How To Deal With Well-Meaning Friends and Readers

My guest today is Laurie Foston, author of science fiction and Christian genre as well as juvenile fiction, who also publishes under the name of Cheryl Henry Hodgetts. Laurie discusses how to deal with people who don’t understand the work involved in writing and promoting a book. Laurie says:

Here’s a comment that I borrowed from a New York Times Bestselling author, Rebecca Brandewyne. She’s the real deal in self-promotion. Anything she could join, create, or pass a test with flying colors to enter…she did!

This is her version of some well-meaning responses to your work when they find out you’re an author. I get this all the time.

“The vast majority of people think writing is easy and they, too, could be a writer – or, at least, a storyteller. In fact, put a published author in a crowded room, and invariably, almost everyone in attendance will have a story to tell that ‘would make a great novel!’

Inevitably, as well, they are ‘going to write a book someday, whenever they find the time to get around to it.’ A ‘few months – or even weeks – ought to suffice.’ But then again, upon reflection, they ‘really just don’t have the time, and in all honesty, they were never that good in English class, besides -‘

Frequently, at this point, the more enterprising of those present will actually offer to ‘let the author write it all down for them, sharing the proceeds fifty/fifty….’

Virtually every published author alive has experienced the above scenario – or some other version of it. The truth is, however, that far from being so easy that everyone could do it, writing is a highly demanding, competitive career, requiring a tremendous amount of self-discipline and solitary hard work.”

I would add here the obvious…they unwittingly want to reduce your joy to ashes…your hard work and success of the actual finished product to ” nothing-to-it.”

Knock yourself out then! Go ahead…bet ya can’t even get one page written down even if I gave you the plot.

Am I being harsh?

Before your publisher will take your submission for editing, you must read it three times. First for concept, then for plot holes, and other editing problems and then a line-by-line edit to make sure you didn’t let the word “two” get through as “too.”

As your book goes through production with your publisher, you will get the manuscript back and forth until you and the editor finally come to blows one way or another. It’s either going to be their way or yours. (So who do you think will win?) When the final proof comes, you must get someone to proof it besides yourself and YOU must read it twice.

Then you must find some way to survey it to make sure postproduction errors are corrected and sent back before too many people decide you can’t write. This takes another line-by-line editing to get the postproduction errors that people have found. (Family and friends will let them pass)

A quotation mark is backwards…there is a sentence repeat on such and such page, a run-on sentence slipped past twenty editors…and the list goes on.

This is hard work and if authors follow these steps they deserve their titles. Let no one try to steal your crown. You put up with the tattered nerves, fear, hair loss, intimidation, and struggled to stay above water while people acted as though writing were a mental disorder rather than a gift as they asked where you were while you pounded away at the keys.

Seriously, this type of reaction from people makes me rant and rave.

Forget the naysayers…..

Get online! Get online everywhere!

I hope everyone understands that only the comments in Italics were actually off Rebecca Brandewyne’s site. The other ravings are those of my own. I could add to hers so easily. If people really knew how hard it is to work with publishers and sometimes editors, they would not think so lightly of the books resting on their bookshelves. That is an amazing accomplishment. But others need to know about it.

This is not a downer but it starts out with a touch of gloom!

I was on TV the day of my first book signing. I sold two books that night and those were to the same relative. My book came out at the wrong time….December 16th and the people going through the mall never even stopped to look at me. They ran past me as fast as they could to the Harry Potter books.

My first press interview, they talked more about John Grisham’s house across the street than they did my book. Then they gave my name as Hayes and my pseudonym as Lori Foster instead of Laurie Foston. We are two different authors.

I believe in holding a foot in every corner. Network, set up signings, join everything you can on the Internet, hook up with celebrities and watch them progress from 15 to 500 friends in one month’s time. What did they do to attract? Just be themselves! Be human! Sometimes we all get riled up! After their friends add up to more than they can handle…they get themselves a webmaster. (Wouldn’t that be nice?)

I have bought most of my books from Amazon’s forum discussion board authors, Facebook authors, or people who write me from Facebook and tell me about a good book. I buy from looking at their picture. I bought a lot of Rebecca Brandewyne’s books because she boldly posed herself on the back as the Damsel in the story when she first started out. She was just s-o-o-o-o a part of the story that she had to have herself in it. I bought it hook, line and sinker. Then loved the books.

Then I get on Facebook and see some authors who look like they may have a story that I haven’t heard before. Their picture tells a lot.

Take Pat Bertram’s picture for example. Pat’s picture and the kind of blurb on the back of her book match up. Sounds weird? She’s got the look of, “Rhythm-Rhythm-arie, I see something that you don’t see!” She’s spunky and has a spark of fire in her smile! Then I go to her book title, “A Spark of Heavenly Fire” and “More Deaths Than One.”

I’m sold!

Incidentally, Pat could have used the title “You Only Die Twice” and with the knowing look in her photo, she could have sold it that way too.

What? She looks like she knows something…she does!

I go to Amazon forum to Amazon Shorts ( always sign into Amazon people…get on a thread discussion…forget the naysayers…go to a forum! Every time I jump into the middle of an argument in a religious forum, I sell a batch of books. I always speak on the defense of the Lord, of course! I never have to say I am an author. They look up my name and there it is.)

