Tag Archives: mailchimp

Am I Any Good at This?

It’s a Sunday night, and I’m going through my e-mail, checking out some of the offers for free courses that would turn into paid premium courses that I can’t afford if I go deep enough down the rabbit hole (I think this is how cults work, but I digress), and one 2:16 video I just finished watching is about branding and determining your brand, and watching it has given me introspective questions I figured I’d ask publicly.

The speaker is a pleasant middle-aged dude who says that he “built and sold two businesses” and wrote a book about branding to help entrepreneurs and authors launch their brands, and at a recent speaking engagement he had sold out of these books and managed to double his post-conference sales without having listed them on his site or on Amazon.

My first thought is that it must be nice to have so many people want to read something that he wrote. But my other thought is that most authors with audience support have to build that audience through products that they want. Branding is part of establishing an identity, but that identity only works if the attached products are products people want to invest time and money into, and that puts a big question mark on the kind of time it takes to produce these things.

The hard reality about branding is that it limits experimentation. Creativity can still come into play under certain conditions, but with limitations. Experimentation, however, is much more difficult. Imagine, to the dismay of thriller fans, Lee Child writing Jack Reacher: The Musical. Not sure that would please most of his fans. He might do an awesome job with it, good enough to attract anyone who likes a good musical (I myself don’t understand them, but that’s me). But the people who enjoyed Jack Reacher: The Musical may not enjoy The Midnight Line (the most recent Jack Reacher novel) quite as much. Even though Lee Child is a millionaire author with a millionaire brand, his ability to stretch that brand is still pretty limited, it seems.

So, one of the advantages of being an unknown is that I still have time to craft my brand and figure out who my core readers are. The disadvantage is that once I find that core, I’m probably stuck writing for them, and only them, unless I want to come up with a pen name and write all of my other stuff under that name even though I kinda like my regular name. I like seeing it on book covers, at any rate.

Then I think about writers who are successful with every book they write, like Carl Hiaasen, who has his weird Florida thrillers like Lucky You and Nature Girl, and his kids’ books like Hoot and Chomp, and I realize that they can still write in multiple genres and not lose an audience (with Hiaasen, we are talking adult thrillers vs. middle grade environmental stories), and that branding is a general idea and not a concrete rule. And then I remember that all of Hiaasen’s stories take place in Florida (pretty sure that’s true), and I’m back to thinking, oh….

Branding doesn’t scare me, though, because I see myself as a quirky writer who writes in the thriller and/or coming of age genres, and I have a few series books in the making or in mind that keep to these genres and styles closely, so finding my audience doesn’t have to be a challenge.

The problem I face, in reality, is that I just don’t know if I’m actually any good at this. People say I am, but those same people haven’t bought any of my e-books. They read snippets, or they’ll read printed manuscripts I happen to have with me when I see them, and they’ll say, “Hey, this is good.” But will they spend their money to support me? Very few have. And, that’s what makes me ask the question.

I’m at a point in my life where I have to start evaluating my resources for generating traffic, interest, and sales for my stories. That means figuring out where to cast my net of investments. I don’t really want to buy any more books or courses on the topic of success (or related fields), as those are just educational resources and not practical applications. I want to start spending it on the tools that will actually allow me to convert these casual travelers into readers and fans. That means getting an official website, and an official emailing list, and an official delivery system for bonuses to subscribers, all of which go beyond the scope and freeality (made-up word alert) of Drinking Café Latte at 1pm and its free WordPress host. Without a professional presence, I can’t expect to have readers take me seriously.

Investing in my future is scary because I don’t know if mine is the kind of work that people would want to pay money for or come back for seconds. I think it is, but I haven’t heard from any readers who agree. Doesn’t mean they aren’t out there, of course. One of the problems with having no official point of contact is that I can’t really know how people perceive the stories I write. I have no way of knowing how they feel about it, or if it’s even something they’d want to read. Investing in these tools of contact and advertisement is vital now.

There is a service that opened this week called Author Cats that would actually be helpful for my brand, if I had the $497 to spend on it between now and December 5th. If I wait until after, then I have to spend that each year. If I get it before then, I only have to spend that once. But, I still have to tie it into a website I own (which could cost me up to $25 a month), and link it to an outside mailing list I port in from elsewhere (which can also cost me a monthly fee if I go with anyone other than the unwieldy MailChimp). Is it worth it? Well, it doesn’t matter because my author career has so far prevented me from affording the tools that will help me make it better.

Brings me back to the question: Am I any good? Specifically, am I good enough to support these costs?

This is what every author struggles with, even those who have been doing it for a long time, and even those who have managed to attract a few fans. Every new work is a reset button waiting to happen. The poor opening of Justice League proves that even tried and true brands aren’t guaranteed success, at least not right away. Of course, critics say that the movie is made for fans and fans think it’s “pretty good.” I don’t know. I haven’t seen it myself, and I’m a fan of superhero movies. Batman V. Superman and Suicide Squad, while both enjoyably bad movies, have made me not care much about this franchise, at least not enough to spend $15 on the theater ticket and $22 on the Blu-ray in a few months. I’d rather just get the Blu-ray.

The question, then, I guess becomes, “What do readers want?”

I hope my answer to that question is both true and proves profitable soon. I have stories in the works that I want to share, and stories past that I’m updating for 2017-2018, and I want to start adding price tags to each of them in the next month or two.

But more on that later.

