You Are Not Alone

Writing is by its nature a solitary occupation.

But writers don’t have to be alone.

We don’t have to channel our inner Robin from the Lego Batman movie when he asks himself, “What would Batman do?” and decides Batman would “go in alone!”

As authors we wear a lot of hats and have to learn a lot about a lot of things, but no one ever said we have to do everything alone, figure it all out without help, and build our readership in a vacuum.

One resource most authors end up with in spades is a fantastic secret weapon: other authors!

We’re all trying to build readerships and connect with fans, but one great thing about being an author is that we don’t have to consider other authors as competitors. Our industry is not like real estate or car sales. A book buyer won’t just buy one book and keep it for years. They buy books a lot, and there’s no way any one author can write enough to satisfy all the demands of all of their readers.

So we need other authors. Our fans need other authors. They actually appreciate it if we help them connect with other great reads.

So use those connections. Work with other authors to cross-promote your stories and reach a far greater fan base by helping each others’ fans get more great books.

This website – Fictorians – is one way for a large pool of authors to provide content that far exceeds anything we could do alone.

When it comes to book sales, there are lots of ways to collaborate and cross-sell. For example:

  • Guest blog on each others’ blog sites.
  • Include interviews with other authors in your newsletters to your fans, particularly if you don’t have any big news of your own to share with them.
  • Share other authors’ new releases and big sales events with your fans and via your social media. People like seeing that you’re not focused only on yourself.
  • Get into a book bundle.
  • Even if you can’t get into a formal bundle, there’s no reason you can’t cross-promote with other authors and set up sales to coincide with one of your launches. I’m beginning a cross-promotional, unofficial bundle like this with three other authors. I expect it’ll produce lots of results for all of us.

So keep writing. Do everything you can to push your craft and your career forward.

And look for ways to share the journey. It’s a lot more fun that way.

About the Author: Frank Morin

Author Frank MorinRune Warrior coverFrank Morin loves good stories in every form. When not writing or trying to keep up with his active family, he’s often found hiking, camping, Scuba diving, or enjoying other outdoor activities. For updates on upcoming releases of his popular Petralist YA fantasy novels, or his fast-paced Facetakers Contemporary Fantasy/Historical thrillers, check his website: www.frankmorin.org

You’ve got Mailing Lists

This month’s topic comes at a really fortunate time for me, as I am just in the process of building my brand right now. I have my first release coming up in about four weeks, with three other releases coming in 2018.

I’ve done most of the things the majority of books and blogs will tell you to do:

  • I have a website
  • I have social media pages devoted to my books
  • I have started a mailing list
  • I have a marketing plan ready
  • I have beta readers going through the first book

Most importantly, I have exciting books with engaging covers, professional editing and well-crafted sales copy.

So I’ve done it all, right?

Well, no. Certainly what I have above is only some of the most common suggestions. There’s plenty more you can do, the primary gates being time, money, and comfort level.

The other issue though is that I’ve built a house no one lives in. Without an actual launched title, there’s little reason for anyone to visit my website, subscribe to my mailing lists, care about my Twitter posts, and so on.

Discoverability is a huge challenge for someone just starting out, so I wanted to focus on just one thing I’ve done that has shown me some benefits. I wrote a mailing list magnet story, and I’m giving it away for free.

YOUR MAILING LIST

Let me cover why I’m focused on my mailing list. There are certainly a lot of other ways to get visibility including any number of advertisement options. I like the mailing list because of how much control I have over it and how personal a connection it would be with my fans.

Also, ‘focus on your mailing list’ might be the most consistent piece of marketing advice I see, right up there with ‘nothing will market your current book better than your next book’.

Of course, that doesn’t help me when I don’t have a book out yet. So a good writer friend of mine turned me on to the idea of a mailing list magnet. The idea being that you write a story set in the world of your novel and give that away in return for a sign-up to your mailing list.

