Virgin Author Ch 7 Catch & Release: Planning Your Big Day Before, During, & After
Catch & Release:
Planning Your Big Day Before,
During, & After
Remember back during the early days of writing – or hell, even reading this book, when story ideas would flash like lightning in your mind. You’d get the urge, and writing was the only way to alleviate it? You’d stroke those keys for hours. Maybe scribble one scene out… then another and another. What a rush. So now that you’re so close to finishing try and stay focused, ok? It’s still not enough that you wrote a book. I’m sorry, but it’s not. Have you ever scrolled through the new releases on Amazon or Smashwords? There’s A LOT of other hot singles in your area just waiting to get picked up and used. So for Gods' sake show a little decency, will you? First off, pick a release date. As previously mentioned, Autumn is typically the best time to release a book. Barring that, it’s late Spring (people want their summer vacation reads). DO NOT publish after National Novel Writing Month (so, don’t pick a date late Dec or Jan especially), or after Camp NaNoWriMo (ergo, don’t pick a date in August). Yes, there are always exceptions to the rules. Should you try to be one? No, probably not. Here’s why: If you’re trying to give your special little book the absolute best chance it has to reach as many other people as possible, you need to put yourself in a strategic mindset. Have fun with it – get in your Zen. Channel your inner spirit. Then, pick a date. Try and think from a reader/shopper perspective. And while you’re at it, scope out a few bookshops you actually go to. Talk to writers guild members and find out if anyone has any pre-existing connections with them. Find out when these bookstores are usually the busiest, then, pick a date. (I like Black Friday. *DIBBS). Schedule your time with the owner. See if there’s a consignment deal you can apply for on their website or just ask about it, too.
Consignment, in case you’re unfamiliar with the term, means they sell your book and you guys split up the profit. (It’s usually something like 40/60). Consignment is important because above and beyond your initial release, you’re trying to grow your network of connections in the writing industry. You want people to know you and vice-versa. Other people liking what you got makes the author’s world go round. Get it? You want at least the successful appearance at each release (whether it’s a brick and mortar location or somewhere online) because you want to get asked back. You want to grow your reputation. You want to be able to have stores regularly carry your books, and unless you have a massive sales force behind you, the only one who’s gonna convince the bookstore owner to give you some of their valuable shelf space is You.
Does this mean you have to like… you know… actually talk to people? Professionally? Why yes. Yes it does. Hey, don’t look at me that way. You’re the one who wanted to be a writer, remember? Suck it up, sunshine. Selling yourself on the street and online is your life now. But it doesn’t mean you can’t enjoy it, too. If you still absolutely rebel against the notion of setting up signings and consignment deals, I’d be happy to help you out. Head on over to http://ryanpfreeman.com/authorservices or just DM me and ask about it. Ok. So. You’ve identified a few places you want to have your release at. You’ve picked your date. It’s still three months or so out. You’re golden. Now, if you’re going the indie route, set up your pre-orders online. Have a contest on your author social media for advance readers so they can help generate that sweet sweet publicity buzz for you. I mean, why do all the work yourself? Sometimes, other people can make things twice as fun. Do slinky cover reveals. Instagram or live record opening your very first box of books for everyone to see. Basically, find ways to share your genuine excitement with your people. Every day, writers become authors. Every day, people release their books out into the wide world. What can help give you an edge over and above the rest is whether you’re actually, genuinely excited about your book and can communicate it. If you can get other people to catch the fire and spread it, you’ve got something. Do the best you can. Be as regular, intentional, and innovative as you can about it. This is where Buffer and a smartphone can really help. Oh, and a Pintrest account. Or this sweet app Canva. Or both. Whatever. I’m not your mother. Plan this stuff out, then schedule it out. Load up your Buffer. Call some local radio morning shows (I have it on good authority that they’re always looking for new guests). Maybe don’t worry your pretty little head about doing a press release. I’ve worked in TV news before and let me tell you, everybody and their little dog too has a press release. But you can reach out to newspapers – see about having them release the article just before your actual book signings so readers can respond by showing up and buying a book. Podcasts are your friend too. Check out 1001 LA Nights and whoever you can reach out to. Even if it’s not a straight-up writing/reader/author-centered show, chances are their listeners want something new to read. Chances are, it’s you. If you tell them, that is. Now, I know I know, I’ve spent a lot of time on Indie. I have a special place in my… ehem… heart for Indie. But here’s the cruel truth: even if you do get that super-awesome magical rainbow sparkle deal with a big five publisher and you and your agent are drinking golden-flaked champagne out of crystal goblets on your luxury yacht on the Mediterranean or whatever… you’re still only going to get about six months of marketing help from the big boys. Then, you’re on your own. Now that’s getting fucked.
