Tuesday, June 14, 2016

“Getting ‘Thin’ Can Be a Big Mistake” (My takeaway for first-time authors self-publishing)

With the relaunch of Like Sweet Buttermilk (LSB), I decided to assume the role of Lot’s wife and look back. I didn’t turn into salt, but it was an opportunity to ponder: If I Knew Then What I Know Now …

Excitement breeds distraction. And the internet breeds too many things to name. So much comes after writing “The End,” that it becomes too easy to lose focus. And when writers (or anyone really) lose focus, they begin the often ill-advised endeavor of spreading themselves too thin. This is especially true of first-time authors. I should know.

Check it: The book is “finished” and now we’re ready to shout about it. We’re excited. It’s been a long road to “The End.” We’re Facebooking and Twittering and Blogging and Pinterest-ing and (online) Book Touring and LinkedIn-ing (some of these aren't real words, I know; just go with it). We’re signing up for this promo service and joining this online publishing group. We’re excited! And we’re all over the place—spreading ourselves too thin with all of the distractions pulling us away from what we need to be doing: staying disciplined, staying … well … focused.

I was all over the place in the beginning, back in the day. I had the all-sizes-fit-all marketing plan, chasing after every shiny new book-publishing whatever. So, yes, mistakes were made. To begin, LSB wasn’t ready for anything other than more editing. My cover was still in the concept stages (and that was another faux pas that I’m not even going to get into).  There were a few other missteps, but those top the list. There are proponents for building ‘buzz’ while you’re finalizing your work, before you even write your book, but this is where major planning comes into play, allowing for variables that can negatively impact your book’s release. It’s a matter of preference of course, but when it comes to my writing, I’m more of a ducks-in-a-row than a fly-by-the-seat kind of person—and I learned the hard way to stick with what works best for me. There was nothing more frustrating than responding “It’ll be ready soon,” (or some variation of that) to an interested reader ready to buy.  

My takeaway is this:  When it comes to spreading word about your book, “baby” authors should take baby steps.  Not that I’m “full grown” with this author-thing, but I have learned a thing or two. And hey, even toddlers can “teach” babies, right? So, here we go:

  1. The givens? Professional: editor, cover designer, book designer. Budget for this. Converting your word processor file into an Adobe pdf file and considering that “ready for distribution” is not what we’re after here.
  2. The “All-Sizes-Fit-All” Marketing Plan is definitely NOT the way to go. Before you can even formulate a plan, you must identify your target audience. Here’s a hint: Your target audience is not “all readers,” nor is it “all women” or “all men .” No matter how well-written your masterpiece is, your book is not for everyone; genres have categories or sub-genres for a reason.  You’ve likely written your book with a particular reader in mind. Apply the five W’s and the “H” to that reader and you’re on your way to identifying your audience. Your marketing plan should then be tailored to how your audience moves and shakes in their reading world which, of course, requires even more research.
  3. Before signing up for all of the social media platforms, know what your own platform for your book is going to be.  Why have you written the book, and why are readers going to dig what you’ve written? Your platform incorporates your passion for writing, but takes it a little further.
  4. Understand terms like metadata and keywords and branding. I’m still working on the best fit for some of this myself.
  5. Work one or two of the main social media platforms.  If you’re green with social medial like I was/am (the tide shifts on this one daily), one or two will be enough to handle in the beginning anyway. And in reality, one or two may be all you end up needing.
  6. Find and research social sites specifically for authors/writers and pick one to join. You’re likely to be more comfortable here—these people are speaking your language after all.
  7. Research the many online administrative tools that can help with tasks such as managing emails and social networking posts and determine which will work best for you.
  8. Stay encouraged. When you’re all over the place trying everything and then little happens, it’s discouraging. Seek reward in getting results from the smaller efforts first.
  9. Take your time. Spreading too thin is not just having too many tasks; it’s also trying to do too much too soon. Keeping in line with the whole “baby steps” metaphor: walk before you run.
  10. I’m sorry; I don’t have a “10.” But research has shown that people seem to prefer round numbers, so … <Insert your own ‘baby step’ recommendation here.>

Discipline is what got you from “Once upon a time …” to “The End” and it’s really needed once you put the pen down for the ‘final’ time (or save your file, whichever the case may be). Take a moment to celebrate your achievement because it is a big deal. And then, get back to work, focus. Staying the course couldn’t be more important.