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.

Being a Successful Author — Magic or Work?

My guest blogger today is Sia McKye, a marketing/publicity expert. This is the follow-up to McKye’s article, “Getting Published: No Magic Wands or Treasure Maps.” KcKye writes:

As an author, nothing can be quite as exciting as receiving word you’ve sold your book and it’s going to be published.  You are over the moon and flying high.  Maybe even dreaming of the NYT Best Sellers List. Finally, you’re getting validation for all your work and hours of writing.  Everyone you know hears about it.  You’re discussing galleys, Arc covers, the artwork, blurbs, and author endorsements on your cover. Tossing terms around like Pub dates, Arc mailings, targeted print campaigns, web promotions and Reviews, library marketing, and author events.  Your book finally hits Barnes & Noble and you find yourself going in just to look at a book with your name on it. You take pictures.  You start being obsessed with Amazon figures on your book’s placement of the day or week.  You’ve got it made, right?

Keep in mind that just having your book in print doesn’t mean it will automatically sell-books don’t sell themselves, even if they are listed on Amazon–or on the shelves of Barnes & Noble. As a friend of mine recently reminded me:  “Over 195,000 new novels are published by traditional publishers in the U.S. every year. Of those, 70% sell fewer than 500 copies.”

Here’s another reason to aggressively market yourself and your books and the importance in building a reader base. 

Debuting authors are lucky enough to get a first print run of 10,000 for their book, depending upon the genre and your publisher’s confidence in your work (some can be as high as 20,000). You might think 10,000 is a big number until you start calculating book stores and Amazon.  It’s really a small run and it’s not going to hit the best sellers list with that number. If they sell only 500 copies or less, then the publisher eats the cost of having the other 9500 shipped back to them, at full cost, and made into pulp.  Publishers are not happy when this happens, but they have a contract with you, maybe for a three-book deal. Maybe they’ll recoup their losses on the second book?  If they don’t will they take another three books from you?  Or drop you like a hot potato?  Can you see where active promotion and publicity is vital? 

On the other hand, you’ve worked your butt off with marketing and promotion. You’ve built up name recognition on the Internet through Facebook, WordPress, Twitter, and Gather, MySpace and other social networks.  You’ve worked hard at blogging and building presence and attracting your consumers-readers.  You started this long before your book was even sold.  You continued even after your book was sold. You’ve written book reviews on books similar to yours, written anything and everything related to your books and also to you as a person.  You’ve made yourself a personality, with likes, dislikes, and interests.  In other words you’ve become a real person to your readers.  They see you share the same interests as they do, you chat with them. You build characters in your books; surely it isn’t that hard to project yourself to your readers?

Because your potential readers like you and have gotten to know you somewhat, they do name-dropping about their “good friend, the author.” 

“Oh yeah, I know Anna Campbell and she just released TEMPT THE DEVIL.  Highlanders, honey, you have to look for it.”

“I just read the best suspense/thriller recently, A SPARK OF HEAVENLY FIRE, by my friend Pat Bertram.  We’re talking danger and a story of ordinary people becoming extraordinary to survive.  You’ve got to order it.”

“My good friend Judi Fennell wrote this cool series about sexy mermen and a kingdom under the sea. The first book is called IN OVER HER HEAD, you gotta read it!”

“Toni Blake is just the nicest person evah.  She writes some real sizzlers, we’re talkin’ hot and sexy.  She has a new one coming out called ONE RECKLESS SUMMER…”

It’s that simple and any debuting or popular author’s name can be slipped in there.  Why? Because you’ve worked hard to be assessable and real to your readers. Because once you knew your release date, you started building anticipation for your book. So now, your book is released and sells through at 80%, or 8000 books.  Your publisher is very happy and is patting him or herself for their ability to find talented writers.  They decide a second print run is good business. Because you’ve built a buzz you probably will do well on the second run. Your publisher decides for your next book (for a debuting author that can be as soon as two-three months later) to start out with a first print run of 25,000 and a much larger presence on the bookshelves of Barnes & Noble and more pressure for the staff to push your book.

By the way, to hit the NYT best sellers list?  The book needs a first print run of at least 35,000.  Maybe Nora Roberts or Christine Feehan may get that type of run, but look at all the time they invested in marketing and promoting themselves and their books.  As a debuting author, you’re not going to get that with a first run.

This type of marketing/promotion also works for POD authors.  True, you don’t have to deal with print runs and costly returns, but if your books are in bookstores, the return cost are still a bite and one you as the author have to foot.  It’s smart business; again it’s your business, to have these books sell through.  You want to be successful and to do that you need a solid reader base as much as, or perhaps even more than, a traditionally published author.  Collecting dust is not the image of your books you want in the bookstore management’s eyes or your own, especially if you want them to continue to carry your books.  Shelf space is not a guarantee of sales any more than having a book with your name on it is. 

Stirring up publicity and marketing of yourself as an author and promoting your book, is many times, the least favorite task for an author. The point is if you want to be a success as an author then it’s going to take hard work. A third of your time is spent in writing the story and the rest is spent in selling it to a publisher and then promoting the book and yourself as an author. Building that all important reader base. It’s a necessary part of business.   

Writing is a business. The author is the proprietor of that business. Products have to be promoted to be a success. It’s as simple as that. Once we realize that, we put ourselves in the right mindset to be a success.

There are no magic wands, treasure maps of shortcuts, or guarantees to be a successful author or being published.

Just a dream and a lot of hard work.