The name of the game in publishing is a little something called, Is it Selling? Period (Er.. question mark). No if and’s or butts. Is. It. Selling. (?) You want it to be selling so you meet or exceed your advance. You really want this. Oh dear God, do you want this. You want this because while some money and notoriety is nice, MORE money and notoriety is even better. You want them to ask you for another book. And another book. And another book. Until finally you’re getting HBO specials and the whole world screams when you murder half your characters at a particularly bloody wedding. You know what I’m talking about (Damn Lannisters and their regards). I think I got a little off topic there. Sorry. You set up all your author social media, website, business cards, role-playing game, etc because that way, you can eventually carry yourself. You don’t need no man (*snaps fingers sassily). Actually, you need men plural. Many many men and women. Find ways to keep people engaged and anticipating your next book. Oh, wait. Rewind. Did you catch that last bit? YOUR NEXT BOOK
That’s riiiight. (But more on that later). Start hyping your book about three months out. Be mindful of your feelings. And major holidays. Make friends with booksellers. Get your pre-order game going, if you’re going the indie route. (Oh, so funny story about pre-orders and hardbacks. Apparently, the only reason it’s important is because, besides gauging interest, 10,000 pre-order hardback sales is the magic number for getting on the New York Times’ Best Seller list. There. Now you know. In retrospect, I don’t actually know how funny that was. Sorry. All the same, good to know.) Planning Your Big Day: Before, During, & After
Alrighty! So, you hyped! You made your rounds. You schmoozed. You made some friends (maybe even some enemies! Not just any bookstore is the right one for your genre, you know…) You’re ready. Your box of books is ready and you’re ooh so proud. Awesome. Seriously, awesome. Prettify your table. Find out if you need to bring a table. Skip the chair. Seriously. No one wants to see you just sit there expectantly. That’s not sexy. That’s lazy. No one ever saw a lazy person and was like, oh hell yeah, sign me up. And if, by chance, they did they’re a dumb useless free-loader. Ignore them. Anyway. Where was I? Ah yes. The big day. Make your table cool. At least have a table cloth or something. Since I write fantasy, I use medieval flags. The point is to catch people’s eyes. Engage. Be interesting. Approachable. The next step is to tastefully arrange your books. I say tasteful because no one cares if you wrote a book or three if they’re all messed up. Attracting the vaunted new reader is like fishing. Use the right bait. Learn who your audience actually is, not just who you want them to be or assume. Hard data. HARD data all day long. Find little book stands. That way potential readers can admire your gorgeous covers better. In a pinch, use a stack of books to prop up one. Have a bowl of candy. Something. Anything. But it has to be cool and novel. Readers are like toddlers. If it’s shiny, you might have five seconds for potential engagement before they waddle away towards their more well-trodden book aisles.
Oh. Yes. Also: You have to talk to strangers.
Yep, you read that part right. No, it’s not a dream or a suggestion. It’s the facts of life. You want to hand sell. In fact, when you’re doing signings and releases, it’s not about how many copies you sell. The real question is, did you sell out? (Not corporately or to the man) Did you sell out, or not? Your job is to sell every single last copy you brought. And if you happen to have any straggler copies near the end of your two – four-hour stint, make an arrangement to the bookstore hosting you to sell them for you. The point is, you don’t want to lug books around. They don’t do you any good lingering in your basement for your cat to pee on them or mold to set in. Books are meant to be read. Duh. So get them in the hands of readers who will devour and cherish them. Not buy them out of obligation or as decoration.