So I wrote ‘Cracks and Crevasses’, a little 6k word short story that tells of the first meeting between the two main characters of my fantasy series. If you go to my website, you’ll see the option to sign up for my mailing list in return for a free story.

I worked with my cover artist to get a nice low-cost cover done that was still consistent with my branding. I had the story edited as well, since the whole point of the story was to introduce me to people new to my work. I wanted to make a good first impression!

I then plugged the story on my social media feeds and was happy to see many of my family, friends and writing associates go snap it up. My mailing list grew into the mid-teens, and there it stayed. Because no one goes to my website to begin with. I don’t have a book out, I’m not yet paying for any adds.

So what was the point, right?

ENTER INSTAFREEBIE

Instafreebie is a site that lets you give your story away in return for a mailing list sign up. You can run your own giveaway, or you can join dozens of other authors in targeted giveaways that can be focused on any number of themes. Each author then takes the links to that giveaway and tells their audiences about it – which is a much farther reach than a new author like myself could have!

I chose an optional opt-in method, which allows people who are downloading my story to decide if they want to sign up for my list rather than requiring it. I joined a few group giveaways along with my own, and in the process made a few new author friends who got excited about my story and plan to promote it to their lists.

My giveaways have only been running about 48 hours. As I write this, ‘Cracks and Crevasses’ has been downloaded about 100 times, and my mailing list size has doubled. Even the folks who downloaded but didn’t opt in to sign up for the list may sign up later – I made sure to include links to my mailing list and my novel pre-order on the back page of the story.

So as I said in the open, there are a lot of ways you can work on increasing your audience and building your fanbase. This is just one, and I’ve just started – but so far I’m happy with how its working out.

(A final note: The whole concept of the author mailing list and how addresses are collected and used is a currently evolving situation in light of the recent European GPDR rules. I highly recommend searching those rules out and finding a good advisory source to ensure you are compliant.)

How Often Should You Send a Newsletter?

I have a friend who writes sweet romance books. She releases often and makes quite a bit of money. I asked her where she felt she gets her biggest boost from. She didn’t even hesitate when she told me that her newsletter sells more books than anything else she does. Especially new releases.

A lot of people roll their eyes when they see the “Sign up for my Newsletter” box pop up on a website, but I have to tell you, that as of right now, a newsletter is a great way to connect with people.

There are a few distinct camps when it comes to newsletters.

The first are those that feel that newsletters should be few and far between. Only put them out when you have something important going on, like a new release or a sale.

The second are those that want a little more. Perhaps updates on current projects (tantalize those readers) and other exciting announcements. This camp doesn’t mind regular emails. Maybe once a month.

The third are those that want to know everything about the author. They want to know about their kids, their cats, their frustrations, their triumphs…everything and anything. These people are good with emails once every other or even every week.

None of these is wrong.

In truth, you should pick the one that’s best for you. Do you hate putting out newsletters? Does it stress you out? Don’t feel like you have much to say? Then do the first. If you like to engage your readers a little more, go for the second. If you love people and want to connect more personally, go for the third.

One thing that I appreciate is when I sign up for a newsletter, that the author or company tells me how often I’m likely to hear from them. That sets up the expectation in my mind, and I’m totally fine when my email gets hit once a week, or once a month, or once every three months.

Personally, I’m between two and three. I don’t have any children or pets, so I can’t regale people with tales of my mothering woes, pet antics or honey-covered kitchen floors. But what I do have is a nerdy husband who thinks he’s hilarious. So he has his own little spot at the bottom of my newsletter where I usually post some stupid meme he’s sent me that he thinks is funny. Sometimes he’s right, sometimes he’s wrong. But it’s always there.

I also include an update about what I’m working on or perhaps an announcement. If we’ve been on vacation I usually share some pictures. There’s a section where I generally share a giveaway I’m involved in or someone else’s book (a book that I think my readers will like). And then I have a permanent call for people to join my review team. And that’s it.

