Thursday, July 18, 2013

Guest Post by Chris Everheart

Joe sez: If you've missed the previous guest blogs, they've been fascinating and informative.

You can read Katherine Sears talking about Booktrope: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-katherine-sears.html

You can read Richard Denoncourt talking about cover art here: 

You can read Ann Voss Peterson talking about pacing here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/pacing-by-ann-voss-peterson.html

You can read Nick Spill talking about his path to publication here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-blog-by-nick-spill.html

You can read Constance Phillips and Jenna Rutland and Joe Konrath talking about their path to publication here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-constance-phillips-and.html

You can read Ian Kezsbom talking about Fuzzbomb Publishing here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-ian-kezsbom.html

You can read Gary Ponzo talk about first lines here: http://jakonrath.blogspot.com/2013/07/guest-post-by-gary-ponzo.html

Also, it's worth noting that Tess Gerritsen's War on Alzheimer's has reached it's $25k goal, thanks in part to readers like you. Thanks, everyone.

Finally, I got my numbers from my Book Blast experiment. Book Blast helped me give away 5000 extra copies of Timecaster Supersymmetry (on top of the 1800 I gave away on my own). In my opinion, worth the $50. 

Now here's Chris Everheart...

Confessions of a Technophobic Author

First, thanks to Tess for a great cause and thanks to Joe – on a number of levels – for doing this promo. 

Also, Joe, I’m glad to have the chance to tell you THANK YOU! for continuing to carry the torch while I “quit” for a couple of years and returned to find a ton of encouragement from you and your “Newbie’s” contributors. I desperately needed the information and the support!

If readers are looking for an exciting, page-turning YA summer book for themselves of their teens, try “The League of Delphi: Book I of The Delphi Trilogy” on Kindle FREE today, July 18.

Now, on with the public admissions.

My name is Chris, and I’m a technophobe. I’m not exactly hiding in a log cabin, scratching this blog post on tree bark with a burnt twig. But when it comes to social media and self-promotion, I’m often shy, sometimes isolated, and frequently overwhelmed. This makes the task of promoting my books difficult.  

Don’t get me wrong, I can do the tasks of online social networking and the promotional work Joe and other writers talk about. I worked in marketing and merchandising. I get the concepts. I even know some of the lingo (do people still say “lingo”?). But I have to point out that by “I can do it,” I mean I’m CAPABLE of it. 

Often, though, I just (gasp!) don’t like it – to the point that I have a hard time actually doing it. Don’t worry – you can be satisfied that I hate myself for this shortcoming.

There are a bunch of good possible reasons for my disinclination:

For one thing, I’m a slow reader, always have been. That’s a handicap online. With so freakin’ many options for news, opinion, advice, and friendships, I just can’t keep up.

For another, I like to look people in the eyes when I communicate. This may be a survival skill leftover from a rocky childhood or simple petulance toward the modern world, but I’m a little uncomfortable having an electronic firewall between me and the person I’m talking to.

Also, I feel obligated to connect on every level with every one. This is not everyone’s fault, I know, but the snowstorm of socializing flying at me through the Web can be intimidating. I’ll shut down – literally. I’ve gone electronically catatonic before and sometimes even today I have to force myself to stay online and in touch with the real virtual world.

I love having friends and staying up to date through the miracle of the internet. I just don’t have the mental and emotional capacity for the latest style of massive-micro-mass-niche-communication. I live in fear that when the genetically engineered monkeys take over, the first thing they’ll to is put techno-lazies like me to work in the banana fields. And I won’t blame them, won’t even fight back.

By the way: It was one of those techno-dummy mistakes that allowed me to offer you guys a free e-book for only a day, when I wanted to offer it to you for a week!

One of the paralyzing features of the modern techno-social tsunami is the demand that a self-publishing, self-promoting author like me must be EVERYWHERE, must KNOW about everything, and must DO it all. The specter of EVRAWERKNODO scares me back into the bottle. No, not back to booze – those days are behind me. But I might crawl into the bottle I’ve always imagined sharing with a young Barabara Eden. Not such bad life, lounging on a huge ring of fluffy pillows … But I know that if I don’t get out of there and put myself out in the world where I can be seen and heard, I won’t sell books – and worse, I won’t connect with readers.

