Hi friends, members and visitors,
As authors we have to sell ourselves. We run a one-person show and a wise author understands the necessity of putting yourself out there. But too often we are too shy (I know I am) and reluctant to push ourselves wholeheartedly on the public. This is a problem, especially given the competition we are up against. Established authors don’t have to worry about this. All the hard selling is done for them. So what are the protocols and how do we know when we are coming on too strong?
If we consider that we are in fact running an enterprise and detach ourselves emotionally from our work (rather hard to do given the huge emotional investment), we must start seeing ourselves as the CEO of our own business. As such, we are responsible for taking advantage of any and all opportunities that are either presented to us or which we create ourselves. It’s no longer good enough merely to show our face on social media. Marketing does not come down to any one practice, but ALL practices.
But, this comes with a risk and the protocols for spruiking our work are not clear cut. It comes down to one indefinable fact. Our audience. We must understand that we need to seek out our audience and keep them in mind all the time. Who are they? What do they want? What do they like? What are their dreams? Why would they invest in us and our work?
It is worth bearing in mind that there is a distinct difference between confidently selling our wares and arrogantly demanding people read or listen or respond. If we fail to understand this difference, we risk marginalizing the very audience for which our work is intended.
Arrogance Definition: Making claims or pretensions to superior importance or rights; overbearingly assuming; insolent, boastful or proud. Characterized by or proceeding from arrogance, or a sense of superiority, self-importance.
Confidence Definition: Having strong belief or full assurance; sure: confident of fulfillment.Sure of oneself. Having no uncertainty about one’s own abilities, correctness, self-confident.
If we approach this from an honest, sincere, confident and assured perspective, we cannot go wrong. Conversely, if we profess ourselves as knowing all and making others seem inferior, by what we say or do, then this will only achieve negative publicity. People won’t necessarily say it openly, but they will avoid you and your books.
Some of the most successful authors through history and up to today, have an air of humility about them. Having done the hard yards, their feet are well and truly on the ground. They are often self effacing, poking fun at themselves in a lighthearted manner when interviewed. This only enhances their reputation in the public eye.
If on the other hand an author seems somehow disconnected from their readership, from their fan base and from the general public, they cannot be successful for very long. There is one exception to this and that is writers whose work is so outstanding, so ingrained in the public conscience, that any personal failings can be and are often overlooked. As for the rest of us, we cannot afford to lose anyone.
We live in a give and take world. Indie authors have discovered for themselves that it is not good enough simply to have a great product. We must engage with our readers, listen to them, seek them out and strike up a conversation with them. The more we do this, the more personal our work will become to them. They will feel somehow connected to the work and to the stories and to the author. There are several ways we can do this.
Responding to reviews: I always endeavor to respond personally to reviews people have taken the time to write. Even bad reviews deserve communication. I remember a while back I put up one of my books for review and I got an email back from the reviewer who said she cannot post her review because she doesn’t, as a rule, post reviews less than three stars. I was gobsmacked. In my view it is pointless having a heap of reviews if all of them are positive. How else are the readers supposed to qualify our work? Books which have attracted a hundred five star reviews are either brilliant (of which there are not many truly brilliant books) or else suspicious. I welcome all reviews, even though I am frankly torn apart and brokenhearted whenever I receive negative feedback. I wrote back and said to her that she should definitely post her review, stating, “How else can an author learn if they only receive positive critiques?” Sadly, she declined to post it. I have for Star Child, received a two star review. I thanked the reviewer and asked him what can be done to improve the work and he told me. I not only took it on board, but wrote to him to tell him of the changes I had made and offered to send him the revised book.
Engaging with other authors: This is a no-brainer. We are, all of us, in the same ship (I was going to say boat but I don’t think we would all fit). It behooves us to support and communicate with each other. Many of the friends I made years ago I am still in contact with. Some, sadly, have slipped off the radar. Others are simply taking a break. Each of them have contributed to my journey as an author and I owe several a debt of gratitude for endorsing me and reviewing my work and conversing with me.
Offering Prizes: I no longer give my work away for free (with the exception of some of my audio books). This is because giving away your books does not work. People will grab them just because they are free and perhaps ninety nine percent of them will never read it. Of the other one percent, only a small number will actually take the time to respond. It isn’t because they don’t care or are selfish, as such, it’s just that people, by their nature, if they are not emotionally connected to the work, will not waste precious time giving it a second thought. This indifference is part of human nature and in no way a reflection of you as a writer or your work. Of the literally thousands of digital copies I gave away in the early days, only a very few actually bothered to read and respond to my work. But give away a prize, an actual physical book and things start to change. Despite the new technologies, readers still love to have an actual book in their hands. Make it personal, attach a letter thanking them for entering, sign the book. They will treasure it, even if they don’t immerse themselves completely in your work.
Word of Mouth: Word of mouth is still the marketing strategy of choice. People, especially young people, will read it and tell their friends about it. If they love it, they will loan it to their friends or get them to borrow it from the library or maybe even buy a copy for them for their birthday. Speaking of libraries. I now have my books in several libraries. Most libraries, if you approach them, will offer to buy your books. Local libraries especially enjoy books by local authors.
Local Promotion: I have sold more books at a local level than I have online. A clothing store manager who I do not know personally (well I didn’t then, but do now) told me the other day when I was in the supermarket, that when he got a copy of my book, Kipp The Copper Coast Kid, he was, well, a little indifferent. He explained that usually when someone tells him they are an author, he thinks, Well, are you now, well done, and then forgets about it. But after reading my book he had to tell me all about it. He said, “You can write. No, I mean really write. I loved it. I read it twice.” This genuine, un prompted exchange is what every author lives for, why they write in the first place. It gave me a great deal of pride (not the bad kind) and gave me confidence at a time I was severely doubting myself. So put your work in the hands of locals. Don’t be afraid or ashamed. Call yourself what you are, an author and never be embarrassed about it.
Social Media: I call this the necessary beast. Facebook, Twitter, WordPress, YouTube and many others are avenues to showcase your work. The more of them you subscribe to, the more likely you will be found. Not only that, but your name will show up in search results on google more often. When I first started I searched for my name a few times and I had to scroll through several pages before I found an obscure reference to me. Now, when I do the same search, there are several references to me on the first few pages.
None of this guarantees success and there is one and only one simple reason for this. The competition is so fierce that anybody with an internet account who claims to be an author is publishing their books. Many of them are, to put it bluntly, rubbish. But many others, like the members of PiA are anything but. I have watched some of you grow from single book writers, learning the craft, to fully fledged authors. Some even have their own small publishing house. Many of you have not just one, but two or more books to your name. And there is one thing that separates you from the ocean of other so-called authors. You are stayers. You are here for the long haul. You will outlast and outshine those lesser souls because there is true value in your work.
So be confident. Sell yourself. But do so with the reader always in mind. Be sensitive and don’t be overbearing. Don’t ever call yourself an aspiring author. You are an author. By virtue of the fact you have published your own book, makes you an author. But it’s the quality of what you do that stands above the rest. In years to come, when the oceans have receded and the islands have once more been exposed, you will walk on your island and people will see you from a distance and they will recognize you because they know your work. For they have read your books.