I send my newsletter out every two weeks. Once in a while that changes, but not often.

The biggest connections I’ve made are when I ask a question of my readers. What fandom do they love and why? What are they grateful for that day? Where would they love to travel? Things like that. Sometimes I get one answer, other times I get a lot more.

I attended a class on newsletters last year, and the presenter asked, “If your favorite actor/singer/famous person sent a newsletter of what they did that week, would you read it?”

Uh, yeah. I might. I mean, what is Harrison Ford doing today?

So think of yourself not as a bother, but as an addition to people’s lives. Don’t waste their time, but give them a reason to make some time for you. Even if it’s just a few minutes.

Speaking Engagements as a Tool to Build Your Base

One of the most feared things in the world is death, followed closely by speaking in public. Some folks equate the two as the same thing. Considering that most authors are solitary beasts that hide in their writing dens and poke keys and scribble lines that magically turn into stories, a suggestion that one should consider getting out in front of crowds and talking is up there with making your own medicine in your basement and doing a live-action game of Frogger™ at the Indianapolis 500®.

If you have anxiety or panic attacks about speaking, then it may not be for you. Don’t put yourself in a situation where you can have a medical emergency. If you were able to get through your high school or college class where they made you talk about goofy things for ten minutes before you could sit down, this might be for you.

There are plenty of organizations and corporations that are looking for folks to come in and give a positive speech about almost any subject. You may be wondering why a software company would want an author to talk to their programmers for fifty minutes. What do they have in common?

Turns out you can fit your self-motivated method of writing into almost any subject. For those programmers, your speech can range from watching out for repetitive stress disorders like carpal tunnel to methods to document your code (think building a worldbuilding bible) to motivational ways to tackle a problem (like your characters have to do to get out of a jam you stuck them in).

If you’ve never had to give a speech in front of a crowd, consider joining Toastmasters. You’ll get lots of excellent training and opportunities to practice in a safe environment. Their entire organization is dedicated to developing communications and leadership skills. You can connect with places looking for folks to give speeches, and there are local chapters all over the place — most likely there’s one in your neighborhood.

When you are ready to get your name out on the speech circuit, look for local organizations first. Businesses, charitable organizations, and even places like libraries, chambers of commerce, and military veteran organizations are looking to bring folks in to talk to their members. You can even combine some charitable service and giving a speech, like going to a retirement home and talking about writing memoirs.

Some professional writing organizations have a speaker’s bureau listing for their members. SFWA is one, and the Missouri Writers Guild is another.

So, if you give a speech and don’t explode on stage, what’s in it for you? The top of the list is getting your name out there in front of a bunch of new folks. Some businesses will buy copies of your books to distribute to their folks. Depending on how famous (or infamous) you are, you can get travel, lodging, and meals covered for distant speaking gigs. It’s similar to going to a convention, where you’re sitting on panels and getting some in-kind reimbursement like free con passes or access to the VIP green room.

And since we’re on the subject of conventions and panels, that is an excellent way to start your speaking career. You’ll get used to talking to a crowded room but you won’t be alone behind the table at the front. Sharing a panel spreads the load between enough folks that the time usually flies.

It may not be a traditional method of getting your name out or even building an email list, but it’s one more arrow in your quiver that you can use on your literary adventures.



About the Author:
DeMarco_Web-5963

Guy Anthony De Marco is a disabled US Navy veteran speculative fiction author; a Bram Stoker Award® and IAMTW Scribe Award finalist; winner of the HWA Silver Hammer Award; a prolific short story and flash fiction crafter; a novelist; an invisible man with superhero powers; a game writer; and a coffee addict. One of these is false.
A writer since 1977, Guy is a member of the following organizations: SFWA, ITW, WWA, SFPA, IAMTW, ASCAP, MWG, SWG, HWA. He hopes to collect the rest of the letters of the alphabet one day. Additional information can be found at Wikipedia and GuyAnthonyDeMarco.com.