Tag Archives: planning ahead

The Marketing Author 001

Missed an article from this series? Look for it here.

“Introduction”

We all aspire to become excellent at what we do, and what we do, we hope, is somehow tied into our hopes and dreams. People who aspire to build the greatest architecture in the world hope that their names will be synonymous with structures equaling the likes of the Arc de Triomphe in Paris, or Freedom Tower in New York, or that skyscraper in Dubai that Tom Cruise risked his life scaling for a scene in Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol, the Burj Khalifa. But to reach that level, these dreaming architects must prepare themselves for greatness, and while many may want to just skip to the awesome, becoming awesome generally takes a few baby steps and a lot of planning.

As an author who aspires to become well-sustained on passive income from my novels, especially from my A Modern-day Fantasy series, which I’m still working on and will be for a while still, I can relate to this thinking, to this become-awesome-today-and-worry-about-the-details-getting-there-tomorrow idea of success. And thanks to my hubris at having great titles to share and ignorance at having a great marketing plan to get the word out, my journey out the gate has been a rocky reflection of this poor excuse for an ideology.

Fortunately, I’ve spent countless hours—amounting to weeks most likely (there’s 168 hours in a week, so, you know, math)—studying how to market, how to give my books the best foot forward and so on, and the one thing I’ve learned consistently in this journey is that everyone has an opinion about what works, what doesn’t, and that all of them say pretty much inconsistent things to the tune of a similar drumbeat.

Granted, I like these inconsistent things because it convinces me that any strategy could work, as long as it isn’t destructive in nature. Coming up with my own brilliant ideas could also be a strategy, if I had brilliant ideas to come up with. And sometimes I think I do have brilliant ideas.

But, I often cut my ideas short when I think about the cost involved or the legislation I have to deal with to ensure appropriate business. Then I tend to bury my ideas when I realize the planning involved is extensive and the dedication to consistent marketing is unrelenting. And, of course, the worst part of all marketing, the thing that puts to the death all of my good intentions, is the money needed to make it all happen. I usually don’t have anything left over after my bills are all paid each month. How am I supposed to do much with nothing?

The gurus I listen to all want to give free advice up to a point. But then they want money for their truest lessons. That, too, is a sound business model. For them. For me, as someone who’s trying to learn on the tightest of budgets, it’s a terrible business model, as the high cost of learning anything valuable makes it a challenge getting the information I need to succeed. I can generally learn something from these people’s free advice, but probably not enough. And they know that. That’s why they write books, sell premium courses, and save their best stuff for the paying customer. It’s an education, dangit!

Yet, these people know what they’re talking about. They’re marketers, and good ones at that. Their strategies, though sometimes conflicting with other strategies, work, so I’m shown in their promotional videos. I, and any writer (or inventor, game designer, etc.) who aspires for success, should listen to any and all of them and sort out the elements that work best.

But the money….

This is when I realized that for every Author 101, Author Marketing 101, Author Business 101, and so on that’s out there, there is a need for a prerequisite course to prepare us for the education and marketing ahead, a 001 if you will.

I don’t know of any that are out there, so I figure it’s time to start one if none exists (or is so obscure that no one has bothered to sell me on it in some lengthy email campaign). So, that’s what The Marketing Author 001 will aspire to do: To help pave a smooth road ahead of the drive that aspiring authors (and anyone else with a great idea) plan to take on their journeys toward greatness.

I won’t charge for this. I don’t expect there to be any video involved (I’m on a tight budget, remember?). I don’t know that it will even go beyond the first post—there may be no need for anything past my initial thoughts. I just want to share what’s on my mind regarding my rocky journey out the self-publishing gate and hopefully help aspiring anybodies to adequately prepare for the 101 instructions that flood the Internet and the marketing measures necessary to drive success.

As per my Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun series, I don’t know how many installments I’ll have for The Marketing Author 001 as of this introductory article, but I will have at least one starting on Wednesday, March 1, 2017, at 1pm EST. If more follow, I’ll update this post with links and estimated times of arrival, so bookmark this page and check back often. Or check the tabs at the top of Drinking Café Latte at 1pm for an upcoming section for “Blog Series Posts,” where I’ll give easy access to any series I’ve written. (I haven’t set that section up yet, but I’ll revise this post once I do.)

Until then, remember this piece of advice: Preparation is more important than release. If you pull the trigger before setting up the target, you’ll hit the wrong thing, or hit nothing at all.

Check back here soon for Part 1 and the roster of potential future posts.

Oh, and please subscribe to my blog to receive updates. I always forget to suggest that. There’s your first free lesson: Remind your readers or customers to take action that’ll keep you relevant. The button to subscribe can be found at the bottom of this page. Just as I promised, that advice is free.

Update (3/1/17):

Just a quick programming note and content update: I’m going to experiment with a release schedule for later in the evenings, between 7 – 9pm, instead of early afternoons. I’m still trying to find the best time for connectivity with readers. The release schedule may seem screwy at first, but that’s because I want to maximize visibility, and that might require experimentation. I know; it’s the Internet, and an article release schedule shouldn’t matter, but if no one’s reading, then something’s wrong, and I want to fix it. (And I know it has nothing to do with the quality of the articles because this is golden information, people!) Also, I have a brief outline for The Marketing Author 001 series. As of now, I’ve got plans for 11 articles. Make sure you stick around and read them all. I’m sure they’ll open your eyes to things unseen.