What I’m saying is … I admit that I have a problem and I need help. That’s the first step, right?

If there’s a self-help program for techno-dummies like me, let me know. Actually, never mind – I’ve seen the lists: “12 Simple Steps to Maximize Your Blahblahblah …” “6 Things Every Author Should Yadayadayada …” “The 21 Biggest Mistakes Self-published Authors Flrblrtrr …”

Come to think of it, I could write that last one myself. But would it help? Probably not. Here’s why: I’m a face-to-face guy. I like the HUMAN human experience. I need analogue, not digital, time with people. I like to see someone’s reactions to what I’m saying, shake clammy hands, get a courtesy slap-on-the-back for a lame joke, breathe the same air as my conversation partner and know that they ate too much garlic at dinner last night!

When I first met Joe Konrath at Bouchercon in Madison (what millennium was that?) he was in the middle of a suicide mission to visit 500 bookstores in one year. He was driving that funky little SUV wrapped in a giant ad for his Jack Daniels books. Why? TO MEET THE BOOKSELLERS – look ‘em in the eye, shake their hands, say how do you do!

I loved it! Loved him, too – who else would sit in the hotel lounge with me, driving off other patrons with shabbily rendered, top-of-our-lungs Beatles’ covers? Joe survived that year and even seemed to thrive because of it. I think his online success has been helped by that – if not in brick-and-mortar sales then maybe for “paying his dues” and hardening his own commitment to his career. At the time, I thought, “That’s so cool! I want to do that!” At the end of the weekend, we sang “I WILL” and parted company. Joe went back to work. I went back to whatever I thought of at the time as work.

Now here I am a few years later, one year into my own self-publishing curve, making important (and hopefully dues-paying) mistakes. I swear, you guys, I have tried mightily for the past year to sit at my computer and “socialize” until drops of blood formed on my forehead. I studied and read and prodded myself at mouse-point to march the virtual path. But I just can’t pull that off. My (average at best) social media footprint has shown that. I’m not wired for micro-processing. I’m more like that old-time megaphone the cheerleaders still use at the college football games.

Know what does show what I’m wired for? I did an event last November with our local library that we dubbed “Teen Lit Fest.” It was the official launch party for my YA thriller “The League of Delphi”. I asked teens what would get them in the door for a library event and we did what they said – food, free stuff, and extra credit! We designed posters. I drove around to every middle school and high school in the area and delivered a hundred of those posters to teachers and school librarians. I told everyone who’d listen to be there.

The results? 125 kids, plus a bunch of adults, showed up on a Saturday afternoon to buy books, hang around, goof off with me, and talk about books, publishing, movies, stories, and life. We had a blast and donated some money back to the library’s teen reading programs. I want to do more of THAT!

I know online marketing and social platform building and virtual communities and all that is great. In fact, I’m amazed that the Internet gets us closer to that Jetsons experience we all dreamed of. I even want to sell a lot of e-books because the reach and lifespan of them is amazing. But mayber what I should be doing more of is standing in front of real people. To me, nothing beats sharing air with my audience.

What will help keep both irons – digital and analogue – in the fire is that I finally ADMITTED that I’m no good at social media and recently hired someone to manage that stuff for me. And guess what – the guy has jumped in and started helming the virtual ship like he actually ENJOYS it! What a relief!

Now I can hit the road! I’m doing a two-week summer mini-tour – Minneapolis-St. Paul the last week of July, the Chicago area first week of August, and points between. If you’re in these areas and know libraries, book clubs, or bookstores that would like a visit from an up-and-coming YA thriller author, please let me know. I want to meet these people!  If you’re not in those areas, please grab a free download of “The League of Delphi” and/or tell everyone you know who loves YA thrillers about it. Reviews and attention are needed and deeply appreciated!

We’re dropping Book II of the trilogy in October and I’m feeling good. I’m on the road to recovery, freedom, and maybe a little exhaustion – huh, Joe?

[P.S. to Goodreads users: For “The League of Delphi”, I received an untrue – and what I feel is an unfair – “review” from a Goodreads user. I don’t argue with their evaluation of the book’s contents, only with their misleading assumptions about marketing (indy authors will see what I mean). If you download a free Kindle of “The League of Delphi: Book I of The Delphi Trilogy”, your HONEST review on Goodreads will help show others that I’m sincere and that the book deserves their attention. Thanks.] 

