Thursday, May 14, 2015

Are You Authorpanuring Yourself Enough?

By Steve Weddle

So folks are the internet out there are working to help authors --


I mean, I like the idea of helping. I really do. I don't know what an "AUTHORPRENEUR" is, but it sounds cool. Maybe it's an author who does nails and hairstyling during writer's block.

AUTHORPRENEUR. Rolls right off the tongue, doesn't it? 

According to the article about being an AUTHORPRENEUR, you need an email list for a few reasons. Honestly, I don't know how I've gotten by without an email list myself. I get up each morning before sunrise, brew some coffee, open the moleskine, and write. (Proof is here,)

A pen, a notebook, and a novelty mug of coffee. I have one from the Big Lebowski. I have one of banned books. I have one from a real car dealership that exists in the county I'm writing pretend stories about. I have so many mugs. I've gone to so much trouble with the thinking and the writing and the buying 100-year-old high school yearbooks and rare government pamphlets and all sorts of stuff. You'd think I'd have enough sense to have exported my friends and family into a database I can use. 

The experts, and the AUTHORPRENEUR in particular, say I need to have an email list so that I can reach my "target audience." 

Not only will I have readers who are "anxious" for my next book, but I have a "pool" of people waiting to beta-read my next book. So, with this list, I have a group of people I can send my book to so that they'll read it and tell me what they think of it? Don't I already know these people? Don't I email with them anyway? I need people who are kind of interested in what I do, but not so interested that I chat with them regularly? Isn't that called "family"? I don't know. 

Do people use beta-readers? Do they hyphenate themselves? I guess the idea is that you would spam, er, launch an email campaign asking your prospective consumers if they'd be interested in serving as your focus group? Then what happens? A couple dozen people email you back -- or complete a Survey Monkey form -- telling you the strengths and flaws of your book? That does not sound like something I would enjoy.

Keep in mind that the internet has, at my latest Googling, just over 1,837,119 posts about how to market yourself as an author. Which is good news if you enjoy reading posts about how to market yourself as an author. Oh, my bad. I meant to say, "as an Author." Or AUTHORPRENEUR.

According to one of the posts -- which I am certain is sincere and meant to be helpful somehow -- the key to being a successful AUTHORPRENEUR is "building relationships." That makes sense to me. In my favorite short story, "Hills Like White Elephants," the relationship between the man and the woman is key. What does he want? What does she want? Where's the conflict between them? Excellent. 

Oh, wait. There was more to the post.

Building a relationship with your readers, where they can respond to you and communicate with you as an author, is advertising you can't buy.

Oh, sweet lord. I can't unread that sentence. A relationship with readers is great advertising? What in the name of Frank friggin Norris does that even mean? 

Let me tell you who these people are. Ugh. I've been trying to be generous here. But that sentence. I just can't go on like this. Look, these are the people who talk to you at parties until they realize that someone on the other side of the room can better help their career. Then they flitter off to that person. These are the people who post sticky notes on their MacBookPros telling them the proper ratios of marketing tweets to personal tweets. (They say 1:10. I say they're dopes.)

A relationship with your readers isn't advertising. Are these the people who say the penultimate chapter in this book satisfies the reader for THIS book, but the last chapter makes them hungry for the next one? I can't keep up with the helpful formulas on being a writer.

Yes, building involves marketing. I have business cards with my book cover on it, so that when people ask about my book, I can hand them a card. I think taking the card helps them feel as if they've done something, some transaction with me, so that they don't have to ever buy the book or read it. I don't know. I should probably do a better job networking through my LinkedIn page if I want to be a real AUTHORPRENEUR. After all, I want to build that relationship with readers, don't I?

Are your readers your customers? I don't know. I'm not writing for my customers. I'm writing to make this paragraph sing. I'm writing to tie these threads together. I'm writing because I'm kinda interested to see what the heck happens with these people in this cabin.

According to the people who read "the experts" in the field, "the experts" estimate that "readers need to be exposed to your product up to seven times" before they consider completing a "transaction."



