Ready, Fire and then Aim? Huh?

Is it even possible to break through the algorithm barrier and make your book discoverable? I’m still on a learning curve, but I wanted to share something you don’t want to do, fire without aiming.

Ready? Writer’s write, it’s what we love doing. Editing is sweaty, the part most writers would like to skip.

Fire? That’s rushing a book into print without a marketing plan.

Aim? What happens if we are ready and fire before we aim?

What’s wrong with that order?

Book marketing strategy begins by asking your inner writer a simple question.  Why do you write?  What feeds your writing journey?  Are you looking for fame, awards, and accolades?  How about the money?  Are you looking for a way to finance an order for your new Lexus with your royalties?

I remember a conversation. “I’m not making any money.  In business school, they teach about return on investment, ROI.  I do not see a return on my writing investment.  Why should I continue writing?”

There is nothing wrong with earning money, don’t get me wrong.  I would love a large royalty check, and I have just the luxury car in mind.  But I ask myself why I write?.

Admiral Yamamoto, upon hearing the success of the attack on Pearl Harbor in 1941 said about the United States, “I fear all we have done is awaken a sleeping giant and fill him with a terrible resolve.”

Every now and then ideas for a story are like that.  My stories are sometimes like a giant, a caged tiger clawing at the bars, trying to get out.

Remember the advice to dance like there’s no one else watching?  I think it holds true for an author.  Write like you don’t care if anyone ever reads it.

Doesn’t that sound outrageous?

If you can let the story-tiger loose and write like no one will ever read it, you will end up with a story that comes from the heart.  It might be literary, destined to be dissected by sophomore English majors someday. You may even find a happy place on the best seller list.

The statistics tell a grim story, however. Your story may only find its way into the hands of a few close friends and family.

I know from experience, and in talking to other writers, that we have to believe in our story.  What else could possibly explain the long, tedious hours, turned weeks, turned months in writing?  What else could account for the persistence in slogging ahead when we feel like quitting?  And yes, we all have been there.

It’s about believing in our story, in wanting to see how it ends.

That’s why the “why” is important as we put create in creative writing.

Do you believe your story is ready for the telling?  Put the aim where it belongs, back between ready and fire

If you believe in your story, you will know when the telling of it is done, completed, finished.  Or is it?

That’s when the next hard part knocks on your writer’s door.  Sorry, but it keeps getting harder from here on.

Three simple words that aren’t:  rewrite, edit, critique.

  • Rewrite

That’s the ‘F” word to writers.  When I skip that part of the process, I have always, always done so at my own peril, countless times now, cringing with embarrassment at the gremlins that slipped by me.

  • Edit

I am horrible at self-editing, and I think few of us are up to the task.  That’s why it’s so important to have an objective, third party editor.  And an editor can make suggestions, but the writer still should make the decisions. Do I always accept them?  97.8% of the time I do.  A good editor is usually bang-on, and I have learned the value of getting my ego out of the way.

  • Critique

Give your writing to people you trust and ask them to read and critique.  Not grammar necessarily, but how does the story hold up?  Is it readable?  Is it interesting?  Is there a part, or parts, where the reader gives up and quits turning the page?

Better to learn that at this point when it can be fixed.

It helps to have the skin of a rhinoceros when it comes to hearing criticism.  My stomach still contracts when I listen to the term statistics, but I remember that part about ignoring the highs and lows of normal curves.

Handing a story to someone and only getting a wow comment, or don’t like it remark, is like the high and low ends of a bell curve.

The real value is hidden in the middle of the curve; the criticisms that help us make our story better.  The writer owns his or her story.  The final decision about what stays in and what gets deleted is always in the hand of the writer.  It is possible to ignore occasional critiques, but if we start to hear the same criticism from many, if not all, readers, it is time to make some changes.

I remember hearing once that if someone calls us a horse we can ignore it.  If the second person tells us we are a horse we can still ignore it.  But, when the third person calls us a horse we should look over our shoulder to see if we are wearing a saddle. Occasional

 

Judging a book by its cover

 

It’s time for my Mea Culpa.  I think that is Latin for oops.

I rushed my first two novels into print with covers I picked from the ten templates available to me.  They looked, well, like templates.

They had the requisite Title, and there was my name in big, bold letters.  But they both were the job of an amateur, which I was.

There are options for the Indie Publisher. When you lack the funds and have to take a DIY approach, there’s help, but you have to read to the end. Lo Siento, sorry.*

I have to listen to my own advice. I’m getting ready to fling another book at the unsuspecting public this summer. I want the very best cover possible.

 

You may fire when ready Gridley.

Navy Captain Charles Gridley earned a place in history in 1898, when Admiral Dewey turned to him and uttered those words.

Is it time for you to make your place in literary history when you are ready to set your story free?

I warned you earlier it gets harder with each step.  That doesn’t mean it can’t be fun.  Now is the time to study your place in the market.  All the scary, gut-clenching moments of marketing madness were all worth it when I saw my novels on a library shelf.

The journey through the marketing maze can be daunting, but there are resources you can access, people you can turn to.  If you have deep pockets and lots of money you can buy publicity by the barrel, but if you are like me you have to earn it with sweat equity.  I know what it’s like to agonize over spending what to some would be chump change.  Did I let that deter me?

Here’s part of my to-do list.

  • Believe
  • List all contacts far and wide
  • Make a list of who would like my books
  • Where will they be on the shelf in the bookstore or library?
  • Get a review.
  • Get as many reviews as possible
  • Contact the local media
  • Cold call at independent bookstores
  • Create an internet presence
  • Social Media

And that is only the beginning.  If that list looks daunting, it doesn’t have to be.  I have learned to take my fear of marketing and turn it into something I can actually do and enjoy.  After all, if I can’t sell my book, who can?

Help for the lonely author

There are hundreds of websites and ads that sound too good to be true. Remember that adage, if it’s too good to be true?” Email, social media, and website promise a trip to the moon at low cost. It doesn’t take a rocket scientist to know a trip like that is never low cost. Provocative landing pages look great to authors, only to be redirected to the services and pricing page. That’s the time to hold on to your wallet.

A lot of us go kicking and screaming into the social media world. Wouldn’t it be nice to have someone do that for us? Hundreds say they will…for a price. I’ve learned to try and read the fine print.

*Bublish

Strange word, that. It has been one of the few places I’ve found to deliver what it promises, at a decent price.

They will do it for you, at a price. The best part, they will help you keep the cost low, but you must do your part. The write still does the heavy lifting, and to me, that makes the end result even more satisfying.

There are services you can pay for at Bublsh, like cover design, editing, coaching, and more. But you can pick and choose from the menu, and keep the cost within your budget.

You can use the website to write, promote and sell. Best of all, the site is intuitive, easy to use.

I’m not being paid to promote Bublish. I’m a satisfied customer.

Visit www.bublish.com and kick the tires. You will know if it’s a good fit for you.

 

Keep writing, my friends

 

I'm on tenterhooks, waiting to hear from you