Joe sez: My public speaking days are behind me.

While I like meeting fans, and hanging out with peers, I did enough for a lifetime in the 8 years I toured. I did events and signed in bookstores in 42 states, and it kept me from my writing and kicked my ass. There is nothing more exhausting that driving 200 miles, visiting 20 bookstores, then doing a library event, in one day.

I apologize to the many who will never get to bask in my larger-than-life presence, but this cowboy has hung up his spurs.

That said, events are a great way to meet people. So are bookstore signings. So is Facebook and Twitter. Hell, I was one of the first authors who used MySpace for promo. 

No matter what your method of reaching fans, here is the one tip you need to remember:

Get email addresses.

I've been lax in newsletters this past 18 months, but nothing helps an author more than being able to send out a mass emailing to people who want to hear from you. 

Have a sign up sheet when you do events. Pass pout business cards. Have a website. Harvest emails from fans who contact you.

All you need is a few thousand people. That's a few a day for a few years. Easy peasy in a digital world.

That said, unless you speak at a huge conference to thousands of people (and I have before), there is no better bang for your time than maintaining an online presence.

If anyone can give Chris some pointers in the comments, I'd love to hear them too.

20 comments:

Barry said...

Agreed. The social thing is hard to do. This is even more true for those of us with kids and have not yet been able to make a living from our writing. It's nice to see someone else that is achieving success has had the same difficulties. Being a writer that wants to write and not socialize/pimp his stuff 24/7, I envy Joe for his lifestyle and thank Chris for admitting his "problem" to us all.

Tess Gerritsen said...

THANK YOU Joe, and to everyone who donated to the Alzheimer's campaign. Not only did we reach our goal, we exceeded it, and more donations are still coming in. I'm thrilled to be sending my own check for $25,000 to Scripps Research Institute, to match the funds that many of you so generously donated. The scientists at Scripps thank you too!

Joe, if there's ever anything I can do for you -- you got it.

Tess

Esther Spurrill-Jones said...

I collect my favourite links on marketing here: http://esther-ijustlivehere.blogspot.com/p/marketing.html

Timothy S Villa aka TGCVersion3Point0 said...

I understand Chris. Still working on my novels, I decided to hit social media hard last year and get my name out there beforehand. 500 followers on Twitter, updating my blog as fast as I could think of something to say (even if it was just reviewing movies, TV Shows, and books or telling embarrassing stories about myself), and getting my Klout score to name but a few ways I did it. I spent entire days I wasn't working (at the time I was averaging 60+ hours a week at work) doing the social media thing instead of actually writing, trying to get myself ready for the day that I would be published. 14 or so months later I'm still working on getting myself published, barely commenting on my blog, rarely posting on Twitter (aside from what Goodreads is allowed to post on my behalf), and I don't even have Klout favorited anymore. Not the same things, but I get how frustrating and hard the social media thing can be.

I'm going to post a link to your free book on Amazon on my FB and Twitter though (I still have 500+ followers on Twitter) and try to help you get your name and book out there some more. Best of luck!

Tim

Anonymous said...

You can still connect with people one on one in this digital age. I have 4,000+ Facebook followers and I carry on individual off-line (PM) conversations with several at a time.

And when their individual birthdays come up - FB alerts me and I send them a personal message.

A.R. Wise said...

In my experience, the most important thing is to set up a Facebook fan page (the internet moves quickly, so who knows what the next MySpace or Facebook will be - for now, it's Facebook) and then communicate with fans. Invite them to ask questions, and make sure to respond to as many people as possible. A lot of the diehard fans I have came from my willingness to communicate with them.

Nancy Beck said...

Chris,

First off, congrats on your book! The cover is very appealing, and I hope a lot of people buy your stuff so you become super rich! :-)

I'd like to point you to Dean Wesley Smith and Kristine Kathryn Rusch's blogs. (Google the names, because I'm too lazy to do the linking thing. ;-)) Their basic suggestion is to wait on the promo until you have a lot of books out there, that the best promo for your books is...to write more books!

