The last post dealt with lofty goals and ideals, questioning the basic things. This one will be much more nitty-gritty, dealing with practical stuff I’ve stumbled over. In this post you’ll see the word ‘know’ a lot. Knowing matters. Knowledge is power.
I also want to stress that in everything that follows I am not in any way criticizing the author of the original spreadsheet I worked from. Rather, she gave me an insight I couldn’t get anywhere else. She was absolutely great for sharing her skills with us. The issues below have more to do with me being a newbie in the business. I’m sure she couldn’t imagine someone as naïve as I…
To put things in perspective, I’ve been away from writing for a long time – since early college, when I suddenly discovered (so I thought) that I had lost the ability to be creative in this wonderful world we call storytelling. Never mind why – but my career begins later than many of yours – on a dare I did a flash fiction thing two years ago and I was amazed that a lot of people liked it. So I wrote for around seven months, being prolific, until I decided (with a little help from my friends) to go for it. Thus far I’ve written a lot of things, but I’ve only tried to sell a few. So I am naïve as far as the market and the business of writing goes.
Because I didn’t know much, I thought the set of spreadsheets would be a complete guide, giving me a check off list for where I wanted to go. I have some idea of marketing, we’ve had a number of presentations at RWA and I’ve been exposed to it in business. I started with the list for the Online Promo tab, since that was where I thought the most work would be. Twitter Account. Yes, I had already established that one. Enter Yes and the cell turns green. Oh, I like this, it is satisfying. Next line is for a Facebook page – we’d already had a post about the place to go for that one. I went through their process and bingo; I was now Erika Moran, public person (author). Wow, that was easy, and a lift to the ego too. Another square turns green. I kept going and most of them were easy – setting up tweet deck, and accounts at YouTube, and Bit.ly. I could do those. Set up a website – already did that. More green squares. At this rate I’d be done before I had to start dinner. How hard could this be? Two squares remained – my author accounts at Amazon and PubIt. It even gave you a URL to click. I knew something had to be done – I had read the FAQ’s at both Amazon and Barnes and Noble, and I remembered that there was an account required. This must be it. However, when I clicked, there was a slight problem – I needed to have a book already for sale on their sites.
Wait a minute – this wasn’t what I remembered. I went back and looked at the FAQ’s again- it’s easy, just click here to set up your account. I did, and it was a completely different account. Much more basic. Welcome, Erika – it is one where I could even buy books, and download to my Kindle. The one I hadn’t bought yet. Ummm – there seems to be a disconnect. Barnes and Noble seemed to be the same. And my guide didn’t even talk about Smashwords. So there was a time-ordering to these things. I couldn’t even start to build author accounts until after I brought the story to market. Meditation seemed to be in order.
It’s a little disconcerting to discover that you’re so far below the radar for an experienced writer/promoter that the baby steps that look huge to you aren’t even mentioned. I suppose it’s so obvious you should just know. I once got to attend an awards dinner in a very competitive sport, and I heard a statement from a top level winner to a newbie – “It’s been so long, I can’t teach you what you don’t know because I can’t remember what I didn’t know and when I didn’t know it.” I needed to know. And, if I was going to make it, I had to know soon.
I’ve found brainstorming a useful tool – I’m sure many of you do as well. It works best, of course, when you have someone else to play off, but I wasn’t even to the point I could form questions. I couldn’t interact with someone else because I was unsure of what I knew and didn’t know. I had talked to a lot of authors, and I thought that was the most reliable information. I’d surfed a lot, bookmarking useful stuff I could go back to. I began to notebook the stuff I wanted to get looked at often – the FAQ’s, terms from Amazon, B&N, and Smashwords. Things I wanted to be able to annotate. Finally I had recollections from all those marketing seminars and presentations. And everything else I remembered. This was my database.
Because Google doc’s was open I started another spreadsheet, just to record everything I could come up with. I have that sheet shared (see below) and it is a chronological sequence of what I thought I needed to understand. Bear in mind, everyone will have a different list. Mine is driven by what I didn’t know, the genre I write in, and where I thought I wanted to go. Some of them were basic – what helps me sell the most? A one size fits all checklist can’t help with that – you have to think about what works for you. But when I got down to line seven I realized I had some serious issues. Cover art wasn’t even touched. For an indie publisher, this is a major issue, since we don’t do it every day. Where do I even find it? Is it hundreds of dollars? Thousands?
I guess the first dozen list items or so I wrote down that night. Every question needed an answer, and I tried to write those down as well as I found them. I wound up with a whole bunch of tables on that spreadsheet, but that’s a story for later. The first one, the first time I started looking at what else I had to do – that was the breakthrough for me personally. Rather than being a one-stop-shopping experience, I had a foundation, something to build on. The rest would be up to me.
At this point I was confused. Dazed and confused. I thought I had something to guide me, but I’m back in the trenches dealing with a million details. How did I get back here? Let’s review… I started with a set of spreadsheets that made everything clear. What exactly did it make clear? I went back to re-reading, and I also looked at the introductory section on my original guide/spreadsheet – I learned something I hadn’t realized. The thrust of her work was promoting. My problem, in addition to promoting, was to make sure I took all the steps necessary to have something to promote. And then the light bulb appeared above my head. Love it/hate it when that happens.
The biggest takeaway from her work is that what everything is leading up to is the launch of a product. Its up to you have to have a product to produce.
No, it’s not a product. I just wrote a story. A nice, sexy story. It will sell itself…
No way, Jose. You have a product launch to deal with. All this stuff, the tweets, the Facebook status updates, the press releases if you do them, the advertising if you do that, the blog posts, the guest blog appearances, the TV appearances – all that stuff – it all does one thing – it gets the whole world to know that a brand new book is out, is available, and everyone in the know is going to want to buy it. (I was going to say a brand spanking new book, but it would be self- promoting) Of course, you can skip all this crass promotional business. And sell twelve copies the first month. I hope I can do better. I guess we’ll see.
I was working towards a story launch. Backtiming from the launch, fitting in everything, gave me a launch date of August first. So on that day, my first story, The Pianist, will be available on Amazon, Barnes and Noble, and Smashwords. Getting there is the next step of the journey. I’ll be sharing it with you. Thank you for reading my blog. You all are great.
The first sheet – my notes as I tried to understand the process I was following – may be found at https://spreadsheets.google.com/spreadsheet/ccc?key=0ArbCq0IlfGVSdHJhTE9hUmZTVG53YlpLa2Y5amhNOUE&hl=en_US
It is where I recorded the questions I had, and, where I found them, the answers. I used the color code to show when I’d finished something (or handled it, at least). In the end, there are ten sheets to my spreadsheet, and I’ll share more of them next time. If it reads somewhat incoherently, it reflects my thought processes at the time – I was desperately trying to understand what I had to do.
I worked those questions over and over, searching for enlightenment. What it led me to was a simplified list of the things I had to do, and when – these I then mapped onto my Google calendar, so I got reminders every day (both email and pop-up) of the things I had to get done. I found it useful – the down side is you feel driven to finish your tasks for the day. But then, that’s the idea.