Sell them sons-o-bitches. That brings me to my next pro tip (Don’t worry, it’s just the tip). Stand to the side or in front of your table. Make eye contact with people. Smile. Talk to people. Breathe. Be yourself. Especially if you’re a dragon. Everybody loves dragons (the fantasy writer in me may be coming out here). Have email newsletter sign-ups behind you. Have business cards behind you. Have your books behind you. Have the candy BEHIND you. Stand in front of all that with a book in either hand and talk to people. Learn who your audience is and engage them in any way you can. Figure out a three-second pitch you can yell at people. Get them to laugh. Get them to smile. Get them to talk to people. You honestly just spent a LONG time writing this dumb book for them. Each person is the person you wrote the damned thing for. Now sell it to them. Get them to sign up for emails so you can let them (insert name here) know when you have your next story out. The goal is to make fans. Hell, maybe even friends. Learn how to communicate without words too. Learn presence. Seriously, if you can go take an improv class at your local community theater. It’s about stage presence. Here we are… entertainers… But no, really. You don’t have to have a lot of words to hand someone a book, back cover first, and tell them to check it out. Always be trying to actively learn. That’s a life lesson. People get bored if you only have three or four favorite positions. You don’t need to be too wild and crazy, but by always innovating you’re going to remain novel. Boring is the bane of writers. Be sexy. Stay sexy. Feel good doing it. Another thing you can do when you’re selling at your big day is whip it out. Your smartphone, that is. (If you don’t have one, get one. It’s not the 90’s anymore. Yes, you can learn. No, it’s not that hard) IF you can rope a friend into tagging along, have them be your photographer. If you have swag, have them model it (swag sells best when someone else is sporting it). Have them do FaceBook Lives with updates on what you’re doing. Invite those fans you already made to come get your book. Have a giveaway. People love when you give it away. Give periodic updates on how you only have X amount of books yet. Make it a thing! Make it a for real, honest to god event. (Oh, but also, make it a FaceBook event too) The sense of immediacy and a limited quantity are powerful motivators. The genuine sense of fun and excitement is… well, fun and exciting. People genuinely like that. It’s a funny ol world. Allow yourself to be humbled and wowed as each person takes a signed copy home. That’s what it’s all about. Treasure it.
After you’ve sold out and delivered the straggling copies to the bookstore, wowed the owner, and made some real fans, remember to thank the people that helped you. Thank each buyer. Thank the owner. Thank the person running the counter. Thank everyone on your social media. You know, actually BE thankful. Human beings like other human beings. It’s humanity or something. We get around. You understand. Pack up, clean your area, and leave with a smile. You rocked it. Don’t forget your money!! Use the positive vibes to fuel your next happy magic writing time.
Now, on the off-handed chance things didn’t go as well as you might have hoped, don’t just sit there and sulk. Don’t do it. Yes, you. Figure out why. Did you have unrealistic expectations? Was the location not good for your genre? Were the readers not into what you were selling? My point is, like before, always be innovating. Failure teaches us more than success. As the morbidly punishing video game Dark Souls sayeth, ‘Get Gud’. Don’t take yourself over-seriously. You can always do that later when you land your fifth movie deal. Lastly, once you get home, do three things: ONE, dedicate some of that hard-earned cheddar (money. Cheddar means money in this instance) to reinvesting. Whether it’s FaceBook, Amazon, or Youtube ads, money for your next cover, maybe coffee money for when you need to get outta da house – whatever. Reinvest in yourself. Imagine if a business didn’t reinvest some of what it made? That would just be silly. Over time, you can learn which venues you can rely on to provide a certain level of income, and later still, you can plan for it. In turn, regularly investing and purposefully growing yourself as a writer as you go along. TWO, take stock of who bought what. Again, never rest on your proverbial laurels. It’s painful, for one, but by always innovating, you’ll have a finger on the beating lifeline of who likes what ya got and wants to see more. Later, if you’re selling multiple titles, make an effort to notice which title and cover types sell fastest compared to which ones don’t. Adjust as necessary. THREE, keep writing.
Wait. Did you like, um... miss the last ch or something. (Psst! HERE) Next up: Ch 8 Branding, Planning Ahead and Author Networking
Go ahead, read on for more magic.