The more books you have available, the more of a chance you have of readers finding you. (And you already have one of Joe's things under your belt, in that you have a great cover.) Once you have around 8 or 9 books out there, then you can start to think about promo. (BTW, Dean and Kris have an online class on Promo coming up. Check Dean's site for all the details.)

And, just on a personal note, I'm not a technophobe, but I rarely go on Twitter or Facebook simply because I usually don't find it fun. That's my tip - if you don't find it fun, don't do it. (My occasional forays to tweet or go on FB is strictly for fun, not promoting my latest book.)

Again, good luck to you, and thanks for the interesting post.)

Tracy Sharp - Author of the Leah Ryan Series said...

It's easy to get overwhelmed with the social media thing. I have twitter and facebook accounts, but I'm rarely on them. I jump on a couple of times a week for less than five minutes at a time. It's just such a time suck.

I think that your best form of promo are your books.

Grabbed The League of Delphi. Looks great!

Alan Tucker said...

Chris,

Sing it, brother!

I've been on social media because I'm "supposed to" but I don't find it fun for the most part. Facebook I can deal with but Twitter and the others confound me.

Best of luck with your new release! Downloaded and will give a read as soon as I can.

J.R. Pearse Nelson said...

Chris, this is an area I struggle with, too. Touting myself and my work on the web is 100% uncomfortable. But being present and having fun with social networks can be a good break from writing, and reminds me how much support I've received and continue to receive from friends online. I've met so many great people, and had virtually no negative interactions in my two years as an indie author. Just keep having fun and reaching out. Best of luck with your books!

Melody said...

This was a particularly good post. I'm relatively good at blogging, but I can't keep up with Twitter. I like Pinterest, but not for promotion purposes. Facebook is fun, but I don't know what I'd do with it if I was actually trying to sell something.

Your library idea caught my interest. I live in a small town. I know the library people; I even know some of the school people. This could work.

Thanks for showing that there are multiple ways to do things. Let's make use of our strengths!

{Also...I just downloaded The League of Delphi! Will definitely be reviewing on Goodreads once I finish.}

Merrill Heath said...

If I sold my next novel to ALL of my facebook friends and twitter followers and subscribers to my blog I'd sell about 250 copies. In reality, most of those people don't buy my books.

Word of mouth advertising sells books. By this I mean someone (who doesn't know you) reads your book and likes it enough to recommend it to other people (who don't know you). You accomplish this by writing a damn entertaining book and getting lucky in that some people stumble across it, read it, like it, and tell others about it.

I rarely buy a novel based on what I read on facebook or twitter or a blog. I do occassionally buy books based on what I read on the author's web page. But, typically, the reason I'm on an author's web page is because I've already read something by him or her that I liked and I want to learn more about the author.

To make a living in this profession you have to sell books to people you don't know, who don't follow you on twitter, or read your blog, or friend you on facebook. How much time do you want to spend on social media courting a few hundred people (who already know you) when you could spend that time writing another book that might actually be purchased by a whole bunch of people (who don't know you)?

Chris Everheart said...

Thanks for the great feedback and resources, you guys! Glad to know there are others out there like me :)
Merrill - excellent comment! On the "Rogers Technology Adoption Curve" the Facebook-type communities of people you personally know would probably be the "Late Majority" - NOT who you want to be promoting to if you're trying to get a book/author to catch fire.
There are definitely better online options - like "Innovator" book bloggers, maybe the *right* people on Twitter ("Early Adopters"?).
That's another reason I like the idea of getting out there and meeting people - the ones who care enough to leave their couch and show up for an event may actually WANT to get a book, meet an author, have an experience, and advocate for you.
You can shake hands and take a pulse at the same time.
Now, I better get back to working on this next book!

Anonymous said...

My social anxiety is acting up, and to be honest I'm dreading even getting on Goodreads to make an announcement for my newest when I release it. (Dreading it more than the editing--I know, right?)

So, for right now, I'm not even going to try. Just focus on what I can do right now and let the social media wait until I can handle it, or else do without.

It seems to me that book giveaways do more to get my name out there than tweeting and such anyway, so I may stick with that. :)

By the way, I have totally never heard this advice before:

Pass pout business cards.

