post. So encouraging and nice to have an idea of the whole process.

  8. Well said! It's so true. The penning part is the fun part...the other two are just painful. However, you won't get people reading without those parts!

    1. I love the writing part. Learning to love the others 😊

  9. Wow. Thanks for the comprehensive post, Jenny. Hope you got the sand out of your nose (and your bathers) in time for that bike leg. I'm still at the swim stage, currently doing the structural edit of the novel. But I've already been thinking about some of the tasks in Stages 2 and 3. It's hard to juggle all the balls and do it well, but you've been a fantastic model and inspiration. It's been great to follow you through the e-book process a couple of times, as well as the 'Glimpses of Light' experience. As soon as I get the sand out of my togs, I'll join you :)

    1. Thanks, Nola. Looking forward to biking and running with you. Though if it were a real bike, sand would be the least of my problems - whereas I know you can ride one 😊😄.

  10. Awesome Jeanette. I can see many areas where I 'scimped'. Will be back to read this post thoroughly after I take my elderly friend to her group and bring her home. Mmm. Well, that might take much longer than I plan 'cos her husband is sick.
    However, I DEFINITELY intend to follow up on this.
    Thank you so much for sharing so much valuable information... and I like the analogy.

  11. Thanks Susan. Hoping your friend's husband gets well soon. We are all on a learning curve and I love the way we can learn from each other. Glad you found the post helpful 😊