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Don’t Focus the Book: Build A Strong Brand

There seems to be a misunderstanding amongst today’s massive sea of Indie and self-publishing authors. They are more apt to ride the coat tails of a single title or series rather than focusing on building themselves as a brand.

Whether we like it or not, we as authors will most likely not be remembered for a single title. It is imperative we learn this if we wish to be recognized in the industry.

One of the leading gurus I know on this subject is Rachel Thompson. She has some very good points on why authors need to focus on building their brand and not their book titles. I would recommend her blog to anyone struggling to build their platforms.

I’m Not a Brand; I’m An Author

Photo by Khadeeja Yasser on Unsplash

And Apple is just an iPhone. Starbucks is just coffee. Pixar is just known for Frozen and Frozen II. Wait, no they aren’t.

How many times have you seen a well-known author walk around calling themselves by the title of their books? Probably never. For example, we don’t walk up to JK Rowling and say, “Oh you’re the author of Harry Potter!” If you meet her (which if you do, please get an autograph for me too!), you probably greet her by Ms. Rowling and have her sign her book. Why? Because she builds her brand, not her books. Going further, did you ever wonder why Ms. Rowling went under the name of Robert Galbraith before her secret was leaked?

It’s because she wanted to see if people were loyal to her as an author rather than being loyal to her only for Harry Potter.

Stephen King doesn’t tweet about his books or identify himself by a single book but rather tweets about what he’s passionate about and brands his name. More on this later.

If that doesn’t prove a point, I don’t know what will.

Titles Come and Go

Yet another reason why an author should avoid promoting a single title: They come and go as do series. I learned this when promoting Blessing of Luna. I focused so much on making banners, bookmarks, cards, social profiles, you name it on a single title. It wound up being a huge waste of time and resources. When FyreSyde — and now with the opening of Greenwood Grove Booksellers — came I had to repurchase everything I spent hundreds to obtain. Truthfully, I should’ve held the release until I had at least two more titles and knew for sure what my business plan was.

Titles come and titles go but you as the author will remain constant in your personality and approachability. Focus on relating to people as your brand name; it is what readers will bond to and potential readers will buy for.

You’re More Than Your Book

An author platform doesn’t only focus on you as an author. Too often “writers” think all we can do is write about writing. This is not the case. For me, I took Rachel’s advice and focused on five keywords I’m passionate about that don’t focus solely on writing. This offers people a bigger picture of me and less of that of a salesman at their door wanting them to buy buy buy.

Photo by Ian Schneider on Unsplash

Look at the themes of your book. What do you find yourself trying to bring attention to? Are you a mental health advocate? Do you have a deep backstory you want to share or are sympathetic to? Are you trying to bring attention to the effects humanity has on nature? Use those passions to bond with each of those niches. These are all potential readers who will attach to you for being a human being.

To make this personal, I’ve decided to share mine: Gardening, Sustainability, Books, True Crime (yes, I like to study serial killers), and Marketing (there are more but these are the main ones). These keywords take up large amounts of my blog posts and social media posts for those who follow and know me.

You’ve heard this a million times: One of the most powerful tools in building an author platform is to have a blog. It builds credibility and leaves valuable “digital bread crumbs” that can lead people back to your book.

I cannot tell you how many people I’ve coached to start a blog, telling them they will find more people are locating them than if they just blabbed on social media about their books.

Tip: Knowing your passion keywords will alleviate the stress of not knowing what to blog about or to post on social media.

Pro — Tip: Avoid Branding Dilution

Photo by Mikael Seegen on Unsplash

In this article, Rachel Thompson (Rachel Thompson) makes a strong argument as to why focusing on promoting a single title is potentially dangerous. New authors become so excited about their book, they create social media profiles based around it. To paraphrase her:

What happens when book two or book three come around? — Rachel Thompson

You might feel like you have to make different profiles for each title or series. To once again draw from Rachel’s article, this is called “brand dilution.” Meaning, readers who found you for book one (or series one) will either have to follow the other profiles or become so flustered they stop reading altogether. I’m no expert but the latter doesn’t seem too great.

Getting stuck managing multiple profiles for the same series can cause horrendous stress and thus “dead” profiles and abandoned accounts.

If you find you are struggling with branding, I highly recommend any of Rachel’s books. They have been lifesavers on many occasions and her poetry is absolutely beautiful.


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Info-Dumping: How You Can Avoid It

Nothing slows down a story worse than paragraphs of description. It becomes even more problematic when an author chooses to open a novel with too much backstory. This ruins the hook and can often result in the loss of the reader.

