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One At A Time

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A lot of people have the idea that when they publish a book they’re going to be rich. It’s a myth supported to some extent by the media and, certainly, there are examples of successful authors who are well-to-do based largely on the proceeds from their books and perhaps movie rights. That is an exceptional situation and it does not just happen as a result of publishing a book. For most successful authors there is a lot of hard work over years involved to gain a loyal following.

The sad truth is that most books will not be successful. And in many cases it doesn’t appear to matter how well the author writes. Some of the best written books I have ever read were the offerings of relatively obscure writers. If there is a simple formula for accomplishing success at the publishing game it’s telling a story well enough to entertain one reader at a time.

I could be wrong but I’m not sure a book can be written for the masses. Instead an author should have a target reader in mind whenever he or she is writing a book. If a story has natural appeal to a reader it will work out well for the author. Also the more hooks a book has that offer a way for the reader to get into the story the greater and more generalized the interest will be for the book.

Still, selling a book is mainly a one to one transaction. It has always been that way. It may take place at a public event between the author and a prospective reader. It could be a response to a social media posting the author makes that piques the potential reader’s interest. It might come as a result of a personal recommendation from a satisfied reader through a posted review or verbally expressed.

The point is that the best thing an author can do to sell his or her book is to address each reader individually and, if possible, personalize the pitch for the book. It is not easy. That’s part of the reason why there are millions of authors and only a small percentage of them are successful enough to earn some portion of their living from writing. But I’ve learned a few tips from reading about those who are successful.

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Sell yourself as an author before you sell the book you wrote. First and foremost you must build your reputation as an author. In this way with each successive book release the author’s brand is reinforced and over time a following is established. Then it becomes easier to promote books through word-of-mouth. You can begin the process of selling yourself in advance of your first book’s publication. Create a groundswell of interest in your writing. You may do this through establishing your expertise in the subject area or the genre of fiction you have chosen for your writing.

Examples of what you can do through your personal blog are posting articles or reviews on books of your genre, exchanging personal interviews with other authors and promoting the work of others in your genre through your blog.

Make personal appearances even if they are not traditional author venues. Authors compete for the same space in bookstores, libraries and all the other expected places for book signings, readings or speeches. Go where the people are but think outside the box. What about scheduling an appearance at race track, a shopping mall, a grocery store, a home improvements center. Almost every weekend there are events in most major cities that an author might also appear.  Attend conventions and fairs as a vendor and sell your books. Establish contact with local associations, clubs, literacy groups. Approach your local schools and colleges about your support for literacy – after all you write books and you want people to read them. Join groups that interest you. Build a support base as an author who is active in your local community.

Use your hobbies and other interests to gain attention. The media will help you sell books but only if it benefits them in some way. Sending out press releases about your book does not differentiate you much from the other million authors out there. Reporters are looking for an angle or an item of special interest to their readers, listeners or viewers. They want to know that makes you unique. What’s your personal story? Have you overcome some adversity or disability? If you are an expert in some field or an active proponent of some cause this can help define you as well and it will become a vehicle for pitching your book. Sell the expertise and your publication will be mentioned in support of your expertise.

Establish a street team to help sell your book. You need to get people talking about your book in advance of its release. Once it is released your efforts are far from over. People need to continue talking about your book. Enlisting the help of family and friends just to get started is fine but you must grow your support base organically from there. The most successful authors have loyal followers who eagerly anticipate the next book.

Initially an author grows the support base one person at a time and knows every member of the street team personally in some way, whether face to face, via email or social media. Over time the author acquires followers he or she may not know personally. A good sign that a fan base has evolved is when an author begins to receive unsolicited reviews from strangers. Another sign is when a reader spontaneously starts a fan club.

Create a way to interact regularly with your readers. Readers love making contact with authors. They also like to have the inside scoop on such things as when the next book is coming out, what it’s about, the inspiration for a book and even obscure facts about the author like favorite colors, biggest fears or interesting idiosyncrasies. Building rapport with readers firms a fan base.

Allow personal access at some level through a special email account you check periodically, membership on your blog, a social media page or account that you use specifically for reader connections. Send out special advance announcements and promotions to reward followers for their support. Make sure you maintain your connections, though. Otherwise something that was good for you can backfire making you appear aloof.

Be creative and be yourself.  Be different in some way from other authors. After all, you are creative, right? Come up with contests. One author I know ran a special deal that rewarded the winner with having a character in the next book named after him or her. Another author posted excerpts from her novel in progress and entertained suggestions from readers on how to advance the plot or just make the story better.

Whenever you interact with your readers or potential readers be yourself. Reading is a somewhat intimate experience between two people through a medium they share. One person writes the story the other enjoys reading it. Anything phony is pretty easily identified.

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#writing #authors #branding #selling #tips #books #fans

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An Author’s Friends and Family

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I’ve decided not to overanalyze anything to do with the response to my recent book release. As there is nothing really controversial in Fried Windows I don’t expect a lot of fallout from anything I have written. Maybe I stretched my imagination a little more than usual, at least as much as I bent the truth, but it’s intention was mainly harmless fun. I’m not sure why my friends aren’t flocking to read it, but that’s okay. Mostly my friends never paid that much attention to anything I said before I started writing. So why should it be different now?

Anyway, part of becoming an authors is seeking new friends. They’re called readers. The reason is not to discard and replace old friends but to acquire followers as a supplement to those who have known the author since before… Unlike old friends, the new friends find it easy to become fans. Why shouldn’t they?  They know an intimate part of the author, what he or she writes. I’m not sure every old friend can become an avid follower and reader of an author. It may have something to do with being there in high school and knowing the real story. Old friends saw the stupid crap we did. They were the ones carrying our drunken asses to dorm rooms in college. They were the ones we confessed any number of things to here and there along the way.

