Posted On March 18, 2013 by Print This Post

Kelsey Browning: 10 Tips for the Debut Author

Today’s post is brought to you by soon-to-be-published author and RU co-founder KELSEY BROWNING, who shares her tips for the debut author.

Among my friends, I have the reputation as a list-maker. They like to poke fun, but let’s face it, they’re jealous :-). But even with lists and an organized plan, it’s easy to become overwhelmed when you’re a debut author.

Where should you spend your time? Your money? Your quickly unraveling sanity?

Believe me, I’m still learning. But since my debut contemporary romance, Personal Assets, will be released by Carina Press on August 26, I’m trying to make the most of the five months I have between now and my release date. As you might imagine, my debut isn’t the only project on my plate, so I’ve implemented strategies to keep my projects on time and my sanity (somewhat) intact. Today, I’d like to share those 10 strategies with you.

1. Buy or make a planning calendar and make it visible. I use Microsoft Outlook as my calendar software and I printed each month on a separate sheet of letter-size paper. Then I bribed my son into taping them together. The result is a 2013 and 2014 calendar hanging on the wall behind my desk. I write (in pencil) all my due dates, vacations, release dates, conferences, etc. on it. This way, I have a visual reminder of anything impacting my production schedule.

2. Prioritize on paper. This isn’t a new concept, but for a debut author setting goals is critical. You need to know what you must deliver and when. In addition to the book, you should also make business goals and personal and professional development goals. I recommend creating yearly goals and then breaking those into quarterly goals. If something unexpected happens mid-year, it’s easy to adjust those quarterly goals. Post your goals somewhere visible and refer to them once every couple of weeks to determine if you’re still on track.

3. Know how long it takes you to write a book. Yes, I mean get down and dirty with how many words you write in a day, how many interruptions you tend to have during the time you’re writing a book (school holidays, family vacations, etc.) and how long it takes you to get it ready to send to your editor.

4. Set realistic production goals. Don’t promise what you can’t deliver. Your publisher wants you to deliver a new manuscript every three months, but you’ve never produced one in less than six months? Don’t say yes. If you know what you’re capable of, you’ll know what you can commit to without killing yourself or making yourself sick.

5. Schedule maintenance tasks rather than relying on your memory. I place reminders in my calendar to check my online real estate for accuracy (once a quarter), add to my Twitter follows (twice a month) and update my website (twice a month). If you don’t schedule these admin tasks, it’s easy to forget them.

6. Get control of your Twitter account. If you don’t already use a service like Hootsuite or Tweetdeck, I encourage you to. They make it easier to schedule your tweets. And by allowing you to separate the people you follow into manageable groups, these services help you keep up with the deluge of incoming tweets. Once a quarter, I schedule tweets that will direct followers to my blog and promote other writers. Then, of course, I fill in with normal tweets on a daily basis.

7. Create your book’s marketing plan. Yep, this is a big ole elephant and just thinking about it has most of us shaking in our PJs. I encourage you to put a plan on paper. It won’t be perfect, but done is better than perfect in this case. You’ll continue to refine this plan with every book you release. You might find Jenny Blake’s downloadable marketing plan helpful. It’s for a nonfiction release, but fiction writers can pick up some good tips and have a template to work from.

8. Accept that your first book launch won’t be perfect. We all learn through experience. As much info as you get from your friends, classes and blog posts, the promo for your first (and every!) book will be imperfect. Make time to do the promo tasks most important to you and best fit your personality.

9. Say no. You’re at a critical time in your career and it’s okay to concentrate on yourself and your work. You may not have time to judge a dozen contest entries or be your chapter’s secretary. It’s perfectly fine to say “No, thank you.” Once you get over that tiny bite of guilt, you’ll be glad you did.

10. Recharge often. When you’re caught up in the whirlwind of releasing your debut book, there’s always more you can do. But be careful of burnout. Is one more blog post really going to make you or break you? Probably not. Know your tolerance for work. Listen to your body. It often begins to show signs of exhaustion before your brain does. Find ways to refill the energy well you’re pulling from on a daily basis.

