As an Author, are You a Peacock, a Mockingbird, or a Hawk?

showy peacock

All show and no substance?

As an author, think about this question.   Are you a peacock, a mockingbird, or a hawk?  You might be asking yourself what birds could possibly have to do with being a writer?   But let’s take a closer look at all three.  See if you can identify with some of these characteristics, because their are more similarities than you might imagine.   Bet you will be surprised.

Peacocks are pretty, to be sure.   Colorful, flamboyant, and decorative.   But even though they are showy, if you look closely at the feathers of their brilliantly, vibrant tail; there is not much substance there.    Peacocks fan out their tales to be noticed.   At first, it is impressive.  Then you realize that underneath all that show,  is nothing but air.    Is your writing all showy?   Are you writing darkness and gloom because of the popularity and success of Twilight or Amanda Hocking?   Are you running raggard to attend every literary event?  Facebooking and twittering all over social media without anything real to say?  Or are you writing what you are good at writing?  Great stories with substance.   Tales that have a beginning, middle, and end.   Characters that have depth.  Locations and plots that have been researched and carefully plotted out.    Good covers are great, but it is the quality of the pages inside that count and will make people come back for more.

Mockingbirds, on the other hand, never stop squawking.  They twitter, and tweet a variety of chirpy tunes.   Short, loud, bursts in every possible call song.  Never sticking to one, just repeating what ever else they have heard around them.   If you listen to them, it becomes apparent  they are trying to attract attention from every angle.    From anyone who will listen.  First this tune, and then that.   Frustrated and fragmented that no one is paying them heed.    So, they change tunes, mimicking some other melody.  Some new authors know they want to write, but can’t find their own voice.   They chirp from this to that, trying to find their niche.   Slow down.   Find your true voice.   Then, sing it to the rooftops joyfully as your own brand.   Your unique author platform.    And stick to it.

Hawk sizing up a mockingbird

Sizing up meaningful tweets and twitters.

Now, consider the hawk.   Eyes on the prize.    Quiet and still as he calculates just the right moment to seize and capture.    The hawk sizes up the situation, calculates the risks, and strikes to take action.    At first glance, he may appear to just blend in, but on careful inspection, you will notice this intricate, exsquisite patterns woven within his feathers.   All aligned and symmetrical in attractive patterns.   Breast full of sustance with dynamic, sharp looking wings.  Proud, confident, and sure of who he is,  no need for overt showy-ness.   The hawk takes his time, hons his skills, and strikes with near 100 percent accuracy when ready.    Isn’t this the writer we all want to be?    Savvy about the business, sharp in our craft,  eyes on the prize, confident and patient, but fearlessly ready to strike when the moment is just right.     On some days, you may feel as an author that you vasilate between all three.    But try to stay focused.   Educate and train yourself on the literary world.    When you are ready,  be a hawk!

Are You Marketing Your Book by the Numbers?

lots of books in bookstore

Your book among the millions!

Several posts have been written about book marketing and yet, there is more to learn everyday.   In today’s ‘I want it yesterday’ mindset, having to wait for some distribution reports to post 60 days after the fact is excruciating!   Fans tell you, “I bought and love the book” yet, the author cannot see where.   It takes stamina not to shout,  “Where?  Where did you buy it?  Amazon, B and N?  Alternative book sellers?  Smashwords?  Where dang it?”

Recently, a very savvy book marketer, Jason Rutherford, otherwise known as the Publishing Guru gave some valuable insight to book marketing by the numbers.   For a fresh novel, six months is your target range.    By that time, if you are headed in the best seller category, your goal should be 1000 copies distributed.    About 1000 to 1500 is your critical mass, whereby enough people that have read the book will begin telling other people, “Read this book.”    Remember the message is “Read this book,” not buy this book.

A good word of mouth response with direct sales results follows this pattern.   For every 1000 people you contact, through blog reviews, personal appearances, book signings,  book festivals, public speaking and social media you should hope for a 1% return.  In other words, out of that 1000 people you tweeted, told, begged, borrowed and bribed to buy your book, you generated 10 sales.    For those of you into immediate, rapid rise to stardom, those numbers must be daunting.