For this point in time, I’m still doing what I can to tell a good story, and then follow that up with another good story. That’s the best I can do for today.

That said, I finished NaNoWriMo at nearly 34,000 words, and I’m working on a Christmas story that I started last year (and had intended to finish, but couldn’t due to reasons I’ve since forgotten), and hope to release it in time for Christmas this year. I’ll talk more about both my NaNoWriMo and Christmas stories soon. I think they’ll be good.

P.S. I will be creating my mailing list soon, with or without an official website, so if you would like to receive a more focused letter about writing topics, book topics, reviews, and offers, including freebies and exclusive freebies, please send me a private message at zippywings[at]hotmail[dotcom] with the subject line “Put me on your mailing list, please,” or something similar, and I’ll add you to the list. I want to send the first newsletter out around the third week in January. The free stuff will have to come later, as I still need to create a delivery system and a plan. Again, more on that later.

Cover Image: Pixabay

Friday Update #7: A Primate Mailman and Other Marketing News

Since my last update, I’ve written part of a new prologue to The Computer Nerd, in an effort to raise the stakes of the story a little sooner. I still have to finish it and clean it up, but it’s there and in progress. Here’s a snippet of what’s to come:

            Something in the dark slammed against the handle to her locked bedroom door, and she shot forward out of her restless sleep. The ringing echo of clanging metal had barely died when the unknown force hit the handle again. This wasn’t the usual wakeup call she had every morning. If it was even morning.

A pair of stem-shaped shadows divided the dim light shining through the crack under the door and stretched across the floor toward her. They didn’t shake, just remained stock still as the source of the shadows jostled the handle, cursed, and jostled the handle again.

The woman slid her feet out from under the sheets and reached for the table near her bedside. Her robe was folded on the tabletop. She had asked the assistant who placed it there to keep it neat, but now that she needed it, she wished she had left it near her pillow where she could reach it.

“Come on, you useless tool,” said the gruff voice on the other side of the door.

The woman felt anxiety creeping up on her. She expected someone to unlock her door as they always did first thing in the morning, but they usually had keys. And they rarely cursed at the door. She didn’t know who was trying to break in, but the last thing she wanted was for the impatient man to see her undressed. In spite of her circumstances, she still wanted to look classy.

She stretched toward the table again, but the handcuffs locking her to the opposite rail prevented her from reaching all the way.

“Fine, you leave me no choice,” said the man on the other side.

The woman was given one pillow. It was hardly big enough for her head. She tried batting at her robes with it, but she merely brushed the edge of the table.

The shadows finally shifted to the side. The man on the other side of the door was changing his entrance strategy. She had no idea how long it would take him to enter, or what he would do once he finally broke in. In spite of the near frigid temperature of her room, she began to sweat.

And that’s just the beginning. I hope to upload a new version of The Computer Nerd in time for the first-year anniversary of its worldwide debut on October 20th. Keep an eye on the news.

Time for MailChimp

After an unnecessarily stressful time at my job this week, I decided it was time to pull the trigger on setting my marketing strategies to get more attention on my books, as a way to bring me closer to financial independence. Seminar after seminar I’ve been listening to this summer has universally agreed that the mailing list is the way to go, and that MailChimp is the best site for beginners to use. So, that’s what I did this week. I signed up for the service.

Now, I haven’t done anything with it yet. And I probably won’t for a while still. But what I think I’ll aim to do is to write a pseudo sequel to The Computer Nerd (more like a side story involving the bounty hunter Mr. Sanders) and make it free. Then anyone who subscribes to the mailing list through the second book can get the first one free. Then I can resume marketing strategies as usual for the third and, if I deem it necessary, fourth books.

If you’ve read The Computer Nerd and you’re wondering how on earth I would pull a trilogy or tetralogy out of that story, then I would say think of Mr. Sanders as a potential protagonist, and you might figure it out.

Anyway, I’ll be spending some time figuring out how I want to set up my first marketing campaign. It’ll be a while still before I do that though.

The Cost of Marketing

Which brings me to my other eye-opening point. I’ve listened to several of Nick Stephenson’s freebie seminars since June, and garnered a lot of information and tips on how to grow my audience. Obviously, without spending the $600 necessary to get his whole course, I can’t find out all the details, not without extensive independent research. Even though I would like to enroll, I can’t afford that right now. Too many bills and too little income.

But, this week, he sponsored the release of a new book called Broken by author Gordon Hopkins, based on Stephenson’s Leopold Blake character, and offered a 75% launch week discount on the title. Anyone who bought the book between September 10th and September 14th (his traditional five-day window) would gain free access to a new course he’s designed called Your First Six Figure Launch, as well as all six of his earlier Leopold Blake novels.

I bought the book, got the freebies, and listened to the course. And I finally learned of a detail I’ve been trying to figure out since June. Turns out, to get a really good, consistent marketing campaign going, I would need to set aside about $230 a month or so, minimum. And I think that’s before the free 2000-subscriber limit on MailChimp kicks in.

So, for someone whose bills constantly flirt with his matching line of income, I think that’s going to be a huge challenge for me. So, I don’t actually want to get the mailing list active until I’m close to launching the third book (but I’ll start it with the second).

And that’s what I’ve been thinking about this week.

Oh, and I’m back to eating healthier. I’ve lost about ten pounds since the beginning of the month. Cutting way down on the carbs to get that weight loss.