Even if you take these 10 tips for debut authors to heart, I can’t promise you complete sanity. However, when I feel like my work world is spinning out of control, they help me remain calm and focused. I go back to one of my calendars or lists, choose the most critical task and soothe myself with the knowledge that I’m on the right track even if I don’t accomplish everything.

Personal Assetsexcerpt.
Coming from Carina Press August, 2013!
Recovering good-girl Allie Shelby needs a man to help her find her inner bad girl, which is easier said than done in a small Texas town. She decides former football hero Cameron Wright is the cure for her critical sexual condition and proposes a no-strings affair. Cameron has nothing in common with Shelbyville’s self-appointed Dr. Ruth. Still, he’s tempted to check out her wicked side and discovers Allie’s bad girl is wickedly addictive.


If you’re a debut author, what strategies are you using to maintain your sanity? If you’re an established author, what advice do you have for the debut author? And for those who are pre-published, what have you done to make your debut smoother when it happens?

Oliver Rhodes, founder of Bookouture – a digital publisher of romance and women’s fiction – returns on Wednesday. Recently picked by The Bookseller as one of their ‘Rising Stars’ of 2012, he’s passionate about building global author brands.



Kelsey Browning writes sass kickin’ love stories full of hot heroes, saucy heroines and spicy romance. Originally from a Texas town smaller than the ones she writes about, Kelsey has also lived in the Middle East and Los Angeles, proving she’s either adventurous or downright nuts. These days, she hangs out in northeast Georgia with Tech Guy, Smarty Boy, Bad Dog and Pharaoh, a Canine Companions for Independence puppy. She’s currently at work on the third book in her Shelbyville, Texas, series. Give her a shout at or drop by

You can also receive Kelsey’s Sass Kickin’ Updates. She promises never to do anything underhanded, annoying or totally immoral.

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26 Responses to “Kelsey Browning: 10 Tips for the Debut Author”

  1. Hi Kelsey,

    I’m a list maker too. I missed many things when my first book came out. You’re ahead of the game by being so organized.

    Congrats again on your book!

    Mary Jo

    Posted by Mary Jo Burke | March 18, 2013, 7:00 am
  2. Kels, great tips! The saying “no” and unplugging from several loops was the hardest thing for me–also the best thing.

    Protecting your writing time is the absolute best tip.

    Can’t wait to see the cover for your debut!

    Posted by Tracey Devlyn | March 18, 2013, 8:13 am
  3. A big fat YES to every single thing you suggested, Kelsey! I used a regular wall calendar just for my writing and different colors of ink for different tasks.

    I most especially agree with #9 and #10. As a new author you’ll feel you need to be everywhere to get your name out and promote your book. But be careful. Burnout is a very real risk.

    Can’t wait to read your debut!

    Posted by Wendy S. Marcus | March 18, 2013, 8:21 am
    • Thanks, Wendy.

      Believe me, I know some of these things only because of my friends who’ve gone before me and taught me so much. I feel uber-fortunate to have such great friends in this business who are willing to share their wisdom with me – and I include you in that list!


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 18, 2013, 8:50 am
  4. Good morning, Kels! Where was this list two years ago when I needed it? LOL.

    For me, the most important lesson has been that the writing must come first. It’s easy to let marketing tasks and other business related things chip away at precious writing time, but someone once told me none of it will matter if there’s no next book.

    It took me a little while to figure that out and it was fairly painful because I had to cut out a lot of my writer loops and volunteering, but there are only so many hours in the day. There just wasn’t enough time for everything.

    I’m so excited for your upcoming series. Readers are going to love your books. So proud of you!

    Posted by Adrienne Giordano | March 18, 2013, 9:16 am
    • A –

      Yes, that writing first thing is becoming more and more apparent to me as my project load expands :-). I was thinking about this yesterday…a book is forever now with all the publishing avenues we have before us. So the more good books we can produce, the more income they can produce for us from here on out. It’s pretty powerful when you think about it.

      I’ve cut down on almost all my “extra-curricular” writing activities for now!

      On the readers loving my books, from your mouths to their ears :-D.


