Embrace the fact that you are your biggest advocate. Don’t be afraid of it. While you will come across wonderful supporters along the way, it will always come down to you to advocate for your work.
Rae DelBianco is a former teenage cattle rancher, Duke University Robertson Scholar, and alumna of literary magazine Tin House’s summer workshop. With her debut novel releasing this year, she talks about building a strong social media following and being fearless above all else.
Please give us a brief overview of yourself and your work.
My debut novel, Rough Animals, will be published by Arcade on June 5th. Rough Animals is a No Country For Old Men meets Breaking Bad rural thriller with a take-no-prisoners look at female empowerment. Philipp Meyer, author of Pulitzer Prize finalist The Son, has called it “a brilliant, incandescent debut that will remind everyone of a young Cormac McCarthy."
After signing my book deal, I developed my Instagram account, using rural literary scenes with horses and old books to jumpstart open conversations about strong, language-driven literary fiction and classic novels. It now has a following of over 19,000 readers.
What made you want to be a writer? How did you begin writing?
As long as I’ve been a reader, I’ve been a writer. A love of books is, and has always been, at the heart of my desire to write.
What inspires you to write?
I’m inspired by any experience that explores emotions and their depths. My favorite novel, William Faulkner’s Absalom, Absalom!, spends endless pages on a single instant of human interaction, and since reading it I’ve been unable to shake my fascination with the power of small moments.
Do you have any advice for aspiring authors?
Embrace the fact that you are your biggest advocate. Don’t be afraid of it. While you will come across wonderful supporters along the way, it will always come down to you to advocate for your work, whether that’s taking a dozen rejections from agencies and turning around to query a dozen more, standing up to make sure your book gets the right cover, or taking the time to introduce yourself to local independent bookstores in person.
What do you think is the biggest marketing challenge for new authors?
Voice. As a book reviewer on Instagram, the messages I receive from new authors are often too humble, to the point of faulting their own book in their pitch, or entitled and demanding. The best marketing skill a new author can have is the ability to passionately and respectfully pitch their book. As readers, we are constantly looking for the next adventure. If I receive a pitch from someone who has taken the time to examine my reading taste and explains why their book is relevant to me, along with a concise and a compelling line or two of summary, I’m almost always excited to give it a read. Obsequiousness, entitlement, and form letters are all condemning habits that new authors must move past.
What methods of book marketing do you find the most effective?
I’m a believer in social media. In a world in which book review space in newspapers and magazines is endangered if not nearly extinct, I can’t think of a better way to reach readers than to go directly to them.
Any advice for approaching publishers?
I always recommend approaching publishers through a literary agent. A literary agent becomes an editor as well as a career mentor, and my agents’ critiques have guided Rough Animals to levels I could not have achieved without their insight. The agent querying process is also a litmus test. If your book isn’t ready for an agent, it’s likely not ready for publication yet either.
How do you handle rejection as a writer?
Rejection means you’re trying. It may still be painful, but as you quickly realize in this industry that there is no particular ‘yes’ that can make your career, there is no one rejection that can break it either. I was rejected by over 50 publishers on two continents before Rough Animals found its current home, and I would not be published if I’d given up at hearing ‘no’ 50 times.
Is there anything else you’d like to share with aspiring writers?
Be brave, above all else. If you’re fearless, you’ll write that ambitious novel to the absolute limits of your abilities, and won’t stop until it’s in the hands of the readers it was made for.