Last time we all commiserated about feeling stuck. Lately, it’s been really bizarre. I’ve been at this writing thing since long before self-pub, but recently the feeling of author despondency seems to be heavy…everywhere. Maybe it’s the vastness of the internet, the fact that all the old ways and old rules are gone. Sales are stuck. We are stuck. We have this general feeling of anxiety and I do feel it’s worse now than ever.
So no, you were NOT imagining it.
Stuck happens, especially for those who choose to go pro. See, success in anything is not this straight line that shoots at a perfect angle ever upwards. It is fraught with setbacks. Some we can control, some we can’t.
But as I said last post, the most critical step is to admit we have a problem lest we give up and OD on brownie batter and Game of Thrones.
What Do We Do?
The next step is to see exactly what kind of problem(s) we are having.
If we don’t stop and assess what precisely might be going sideways, we’re just going to sink ever deeper into despair because the right brain is terrible at planning. The right brain tells us we aren’t selling books because we are a fake, that our thighs are chubby and that ice cream solves all that ails us.
Right brain is a bit of a drama queen.
Left brain is better at problem-solving.
What If My Career Is Going Nowhere?
I always like to begin by looking at the actual product for sale. The writing is where we exercise the most control and why waste energy fixing marketing if the product needs help?
Good marketing sells good books faster.
It’s science 😛 .
If the product is
fine good great, then maybe we need to shift to the marketing end of things and stop editing the magic out of something that is actually good to go.
Do we have a brand? Really. An actual brand? Or are we unfocused? Is our message unclear? Is it failing to resonate? Why? Why aren’t people picking up on what we are putting out?
Perhaps our sales tactics are off. Now, there’s the word that makes almost all writers break out in hives—sales—but before we progress I want you to breathe and I am going to tell you that most people love a good salesperson. These days even more so.
THIS IS NOT AUTHENTIC SALES…
Unfortunately, though, this is what too many writers are doing.
You don’t believe me that people love a good salesperson? All right. Think about when you get a really excellent server at a restaurant. Don’t you return time and time again? And ask for that server?
I LOVE shopping at the stores where, if the pants don’t fit, a smiling friendly salesperson appears with the next two sizes so I don’t have to struggle back into clothes and pack up the Spawn to find a bigger pair. Or maybe she even brings the ones that I missed that were ON SALE and cut to fit me better.
Don’t you miss the bookstore where the staff had read every new title and could save you buying a real stinker?
AUTHOR MOJO KILLER—Mass Marketing and the RACE to FREE!
In my opinion, mass marketing and well, mass “everything” ruined the art of sales. See, if you look at what a salesperson truly does, it looks absolutely nothing like all this spam crap we’ve seen.
With the advent of mass marketing and mass mailers in the 90s, we began to see the decline of the true salesperson. It became more about businesses flinging out a thousand coupons into the ether and hoping someone bit. It was far cheaper to send out mailers and coupons (and later e-mails) than it was to employ an actual sales staff who went out, in person and connected.
In the 90s and early 00s this shotgun tactic was pretty successful, namely because not everyone was doing it. But then our culture hit a saturation point and the actual structure of the human brain evolved to literally un-see all the crap being flung its way.
The only way (initially) to counter the ineffectiveness of mass mailings became a race to the bottom on PRICE. Who could give away the most stuff and the deepest discounts and the most FREE?
This has happened in publishing and writers are seriously hurting from the over reliance on mass marketing which breeds this unnecessary race to the bottom. But how do we avoid this, especially these days where there’s all this noise?
Refuse to Play By the Rules
There’s a saying, You can’t win if you don’t play. And this is the one a lot of writers bite….then get bitten.
Let me posit this instead.
You can’t lose if you don’t play.
Refuse to play the game by the “given” rules. History has proven time and again that the little guy who wins big refuses to play by the “rules.”
Think of one of the greatest underdog stories in history! David and Goliath. David, the little shepherd boy who killed the giant and saved Israel. On the surface it seems nothing short of a miracle that he won.
But upon closer inspection…
Back in the day, armies had a tradition of pitting their best warriors to combat. Winner took all. This minimized casualties. As the story goes the Philistines put out their best warrior, Goliath and he was the size of a semi. He was heavily armored and his sword was so massive regular men couldn’t lift it let alone wield it.
The Isrealites were all losing their mind. How can we beat this guy? We…are…doomed.
David steps up with some smooth stones from a river bed and puts Goliath down in one shot. Miracle! Perhaps but not totally.
Here’s the thing, David was a slinger. Slingers were projectile warriors (artillery). An experienced slinger could seriously injure or kill a target up to 200 yards and they were crazy accurate (precursor to modern snipers).
Goliath was challenging the Israelites to “single combat” and expected a hand-to-hand fight that relied on strength and armor. David understood he could not lose if he didn’t play. He refused to play Goliath’s game.
Instead, he used speed and maneuverability and hit Goliath between the eyes (only place not protected by armor) with a projectile that had the force of a modern handgun.
In layman’s terms? Goliath didn’t realize he was the first dude who brought a knife to a gunfight.