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 18, 2013, 11:43 am
  5. Morning Kelsey!

    Seriously? People mock you for your organizational skills and neatly aligned paper clips? how rude! =)

    I’m not sure I’ve done much to make a debut smoother, from what I understand it’s run run run! But if I ever get to that point, I’m sure I’ll be looking at your list! (and most likely saying “how does she DO that?”)


    Great having you with us today! Can’t wait for your book!


    Posted by Carrie Spencer | March 18, 2013, 9:20 am
    • Carrie –

      Can you possibly imagine who I was referring to when I wrote that my friends make fun of me?? 🙂

      Even though I had some of the infrastructure–website, blog, etc.–in place, I still have a ton to do to get ready for this debut book. That being said, I really am trying to place the writing first right now, even though there’s tons of “business” work to do.

      Can’t wait for YOUR debut!

      Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 18, 2013, 11:45 am
  6. Thanks for the tips! My first book comes out next month and, yes, the to do list looks longer every day. I’m trying to remember to stop every once in a while and look past my nerves and the stack of blog interview questions and the decisions about book swag and simply enjoy it. It’s a dream come true. Be happy.

    Posted by Ana Blaze | March 18, 2013, 10:06 am
  7. Kelsey, your post is overflowing with good advice for a debut author, for any author. I love lists. I love the feeling of accomplishment when you get to check something off. For me, learning to say no, and scheduling maintenance tasks are the two bits of advice that I especially need to remember.

    Posted by Reese Ryan | March 18, 2013, 10:57 am
    • Reese –

      I had to begin saying no a couple of years ago when my actual writing was suffering because of everything else I had my hands in. Now, I’m mainly saying “yes” to writing projects and possibly a couple of workshops.

      I can wait to read your debut out this summer with Carina Press as well! Wahoo!


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 18, 2013, 11:47 am
  8. Thank you, Kelsey for your tips. I hope to use them someday soon. All the best on your debut release, don’t forget to enjoy the moment with all those that have helped you on your way.


    Posted by Alexia Adams | March 18, 2013, 12:15 pm
  9. Hi Kelsey,

    I wish I were more organized like you. The only time I make a list and stick to it is when I throw parties. I’ll make lists for guests, menus, shopping, and prep. But when it comes to my writing, I’m a mess. I have a list of my RU dates scribbled on the back of an envelope, Notes for my ms are crammed into a file. So yeah, I am jealous of your organizational skills. 😉

    Very excited for your debut!

    Posted by Jennifer Tanner | March 18, 2013, 3:23 pm
    • Jen –

      If you can throw a party, you can make a list like this! You amaze me with the things you cook (and how). I know I sound anal, but I have a weekly review process that has helped me become WAY more productive because those little pieces of paper no longer get lost in the shuffle.

      Maybe I should hire myself out – LOL.


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 18, 2013, 7:38 pm
  10. Kelsey – Thanks for a great post! So many of my friends were excited, but also totally overwhelmed, when their books came out. Having a list like this to follow would take away some of the stress, I’m sure! Congratulations again on your sale – I can hardly wait to get your first book!

    Posted by Becke Martin Davis | March 18, 2013, 4:42 pm
  11. Great post, Kelsey! I’m SO excited for your debut!!!!

    I am a list maker, too; however, I never remember to look at said lists again. I like your calendar idea. I’ve been using a digital calendar but it’s not the same as having it hanging on the wall, staring you in the face every day.

    I wish I had some good promo tips, but I don’t. I do everything the hard way, so…


    Posted by Rebecca J. Clark | March 18, 2013, 4:45 pm
    • Becky –

      Thanks for taking the time to stop by.

      I have to say, I don’t look at my big calendar everyday, but it’s my planning calendar, so when I’m asked to do something or plan (God forbid!) a vacation, that’s where I go to see what I can pull off. Tracey Devlyn was my inspiration for that.


      Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 18, 2013, 7:40 pm
  12. Becke, Carrie, Jen & Robin –

    Thanks for letting me hang out yesterday! Enjoyed it.


    Posted by Kelsey Browning | March 19, 2013, 6:32 am


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