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Why It’s Okay to Write for Fun (Part 4): The Importance of Managing Fun

Missed Part 3? Read it here.

“The Importance of Managing Fun”

Stephen King had to start somewhere. His book, On Writing, gives us a history lesson on how he started, how he grew, and how he became a success. His main message to aspiring writers is to remain consistent. But, he also encourages writers to bring with them a sense of discovery. There’s a turf war in writing right now between the “plotters” and the “pantsers,” the latter of which King is the king, but both camps agree that discovering the story is as important to writing as knowing its structure and its ending. Discovery is important to the writer because the writer is the story’s first reader, and emotionally, it makes sense for the writer to plot the story along as if he is discovering things for the first time with the reader.

This is where writing for fun comes into play.

One of the big questions when we write anything (for this argument, we’ll focus on fiction, even though nonfiction writers have the same question to ask) is whether or not we should write for an audience or write for ourselves. If we’re writing an adventure story when our personal preference is thrillers, for example, are we being true to ourselves as authors? If we love screwball comedies, but are forcing ourselves to write a serious vampire drama because it’s what’s hot in the market at the moment, are we doing our job well? If we discover things about our protagonists, even if we don’t actually care about his journey because he doesn’t live within our preferred genre, are we still expected to “ooh” and “ahh” at the discoveries the way a potential reader might?

To that, I say, the author is also the audience.

Now, this isn’t to suggest exclusivity, of course. As we take writing more seriously, we need to start asking ourselves whom we want to read our stuff. But the real first question is whether or not we want anyone else reading our stuff. As I said in “The Importance of Experimentation and Ignoring Fear,” I began my writing life as a private citizen, unwilling to share my stories with anyone who didn’t also wear my underwear. As I wrote more and had more fun doing it, however, I had a greater willingness to share what I was writing. (If I had fun writing it, then maybe others would have fun reading it.) I started by sharing my work with my dad; then I started reading my stories over the phone to a select group of friends. Nothing I wrote was “good” per se, but I enjoyed writing it. And they enjoyed reading it (so they said). But I was not about to release any of it to the public.

Why?

Simply put, I wasn’t ready to put myself out there.

I’m an introvert by nature; though, life has taught me that even introverts have to show their faces to the world from time to time. The invention of the Internet has helped me to combat my fears. It’s given me a comfortable way to get out there, spread my wings, and grow as not just a writer but an author, too, as sharing work can be autonomous, based on discovery, and not require me to slap potential readers in the face with copies of my manuscript as I shout, “Read this!” In other words, I can put my name on a work, keep my face off of it if I want, and avoid the awkward conversations that could’ve formed had I given someone my work directly.

The flipside to using the Internet, however, is that now anyone can read anything I’ve posted anywhere, including the good works and the crap I should’ve kept to myself, and now I can’t hide my imperfections, my poor thoughts on a subject I know little about, my lame turns of phrase, my general ignorance about how the world works, and perhaps worst of all, my inexperience with business and my lack of professionalism as an author. Once it’s out there, it’s out there for all to see. And even though my memory sucks, plenty of people have solid memories that endure years upon years, and they’re the ones who will inevitably read the stuff that made me want to remain a private citizen in the first place. Question then becomes, should I put my name on this thing at all?

Well, there’s a flipside to that, too. Putting my name on crap means everyone who finds it will now think I’m a bad writer. But leaving good work anonymous will mean anyone who finds it won’t know I’m a good writer.

Everything is a risk. Putting our names on the line like that is a risk, just as leaving our names off of things is also a risk. Crazy thought, huh?

That’s when we need to decide whether we want to write for business or for fun. We usually begin our writing life for fun, just as I did, and it’s okay to write for fun. But when we post our work for the public, we have to acknowledge whether or not writing for fun is still our goal. Otherwise, why would we bother sharing anything with strangers? We’re the ones supposed to be having fun, right? Are the people who read our work having fun? Does that even matter?

I’m sure Stephen King began writing for fun. But here’s the kicker: I think he still writes for fun. I think it was, is, and will always be in his blood. The difference now is that he gets paid to do it. He had to start somewhere, and even he will tell you that he’s written crap once upon a time. It’s been a while since I’ve read it, but I’m pretty sure he admits that in his book, On Writing.

The reality is, we should write for fun. It’s okay to write for fun. But we should also forward-think a little. Just like posting about our bad day on Facebook, we should think about what sending this piece of writing up the line will do in the future. Will we be okay tomorrow if this gets out today, or will posting this cause something consequential and irreversible? And is that a bad thing? Perhaps that’s why we need coaches and mentors in our lives. We need gatekeepers to let us know if what we’re about to do is helpful or harmful, and if the job we’re doing as a writer will still be fun tomorrow if this gets out today.

It’s okay to write for fun, but we should have some sense about why we’re doing it first.

Next Week: “The Importance of Balancing Priorities and Knowing Audience”