Selling Yourself--I Mean, Your Work
20Books Vegas Takeaways:
As writers we tend to have the grave misconception that the writing is the hard part of authorhood. When in actuality…that, my dear sweet summer child, is the easy shit. The real work of being a successful author comes in the grunt work. The business life of selling your work and yourself to the world. Marketing, branding, book covers, exposure, formatting, platforms, audience, blurbs—that is where the work is. The good news is that there are almost endless resources to educate you and provide you the tools you need to achieve success, and—perhaps most importantly—at any budget.
The idealism of ‘write the book and forget about it’ stems from the olden days of publishing. And like the passing of any out-of-date concept, those days are long gone. Writing is a business. YOU are a business. The more that you understand and accept that fact the more likely you are going to not only survive in this crazy world but also thrive in it.
Business is an untamable, ever-evolving beast that we all must learn how to change ourselves around in order to survive it. Hello Netflix. Buh-Bye Hollywood video :c
Times, as they say, are a changin’. It is not only the technology, the audiences, the availability, and the influx of material that we all have to be aware of, but also the anticipatory changes. Which, to keep this in tune with my Las Vegas surroundings, is less roulette and more blackjack. Pay attention and count the cards and you’ll do fine. And yes, there will be math involved. Sorry, I hate that too.
There are many opinions on what things we should do as writers, as authors, as businesses. And mostly all that any of us can do is take in all of the information from credited resources, industry professionals & successful authors and hone that information into something new. One size does not fit all. But you should know and understand not only your voice, your genre, and your audience, but also YOURSELF. Crazy concept. But you have to know your limitations and your abilities in order to successfully navigate anything in this world. And that includes which platforms you put your energy into.
One of the biggest things I have heard so far today is “pick a platform.” Be that Facebook, Instagram, Reddit, or god forbid, Twitter.
Twitter, apparently considered the social pariah by many of these attendees. Which I found laughable because if you are reading this, you likely came here from Twitter. An interesting thing to come upon. Yes, I found this group on Facebook. Yes, this group (and its 35.1k members) conducts itself almost entirely on Facebook, so I can understand their love for that specific platform. A place that I have found to be very limited in its scope and openness. And maybe that is the thing about Twitter. It is the open-world, wild west of social media (I guess).
Market Market Market. Branding Branding Branding.
Apparently those two things are kind of a big deal. Have you heard of them? Have you thought about them? You should.
I’m not getting into the marketing stuff right now. Mostly it is advertising platforms like bookfunnel, bookbub, and god so many. And amazon/facebook paid ads. I’ll get more into it some other time.
For now remember…
Everything you do online (under your business/author/DBA/Pen Name/etc) should be done, to some degree, with those two terms in mind.
But AMANDA! I don’t want to be branded a ”huckster.”
Ok. Look. Those hucksters are wonderful people. But besides that. Again. What you have to remember, that as an author YOU are the business. You’re selling yourself. Your voice. Be true to it. Tell your truth and people will notice.
That’s been my whole thing with twitter. Be the real, unapologetic, awkward human that I actually am. Write a VSS about something murderous and people get the idea that I’m not really a comedy writer.
You need to talk about your writing. You need to talk to people. Just engage and be—you know—like—a decent human and you’ll be ok. Don’t be a dick. Simple. Or so you’d think.
Blurbs. Cover art. Consistency. Community.
Aside from the post production aspect of being a selling author, there are the parts where you have to actually make the book. At this conference, and in the 20Books group, there isn’t much talk about the craft. Needless to say, we all have our varied styles, voices, genres, and whatever else makes your precious little artistic hearts go all pitter patter with creative genius.
The only thing they push here is the obvious—GET AN EDITOR. One lovely lady discussed how she sold plasma to afford her editor for her first book. That is some for real dedication to the cause.
I’m not suggesting you start auctioning off your pieces.
But I am definitely suggesting that editing is a vital part of being an indie. I mean, it is vital to all works, even trad. But indie authors have a bit of an extra hurdle to climb over, don’t we? Certain stigmas that Indies are less—less everything. So those 5+ typos I found in The Name of the Wind are going to be forgiven a lot more easily than the one in any self-published piece.
Now there are also the blurbs. We hate them. Necessary evils are by definition…necessary and fucking evil. The best thing I got out of the conference was a session about blurbs, amazon descriptions specifically, and copywriting.
“Blurbs are not prose.” “A blurb is not a synopsis.”
Also. Blurbs are more than just words. They are also formatting.
How one formats a blurb can influence if a reader will keep reading.
Avoid blocks of text.
And that applies to our social media posts as well.
When you break up your blocks into aptly spaced small pieces of text…
People come to it with less hesitation.
Like individually wrapped Reeses.
We will eat a whole bag of them some bitches.
Your blurb needs to tell your audience everything that they need to know about the book. Without giving away plot points. Use language. Subtext. FREAKING SUBTEXT (ok I’ll save that rant for another time. It is probably more of a video thing anyway FFS).