Here’s the thing, as authors, we seem to have fallen into the trap of thinking we have to explain every little thing that goes on in our novel. The truth (and the beauty of this) is, we don’t.

Jerry Jenkins, author of the international best-selling Left Behind series, is quoted to say:

“Less detail is often better”

Jerry Jenkins, https://jerryjenkins.com/blog/

This has never been more true in today’s publishing industry.

The fact is, “info-dumping” does not help your story. You don’t have to explain every little thing.

So what is “info-dumping?” Why do authors think they need it? Most importantly, what are some good ways to get rid of it?

Let’s begin.

What is Info-Dumping?

Ellen Brock gives a great description of what an info-dump is:

For those who don’t know what an info dump is, it’s an extended form of telling (rather than showing). An info dump is a big chunk of information that is “dumped” in the reader’s lap all at once. These info dumps are usually done through narration but can be found in dialogue as well.

Ellen Brock, NOVEL BOOT CAMP – LECTURE #3: HOW TO AVOID INFO DUMPING

The fact is, relying on info-dumping is shifting attention from the plot which is the more vital part of the story you’re trying to tell. It slows things down (as previously mentioned) and can often come off as “alright already” moments.

Some of the most common cases of info-dumping can include:

  • Backstory
  • How things work (government, magic, etc)
  • Different creatures or races
  • Landscape or houses (living quarters)
  • How someone looks (really bad in romance)
  • Weather
  • Technology (prevalent in science fiction)
  • And many more…

Why Do Authors Think They Need It?

As previously mentioned, authors think they need to paint the picture for their readers rather than letting the reader do it themselves. The beauty of reading is it allows the reader to develop their own pictures in their mind.

Info-Dumping is “telling” not “showing.” It is always better to do as much showing as possible. Let your reader paint the picture of Mr.Wonderful from your romance novel or the wicked beast in your horror novel.

It keeps them engaged, develop theories and at times, leads them to contact you (the author) to ask questions and spread word of your novels.

Rule of thumb: If you choose to use an info-dump, keep it brief! A few sentences max.

How Can You Avoid or Get Rid of It?

The easiest way to avoid and eliminate info-dumping is to ask yourself the following questions:

  • Does the reader really need to know this? If so, can I split it up via dialogue and narrative?
  • Is it prudent to the story? Meaning does it contribute to the plot? If not, get rid of it.
  • Can I replace the dump with conflict (a scene) capable of delivering the same information? For example, if the dump is backstory, maybe the villain and the hero have history. Can you give a hint of backstory through brief banter?
  • Can the info be delivered in an already existing scene?

Further tips:

  • Do not be afraid of re-writing. Info-dumps are a very common problem in first drafts. Often an author can slip into writing them and not recognize what they’re doing.
  • Scenes can become info-dumps. For example, an office scene where two characters are talking can easily become cumbersome to the reader. Keep it short, keep it brief.
  • Show! Don’t tell as much as possible. Readers like to create an image in their minds.
  • Make it creative!
  • Have beta readers look over your novel prior to send it publishers. Many require manuscripts to at least have two rounds of rough editing. Nothing burdens an editor worse than having to re-write large amounts of info-dumping.

For further reading:

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Authorlife: It Can’t Be About Fame or Money

Sales. love-life-money-quote-by-luis-d-ortiz-390364

We all would love to see consistent sales of our products. They can be books, services such as coaching classes, art, games, etc. The list goes on.

As an author, learning to accept that we will suffer times of feast and famine is a part of the art of marketing and writing itself.

There may be periods where our books and/or ebooks are flying of the shelves quicker than we can produce them. Yet there are times when we can fall prey to disappointment. Wanting to give up because things aren’t going the way we planned.

This is something, through hours of research, that we quickly realize especially as Indie or self-published authors.

It takes hours of hard work and persistence to build a brand. That’s what needs to be focused on. Build the brand, not the book.

But most important, a creator needs to remember why they chose to create their product in the first place because let’s face it. History is full of entrepreneurs of all kinds who went through periods of plenty and nothing.

d1dd5e679b0da3d15d96eff945e15583“Make Your Passion Your Paycheck”

Why did you choose to create your product in the first place? What were the goals you set for yourself when you began? Was it for the money? Fame? Etc? Or did you do it because you love doing what you do?

Why did you spend hours of stress, blood, sweat and tears to hold the product in your hands?

The truth friends, you have to do it because you love what you do. Many authors who are starting out usually won’t see much turnaround and often wind up spending more than they earn. This is a common occurrence when building a new business. It’s about taking a huge risk and being open to realizing, you might fail but accepting that failure and continuing anyway.