Family isn’t much better as as source of readers. There are exceptions, but most buy an authors book out of familial obligation. Few ever read the book all the way through. Those who do probably deserve a medal for perseverance. I get that.

You see, like friends, family knows us for our flaws and secrets. They know some things abut us better than friends because they share a genetic identity. They understand our special level of crazy because they were not only there with us while growing up together but also they have some of the same traits.

Like fiends, relatives hear a real voice when they read our words in print. Sometimes that is at least unsettling. I suppose it can be unnerving, especially when reading a fictional account that seems kind of familiar. Moreover, family is used to giving us advice, not necessarily hearing concoct long, convoluted stories that may actually make some sense – especially when those stories come pretty darned close to revealing things that really happened to this or that other family member.

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In Fried Windows I have tried not to borrow too much from reality. But there are some situations that some might recall. The book is a fantasy, though. There are always pieces of an author’s life that find their ways into a book. That why names are changed to protect the author as much as anyone else. The parts that borrow from real life distort the facts enough to be mostly idle fabrication.

On balance, I think I’ll gain friends from having written the book. I doubt I’ll lose any friends along the way – I hope not. I wrote the book to be a fun read and I think it accomplishes that. I wanted it to change the way every reader looks at the world around them. Maybe it does that. For those who will read it, please let me know what you think. And yes, there is much more of Brent’s story left to be told.

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Fanning The Flames – Gaining Fans As An Author

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It’s very hard to find someone who believes in you like a fan. I guess the first step is to believe in yourself. After all, how are you going to attract fans if you don’t think you are good enough to have fans.

As an author I have found it particularly true that self confidence is required to promote and sell one’s work. But there is a continuing battle within between the writer and the author. Against that everyone who writes struggles. Let me explain.

The writer is a person that wakes up early each morning and composes something, whether or not the author ever decides to do something with it. The author is more focused on the dissemination of work to readers, whether of not something is actually sold. Yeah, I know that usually people make the distinction between a writer and an author in terms of being published. But with the advent and popularity of digital self-publishing, there are many more authors. I think a true author is an artist and therefore he or she focuses more on the art of writing and sharing it for the appreciation of the craft rather than the more crass, business aspects of publishing.

Having said all that, for a writer to continue writing there must be income whether from a side job or the fruits of one’s literary labors. So the business aspects of being an author are necessary to consider if one intends to make writing a career.

I am fortunate in many ways. Though many in my family would tell you of my personal and financial struggles over the past few years as I pursued writing as a career, I gained a lot of business insight about publishing through my associations and failures. Also, my business background in sales and marketing have lent insights without which I would not hold a position that straddles both the creative and promotional aspects of the publishing business.

My publisher believes in my crazy stories, my art. That has helped bolster my confidence in my work. But my associations with other authors have benefitted me at least as much in understanding there are no magical secrets to succeeding in this craft. What works is as basic and simple as it gets. At some point, a writer has to want to do whatever is necessary to find readers. You cannot wait for someone else to do that for you or expect that the quality of your writing will automatically gain attention. Somehow, in some way, you must present your work in an attractive manner that gains the public’s attention. And in order to sustain your writing career, those people need to buy your work, recommend it to others and grow your fan base into loyal supporters. That’s the hard part.

Many new authors don’t realize how to gain fans. No amount of advertising or self-promotion on social media will substitute for the personal touch. An author must connect one-on-one with each reader. However that is accomplished it is essential to building a fan base. Responding to comments on blog posts, making personal appearances like book signings, exchanging emails, chatting whether through messaging or in chat rooms, all are ways for an author to connect personally with a reader. Without that one-to-one intimacy it is very difficult to persuade readers to attempt reading a book from an unknown author.IMG_0233

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Three Weeks Out

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I know what you’re thinking…well, maybe not – not exactly, but I can probably guess. What in the world is a guy like me doing writing a book? Yeah, seriously, right? A lot of people are surprised when I tell them I’ve been writing for a while now. Then next question is always, do you have anything published?

How is it that someone I know fairly well doesn’t know that essential nugget about me? Guess it never came up in conversation before. You see, I do a lot of other things besides writing books. What I do for fun, mostly, in my spare time is write. Family aside, that has been a fairly well kept secret, though. Some of my past co-workers and classmates know about ‘the books’, and a few have heard pieces of the plots or read some of the material I have written. But, for the most part, the people who read my books tend to be total strangers. And that’s okay. I mean, I get it – why people who know me don’t read my books. Really, I do.

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It’s sort of freaky knowing someone personally and then reading his or her book. You hear the voice, you know some of the background, so it is a little bit distracting when you’re reading because you’re almost always second guessing things, trying to piece together the connections between the person you know and the author you are reading. I don’t know, maybe that’s why writers have this sort of aloof, hermit reputation, like you can’t get to know anyone so well that they won’t be able to read a book and become immersed in its fantasy world – or something like that. But I think my stories are engaging enough the draw anyone into them, even those who know me well. Give it a shot.

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Some writers might tell you that it doesn’t matter whether anyone reads their books as long as they buy them, but that has never made sense to me. If that is truly the case then why write them at all? If the objective were to make money there are many easier ways to do that than writing books. I think a real, honest writer would tell you its the other way around. As long as someone reads the book it doesn’t matter as much if anyone actually buys it. The only problem with that is that a writer needs to make a living. And making a living is why aspiring writers have side jobs.

Everyone I know should at least sample Fried Windows (In a Light White Sauce), my next book that is due out three weeks from today. If you do, I’m sure you’ll end up reading it the entire book. It’s that kind of story. Also, you’ll tell everyone you know to read it because that’s what people do when they enjoy a story. And I’ll continue writing; you’ll continue reading and things will work out as i planned when I set out on this adventure several years ago.

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