**THIS** Session is the one that I sat in on. And I loved it. Found it interesting. And hell. MATH. Data analysis equations. Backs up what he has to say on the matter.
Cover art is vastly important. Study your genre. Your sub-genre. Look at the top sellers on amazon. See those covers? That is what is hot right now. Get something like that. Make something like that.
Cover art trends harder than hashtags and boy bands…are—are boy bands still a thing?
You need to pay attention to trends in cover art and keep your cover in line with those trends IN YOUR GENRE.
BUT AMANDA, MONEY!
The great thing is there is an enormous marketplace for premades (like mine from SeventhStarArt) and custom covers. With artists for almost every budget.
For a zero dollar budget (which most of us have) the big DIY application is Canva. Google it.
But for the love of everything in existence. DO NOT ASK AN ARTIST TO WORK FOR FREE. I swear if you do this...You're dead to me.
That being said, some artists, in particular those still in school, just starting out/building a portfolio MAY do just that or for trade, or for a serious deal. BUT THAT IS FOR THEM TO DECLARE. NOT FOR YOU TO REQUEST.
Even if you publish one book a year, your readers have to know what to expect from you.
Another big thing discussed is "Rapid Release."
Essentially you have the first two books in your series done and ready to go. Put them out and maybe book three available for preorder.
You release books rapidly. It's almost like it's in the name.
Many of these folks release a book every six weeks.
That involves a load of preparation. Prepping a backlist. And a shit ton of marketing. Learning the tools. Learning release strategies. Etc.
And, if you are publishing for the first time, publishing on Kindle Unlimited isn’t such a bad idea, because KU members will not have the extra financial risk (and yes it is a risk for a consumer to purchase from a first timer, especially if this is book one in a series, when so many many Indies drop their writing and never write book 2. Leaving us to wonder if our perilous hero will defeat the dragon or get his balls chopped off by the disguised, beautiful maiden. I WANT TO KNOW WHAT HAPPENED, KAREN).
Your readers. They crave content. Reader magnets are a big deal. Basically short stories/flash fiction that gives them a taste of your world/your writing, that you send in a—are you ready?—newsletter.
One of the sessions, someone discussed how they send readers an exclusive epilogue that takes place between books in a series.
You can also—in gamer speak—write sidequests and other bonus material. Look, I am an epic fantasy writer, I have spent years world building. I will be making and writing all the things about Vasteen and her thousand+ year world history until the day I die.
Consistency is king.
A big thing is to create a—ugh—facebook group for your readers. A place to discuss your work. Your life. Your writing. Your process. Etc. All that insider stuff fans go crazy for.
Personally, I do this on instagram. And now Instagram also allows for stories to be posted to only “close friends” which I have seen people utilize to provide that extra content to their Patreon supporters and/or insiders/street teams.
And speaking of social media (as if this is in any way the first mentioning of it *RDJ eye roll gif*). It really is your best ally. It is where you start to build your community. Your readership. It is where you create those relationships.
Personally, I prefer Twitter these days. I think that is fairly obvious. Facebook is, to me, a lot like screaming in an empty room and wondering when folks will notice the smell of your long decaying corpse.
When I truly started Twitter, I had 121 followers (which mostly came from Facebook). Now, seven months later my follower count has increased by 9,047+% (see, math). Which, by the way is freaking weird and crazy and never did I think I would hit numbers like this.
Social media seems to confuse and scare people. But it is truly the best and not to mention FREE resource for building your community.
Yes. Your following on social media is your community beyond just the #WritingCommunity in whole.
Treat them kindly and they will return the favor.
Because. Guess what. That’s how community works. You give. They give. It takes time and effort. But in the end. It is well worth the energy spent trying to offer a kind word, share someone’s accomplishments with your followers, and always, ALWAYS give thanks when someone takes time out of their day to do that for you.
I try to reply to everyone who replies to my posts, photos, etc. At the very least, I heart it. I see you random citizen. I see you. You are seen. (Ok, except the ‘too sad for pants’ post, that thing grew roots and created a new civilization. Baby grew up.)
Being seen is an incredible sensation. Like when you get RT’d by someone you admire. Like HOLY FUCK AMANDA PALMER RT’d MY ART ONE TIME AND I GIGGLED FOR AN HOUR OK?!
I was also RT’d by Myke Cole and Sam Sykes. Like uhm hello. That was pretty freaking awesome.
It feels good to be seen by the people you admire. And remember that your followers, to whatever extent, admire you, your work, your content. Taking half a second to acknowledge them leaves a lasting mark. Community. Relationships. Take work. From both sides.
Each of these topics can/should/will be their own posts. I want to get to them. As I navigate my way through it all. To be honest. I am still processing all the masses of information presented at the 20BooksVegas conference.
You can watch these sessions as well.
I’ll link you my favorites as well as the 20Booksto50k youtube channel. If you want to find the private group on facebook and read the MASSIVE master files. I would recommend it. They are literally giving away all their strategies and secrets to success.