“True writing is not about money and selling.

It’s about passion. And readers certainly do discover and buy, well-written books by new writers. Authors only need to inform readers intelligently that they are passionate about what they do. Then book sales will look after themselves.”

Via Justpublishingadvice.com

Do what you do because you love to do it. Not for fame or fortune.

Work Smarter Not Harder

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One of the most successful women in the Indie publishing industry I have seen is Kristen Martin. Author of five best-selling books including her new self-help novel, Be Your Own Goals, Kristen offers multiple avenues of inspiration to those just starting out.

A powerful phrase she uses is “Work Smarter, not Harder.”

Now what does this mean? It means do the research and find what has worked for others and be willing to reach out to mentors who have been through what you are hoping to achieve.

It can also mean, utilizing the tools such as Buffer and Hootsuite to handle the work of scheduling early. It takes about 30 minutes to an hour to use these tools and it takes a great deal of stress off and avoids the twitter hustle and batch retweets.

Set deadlines, carve out hours to work on your passion and hold those hours sacred.

Be Consistent

“Don’t be upset about the results you didn’t get, from the work you didn’t do.”

Entrepreneurship-is-about-turning-what-excites-you-in-life-into-capital-so-that-you-can-do-more-of-it-and-move-forward-with-it_Richard-Branson-Quote_Mindset2MillionsAny successful entrepreneur will tell you they only got where they were because they put in hours of work.

Authors and creatives of any kind, in any field, must put in the late nights, early mornings and weekends to create and become successful at what they did.

You have to be willing to treat what you do like a business. Do not rely on just social media. It is necessary in forming bonds and networking but does not often result in sales.

 

Don’t Give Up!7da6194cf12177755188f4220f92d19b--writing-quotes-on-writing

Odds Are, you Might Not be The Next Stephen King or J.K. Rowling but that doesn’t mean you don’t have something to offer.

It may take a few titles, events and hours of promotion and networking. It may take break-downs, sadness, depression, and questioning your decisions. All of this is normal! We all go through it. Whatever you do, don’t give up!

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“Bestseller” Does Not Have To Mean Best Seller

“Bestseller”

That little orange star-bursting banner many authors strive to reach in Amazon’s ever growing sea of book titles. What makes this particular status so appealing? Is it an increase in book sales, reviews or maybe just the notoriety? Does it validate us in a way?

Keys to Success_

To understand why this status is so sought by authors, we need to know what it is.

This is what Amazon says about its best-seller categories:

“The Amazon Best Sellers calculation is based on Amazon.com sales and is updated hourly to reflect recent and historical sales of every item sold on Amazon.com.”

Basically, it is how well a product is performing as far as sales on an hourly basis. HOWEVER, Amazon goes on to say:

“While the Amazon Best Sellers list is a good indicator of how well a product is selling overall, it doesn’t always indicate how well an item is selling among other similar items. Category and subcategory best seller lists were created to highlight an item’s rank in the categories or subcategories where it really stands out.”

So, while the title “bestseller” is indeed an honor to obtain since it does affect sales, it is not always an accurate indication of how well a product is doing overall.

Why? Well, see what Amazon itself says:

“We choose a few of the most popular subcategories in which the item has a high ranking in relation to other items in that subcategory, and showcase the item’s rank on the product page. As with the main Amazon Best Sellers list, these category rankings are based on Amazon.com sales and are updated hourly.”

Inspirational-Quotes-About-Success-If-you-loveThis is further complicated to determine just what a bestseller is because of authors who sell most of their titles at live trade shows and events. Many sell multiple copies of their books to readers who attend these events. Some sell hundreds of copies in a year at multiple events.

 

Since readers are human beings with busy lives, it can often slip their minds to leave a review. Adding their information to email lists can help alleviate these frustrations but it does not always eliminate them since an author’s constant emailing to ask for reviews can come off as begging or annoying.

So, with all of these ever shifting trends in Amazon’s algorithm combined with the understanding that not all authors rely on Amazon reviews to get their books into the hands of anticipatory readers, the status of “Bestseller” can become very obscured. 

The hard but also stress-relieving truth is just because it says “Bestseller” it doesn’t have to mean “Bestseller.” Event authors who sell multiple copies of their books and enjoy writing them are the ones who understand that building a loyal readership doesn’t always have to rely on an orange status. 11199423_1590625647874477_252512621_n

As long as you are building your platform, have loyal readers who look forward to your work, and are buying your books then you are going to reach “bestseller” status. It just might not be according to Amazon or its system.