A decent twitter following is greater that 100 real contacts.   Not generated contacts that mean nothing.  Industry contacts in the book world, writers, publishers, editors, and fab peeps including friends that will tell everyone about your book.  Twitter gold is 500 followers.  Twitter platimum 1000 followers who are looking to retweet your posts and links.   Again the goal?  Trafficing them back to your website or blog to give you credibility and a following.

Facebook stardom is 500 friends.  If you have more than that, you are well on your way.  Remember, however, that just because you post something in facebook, not all 500 of your friends are going to see it.   Therefore, the key is linking.   Make twitter, talk to facebook. talk to your blog.   And make your blog, blog worthy!   Don’t post just to post.

To check on how your book is doing,  a handy site is:   www.Bookfinder4U.com  There, you can see exactly what alternative channels and how many are selling your book.   Not actual sales, but distributors that have ordered from Ingram.   One of the reasons to like www.createspace.com is that even though you must patiently wait for sales totals, at least you get some kind of report.   Because some information is better than none.

So, pour yourself a cup of coffee, continue to write everyday.  Plan out your marketing strategy and put it into action.   With fortitude, practice and a little bit of savvy, you too can have the next NY Times best seller.

I fired my editor! Adventures in a first release Part I

Image

Well, it is official.  I fired my editor.  Getting my first novel published has been an adventure.  Everyone wants to write a book, but do you know what the percentage is for those who actually do it?   According to popular survey from the New York Times, 81% of people believe that they have a book inside them, dying to get out.   In the same New York Times article,  Joseph Epstein goes on to disparagingly say, “Misjudging one’s ability to knock out a book can only be a serious and time-consuming mistake. Save the typing, save the trees, save the high tax on your own vanity. Don’t write that book, my advice is, don’t even think about it. Keep it inside you, where it belongs” (NYT, September 28, 2002).

I say bunk!  What an absolutely hideous, vain notion.  There are many creative writers out there waiting to be heard.  Many writers know that they will be able to paper their bathroom walls with rejection letters, until getting to that final YES!   It is that spirit that keeps the art of writing going.  I believe more in the philosophy of Toni Morrison who says, ““If there’s a book you really want to read but it hasn’t been written yet, then you must write it.”  In fact Booksinprint.com state that there were over 1.3 million books currently in print last year alone.

In fact, I would venture to say that the NYT article was written by one of the large publishing houses that know at this very moment, how their industry is being threatened by the emergence of the e-publishing and self publishing world.   In my own networking group alone, DFW Indie Publishers, our numbers grow each and every week.   That being said, self publishing takes some homework.

I personally hit a few snags in the road with editing.  I completed the manuscript, was pleased with the results and began to format.  Ugh.   What a nightmare.  Trim size, bleed, font size, dropped capitals or no.  Getting the forematter formatted.  Writing the story was easy.  Getting it to the final product for me however was hair-raising.  Not wanting to break the bank, through some networking, I got some cheap help from the professionals and made it to the galleys.  I was on the home stretch. Or so I thought.

When you read and re-read your material, your eyes play tricks on you.  You know the story so well, that sometimes you miss the most obvious errors.  Spell check is not 100% infallable!  Even doing the trick of reading it backwards, you oft miss a typo or two.   In my own case, I was so concerned about the interior that I missed two typos on the back cover text!  GAHHH!!!!  The first 150 copies were printed with them.

I wanted to find the nearest cave and hide.   That goodness it was mostly friends that had seen them.  That and one local fiction promotions group.  But the damage was done.  They still to this day don’t take me seriously as a writer.   I was gutted.   One hundred and eighty potential fiction readers would never see my work!   I wanted to cringe.

But, ever the survivor, I picked myself up, dusted off the muck and bucked it up.  I know I am a good writer.  My reviews belie that my story is worthy.   A page turning, character rich, piece!  I simply made a common mistake.   Getting so excited about the galleys for FLYING SOLO, that I did not give it a fine tooth comb with a professional edit.

So you know what?  I fired the editor.   Sat at the computer and re-worked the interior.  Reprinted with smashing success.   I finally had a finished worthy product to be seen by the critics.   And with only a few bumps and bruises to my ego along the way.   It was best to focus on the writing and leave the editing to the professional.

Yes, I fired the editor.   And the editor was me.