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:

You can read Richard Denoncourt talking about cover art here: 

You can read Ann Voss Peterson talking about pacing here:

You can read Nick Spill talking about his path to publication here:

You can read Constance Phillips and Jenna Rutland and Joe Konrath talking about their path to publication here:

You can read Ian Kezsbom talking about Fuzzbomb Publishing here:

You can read Gary Ponzo talk about first lines here:

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.