Then I see a free short story advertised. (Still on Amazon right at this point!) I read it and I’m sold on buying the novel after I read the short story and see the picture of the author. He had a look like he had been in orbit.

If you have a book and don’t want to peddle bookstores, get on as many networks as possible. AOL, Yahoo, Amazon. Amazon will still be standing when brick and mortars tumble. Does your publisher have a web site that authors get on to exchange ideas? Get on there. You’ll learn how they promote their work and it will rub off on you.

Do you want privacy from the main public and want to keep your group small? Get on a Think Tank and the only people who can access that are the people you invite. Let them coach you until you are ready to take on the industry. If you have a message in your book, you have not finished what you were destined to do. You have to tell people about the message. Otherwise, it stays in the bottle and no one finds it out there in that huge sea of books.

People who have not authored a book have no expertise on the subject of how to promote a book. Your demographic area has a lot to do with local sale. However, you can take it to the bank from authors that you DO need to network and advertise to sell it no matter how big the publisher is or how long it has been out.

One more thing. In the case of Rebecca Brandewyne, the media works for her because she has degrees in journalism and communication. Unless you have a platform already on the media you will not be able to use the media as a first time author in the same way she did. I tried the media. I have a niece who was friends with the new channel hosting the “Morning Show.” They heard about the book, called my niece, and asked her for the chance to interview me because my publisher called them first. This made them look over my name and see that I had a family member working for their news channel. Thus one thing led to another and I was on that show. Things clicked together. Still the interview on TV did not affect my sales. I had sold all of my book stock to family and friends before the books came out to the public. John Grisham sold books out of the trunk of his car and even his platform in the House of Representatives could not land him an interview on TV for his first book. Media is great! Radio is great! But you need contact with your buyers. The greater salesmen will tell you that face-to-face sells more than a billboard!

If you want to sell without the media . . .  networking is the best source. Even John Grisham has a fan club on Facebook.

What Are You Doing to Promote Yourself? How Are You Creating Name Recognition?

This article was written by marketing consultant Sia McKye.

Your book is published, either by a traditional publisher, or a POD publisher, now what?  How do we build a reader base?  How do we get our name out there?  Even if you don’t have a book published yet, what can you do to get your name out there before hand? 

Promotion is a bit different than publicity.  Publicity is largely free.  Most of what I mention here is publicity.  Promotion/Marketing is something you usually have to put out money for-sometimes you will get some funds from your publisher for that, other times it’s out of your advance from the publisher.  Some authors pay a fees for certain industry website Ads, or a Bookseller’s list.  Taking an Ad out in Regional and National papers, or in a magazine.  Doing a tour of book signings. 

I have friends that have been published, both non-fiction and fiction.  Dr. Sy Garte, author of, Where We Stand: A Surprising Look at the Real State of Our Planet, made an interesting observation,  “I have gone through this with a non fiction book. Here is what I learned. Most [publishing] houses have a dozen or so books coming out at once. The publicity department is always overwhelmed. If you are a new author, they might not invest the same time as they do for an established author…don’t expect too much marketing investment for a first book, but try to push for as much as you can.” 

Dr. Garte’s book is non-fiction, and much of what he says is from his experience as a published author within that arena, but the information, from what I’m hearing from published fiction authors, is true for both fiction and non-fiction markets.  Bottom line here is that as a new author you will be spending a great deal of time doing both publicity and marketing for your book.  This will be almost full-time on your part for at least the month before and two to three months after release. The more contacts you have the better.  

Building a reader base, and getting name recognition is a must.  Blogging, industry website presence, personal author websites, and to a certain extent, social networks are a good start.  This is where an unpublished author can start building name recognition.  Do you have a book trailer?  Where can a reader see it?  On your personal website?  YouTube?  

Networking also includes, local libraries-get your books in the general area Public libraries.  This can be done by donation.  High School libraries are the same although some are extensions of the public library.  Look at your local newspapers can you ask for a review of your book.  Gina Robinson, author of Spy Candy, mentioned Book Reading Groups.  Getting the lists for those would be advantageous.  Ms. Robinson told me she also signed up on booktour.com to promote her various book signings.  She’s also sent out hundreds of post cards listing Spy Candy’s release and for upcoming scheduled book signings, to every contact she can think of.  Judi Fennell, author of In Over Her Head, uses RWA conferences and functions to get her face and name known, she has entered numerous contests and done very well-in addition to her website and blog. 

Don’t discount friends and family in your networking.  Many of them are proud of your accomplishments and would be willing to pass out your bookmarks-which should have the cover picture, a blurb, author website address, and your publisher website.  An important piece of information to include is where readers’ can purchase your book.  Are you on Amazon, Borders, and Barnes and Noble?  Bookmarks should be colorful to catch the eye.  If you get promotion books from your publisher, which most authors do, whether they are published traditionally or POD, send them out to your personal network to promote for you-especially, if they live in another part of the country. 

There are even small community papers that allow a person to write an article.  Authors should use their writing abilities here too.  Then there are the local radio stations that give free spots for community people and talk shows that will give locals some time for interviews and plugging of our books. Authors need to be aware of these venues. 

Local bookstores can be approached with books in hand and your bookmarks.  Are there other local authors in your area?  Could you approach a bookstore with the idea of a local author’s book signing?  Once we get our foot in the door, it will snowball. 

So what are you doing to get your name recognized?  What successes are you seeing?