If you're attempting to complete a transaction by exposing your audience to your product over and over, then you're at the wrong damn blog, pal.

I've subscribed to many author newsletters, I don't always read them. I read some of them, but I don't always have time. I'm interested in seeing where my favorite authors are signing or hearing about upcoming projects. I like "keeping up with" the authors I enjoy reading, as well as the authors I personally know and like. That's cool. But I've never, ever bought a book because an author emailed me a newsletter.

Think about the last book you bought, the last novel you enjoyed. Did you complete the transaction because of marketing tweets and email newsletters?

I'm no stranger to spreading myself around the internet from MySpace to Reverb Nation. And maybe I could do a better job marketing my writing via newsletters and cleverly using the hashbrown symbol on Twitter. If you're on the internet off and on all day and you're reading posts at Medium about seven things you need to do to be a better Author, and all seven are how to sell your book, well, I don't know, I think you could get lost in that.

My guess is that people like to feel as if they're in control. What have you done today as an Author? I sent out an email thing to people. I updated my website. I had an author photo taken. I gave a reading. I joined a Twitter promotion hashbrown thing to expand my reach. Yeah, that feels like doing stuff. I've done that stuff. Those are things you can write down in your calendar. That's great. Those things are comforting because they feel like accomplishments. They feel active.

Writing is hard. You get 20,000 words into a novel and realize only the last 1,000 are useful. You get done with your 100,000-word story and it dawns on you that you should combine two of the characters. That's you and your story. That's tough. You can write all day for three weeks and then, on Day 22, notice a gaping plot hole you'll never fix. There's no real checklist for writing a good book. Each book is a damn snowflake, ain't it? You can write three novels that are huge successes and sit down to write the fourth and feel as if you've forgotten how to be a writer.

But you know what? If I've read and enjoyed your book, then you're a writer. I have a relationship with your book. I've put it on my shelf. I've gotten you to sign it. I've bought copies of your book for friends. You worked your tail off on the book, and it shows. Your book is great and, honestly, you're pretty awesome. Because you know how to write a damn book, you know? Heck, I might kick back with your book this weekend and read parts of it again. Especially that chapter where he's having the dream about the bird with the broken wing. Damn, that's beautiful.

If you're an AUTHORPRENEUR, then I saw the eblast (the subject line, at least) that you sent out about the Twitter campaign you're holding next Tuesday. Good luck with it. Hope you're able to move some product.

7 comments:

Dana King said...

I'm with you, especially about newsletters. I've never bought a book because I read an author's newsletter. I subscribe to the few newsletters I do because I liked the book(s).

That sums up my problem with most "marketers." They have the cart before the horse.

Steve Weddle said...

Dana,
That makes sense. I like what you've done already, so I'll keep an eye out for new stuff.
Most of the marketing these folks tell you to do is essentially just making cold calls.

Holly West said...

I also feel like most of this authorpreneur-type stuff is about people making money off of authors, not about actually helping authors be successful. Attend my seminar, buy my HOW TO SELL A MILLION COPIES ebook, etc etc. It all makes my head ache. Of course, I have no earthly idea how to sell books, so maybe I'm not the best person to ask.

Barbara Martin said...

Despite whatever marketing an author invests in, it all comes down to whether a reader is intrigued by the book cover and the jacket copy.

Anonymous said...

I do not want to be the asshole who points out that the word in the heading is different to the word in the article. So I'm going to comment anonymously.

But thank God for this article. So much of the trues and the Amens!

Anonymous said...

I took it as meaning MANURE in the heading

lisaljohnljc said...

I loved this article, and found it super amusing. Especially when you refer to "the hash brown thing" on Twitter, so funny!
And your thoughts resonated too on a deeper level. Especially as a writer just starting out. This summer I've realized what it feels like to get lost in all that active action...facebook, twitter, etc...
But sitting down to do some serious writing....that's where my focus should be first and foremost and always, caz that's what's gonna get my writing out there eventually and noticed. To all the right people anyway!

Thanks so much for this! Reblogged too!


Lisa Ciarfella