That is awesome. I've often wondered what the point of business cards were for writers, but now I know! To Pout! Possibly also smize. Oh yeah, I am so going to writer purgatory for that one... ;)

Joel Arnold said...

Thanks for the article! I get overwhelmed with social media, too. By the way, Chris - when/where are you going to be in the Twin Cities? (I live in the area). Thanks again!

M.R. Forbes said...

I tried Twitter for about a week, and then gave up after I read a statement (and experienced it as well) that has resonated since .. I don't remember the exact words, but it was something along the lines of:

Your twitter message has about 30 seconds to be seen, before it disappears in a pile of other twitter messages.

30 seconds? Probably less on more active accounts. It was too temporal for me, and would have taken too much time away from actually writing, so I stopped.

I have a Facebook fan page (its the URL I link to when commenting on blogs :D) which keeps me in the loop with people who like my work. It's still a challenge to get people involved, but it only takes a few minutes per week.

I have a mailing list, and I am actively trying to add to it. I'm currently running a giveaway tied to my latest work, which is working well to capture email addresses of people who are already reading my books. It's been growing steadily in the 6 months I've been published.

I have a full-time job. I can only write with the free time that is left during a week, so I have to be really thoughtful in terms of ROI. I've seen Joe say it before, and it's dead on... the best ROI you can have is to just keep writing. If you want to advertise - use Bookbub or Bookblast and hope for the best.

That's my .02. I hope it helps somebody :D

Michael Peck said...

I do content marketing, SEO, and social media for a living and, like many others out here, write the rest of the time. I actually enjoy it, but I'm still spending all of my time trying to write the best book I can, get it edited, get myself a great cover, etc. I'll have a website and do social and email marketing when the time comes, but it's not a focus right now. When that time does come, I'll most likely concentrate on building an email list.

Anyway, here's my take: Whatever social marketing doesn't feel right is probably something you shouldn't be doing anyway. I see a lot of people doing everything they can to build their following on Twitter (which often consists of other writers they traded follows with). That's sort of useful, I suppose, if you want to impress a potential agent with the size of your platform. But simply pumping "buy my book" messaging to other authors probably isn't worth as much effort as writing good books is.

So write good books. And build an email list. And get your books in front of reviewers and blogs, but concentrate on getting your Amazon categories and your Amazon author page right. If you want to take the social dive, pick one, and get good at that. But there's nothing worse than compounding what you see as a failing by beating yourself up for that perceived failing.

You can't do it all—not well, anyway. So choose your battles.

Again, just my take. What do I know? I'm still finishing my first novel.

M.F. Soriano said...

I'm no good at the social media thing, either, and even kind of dread it. But I'm even less good at the hand-shake schmoozing. Probably that means I'm screwed and will never be able to make a living from my writing, but on the other hand, there seem to be plenty of social-media maniacs and hand-shake schmoozers out there who aren't having any greater success than me. In the end, I'm hoping Merrill Heath is right, that what it really takes is a "damn entertaining book" and a lot of luck.

But then again, even a "damn entertaining book" doesn't seem to get too far on its own. That's what I took from the J.K. Rowling/Cuckoo's Calling news-story that broke a few days ago. Supposedly it's a great book (I haven't read it myself), with plenty of critical acclaim. And yet it only managed to sell 1500 copies in eleven weeks. Then someone leaked the news that Rowling is the author, and the book sold 25K copies overnight.

So maybe what you need is a damn good book and a lot of luck and a big name. But then again, there have been plenty of underdog author success stories making it rich with Kindle, too.

So maybe it's luck that you need, more than anything else.

Phyllis Humphrey said...

Reading all the comments points out that a ton of us hate social networking and, in some cases - like mine - the very thought makes us physically ill. That's because we're Introverts. I suspect most writers are. Why else would we spend our days alone staring at a screen? I have seven romance novels on Amazon (most originally trad-published) but don't make enough to keep paying the gal I hired to put me on Facebook, Twitter, goodreads, etc, and can't force myself to do it. Catch 22.

Alistair McIntyre said...

Most of my twitter followers are other authors spamming away with links to their books all day. I don't do this because that form of marketing not only doesn't work on me, it pisses me off and turns me off of that product.

Do what works on you, and then go from there.