What Does This Mean?
First of all, I advise losing the fear of sales because most of what is going on around us (book spam, free stuff, giveaways) is not sales. If we are in a modern world filled with overwhelmed and distracted people? They are going to gravitate to those who authentically connect them to what they want and need (brand built on relationships).
Secondly, we have to ask why we just don’t bring a GUN to the knife fight? If we can’t win this thing doing the same stuff as everyone else? Then how CAN we win?
A Handy Checklist To Help
Am I spending too much time feeling instead of planning and doing?
Have I been really honest about where I need to improve?
Have I done everything I can to make my product appealing?
Is the writing really strong enough? Have I had enough good feedback to know? (Btw, ten members of a critique group and a handful of reviews might not be giving you the accurate picture you need).
If I am querying, do I have a good pitch? Am I shooting myself in the foot because my idea is not solid? Do I have enough feedback/information to repair it on my own?
Do I have enough books for sale? Am I resting too much on too little?
Am I too slow at plotting?
Am I marketing the same way as everyone else? Am I really being fresh or am I bringing a knife to a knife fight?
Do I have a brand? Really? Is my name alone a bankable asset?
What can I do differently that others are not?
Am I spending time in the right ways or even in the correct places?
I know some of this sounds “No, duh, Kristen” but really it isn’t. I edit SO many works where the prose is beautiful, but there is no plot or a weak plot. Or the story is all over. Or it needs some serious cutting. Or the author is new and has crammed what should be a five-book series into one book.
Same in marketing. A lot of big problems can be repaired with simple solutions.
So to get that mojo back, distract right brain with some free candy and sit down with left brain for an adult conversation. Then take heart that sales (real sales) is not the stuff turning people off. It is OKAY to sell your book.
Finally? We DO NOT have to play by the rules we are handed. Stop letting Goliath pick the battle plan!
Yes, I Brought a “Different” Battle Plan
To take this beyond the cheerleading for some practical stuff I am going to tell you about what I have coming up to specifically help you. If you’re cool with my pom-pom waving? Thanks for coming by for just the blog ((BEAR HUG)). See you in the comments 😉 .
But for those who need a little more…
Kristen’s Battle Plan
I’m a solutions person and so I’m here to help.
We posited a lot of nagging questions Monday, so I put together ways to answer each of these nagging doubts. For those who follow my blog you know I NEVER do this, but time is of the essence. I’m not going to be able to space classes out like usual so I want to tell you about them now.
My tech guy is going to be taking vacation (slacker) so I won’t be able to offer classes in June and so we are going to barrel through this together and I am offering some seriously awesome stuff to help get your mojo back and get you cooking again!
And most of this costs less than dinner at Chili’s.
#1 Is my writing any good?
The first five pages of any book are the best selling tool we have aside from the cover. We get a cool cover, it catches attention and then what is a reader going to do next? Look at sample pages. This is where we hook ’em or ‘lose ’em.
Yesterday, I talked about the question we all have of “Gee, am I any good? Is it that my writing sucks?”
Hard to know, but a good way is to get a pro like me who will be brutally honest with your work. I’m offering my First Five Pages class Saturday, May 14th 3:30-5:30 P.M. EST but I’m sweetening the deal.
Come on, the basic class is $40 and you get TWO HOURS with ME 😀 .
Anyone who signs up gets double pages for that level.
Pay for the platinum that offers 20 pages and you get 40. Hey, summer is coming and Spawn will be home from school so take advantage while you can. I now have a PA who can help me make sure edits are returned within 15 business days from the time they are turned in and I seriously have NO idea when my schedule will let up next to do something like this.
I have only done it once before and that was almost a year ago.
Not only do you get the class where I’m going to go over dos and don’ts of hooking a reader (and the recording for free), I’m also offering a way to see if your stuff really is good (and you are imagining things) or maybe it needs more work.
I will give detailed content feedback on your pages. Tell you what to fix and how.
Conversely, if I am all “Yes, and angels where singing while I read!” you know maybe marketing or sales is the problem and you will stop over-editing your stuff.
I’ve also been known to pass that awesome work on to agent friends who love that I do some of the heavy lifting.
#2 Is my plot flawed?
If your plot seems like it is meh or it is falling apart? Take my antagonist class Bullies and Baddies Saturday, May 7th 3:00-5:00 P.M. EST. This is going to answer the BIG questions and the Basic class is $50 for TWO HOURS.
No antagonist? No plot. Weak antagonist? Weak plot.
This class will help make you a master plotter, meaning you can write leaner, meaner faster and cleaner and we all know that compounded sales (more books) is where we start making a good living.
#3 Does my idea stink? HOW is my plot flawed?
I am also rerunning my log-line class Your Story in a Sentence on Friday, May 6th 7:00-8:30 EST and the first ten signups are guaranteed to have their log-line shredded in class. We should be able to tell others (an agent/readers) what our story is about in ONE sentence. If we can’t? Probably a problem. I love this class because it is the best way to diagnose a major problem. This class is only $35.
#4 Is my sales plan (or lack of one) hurting me? Should I do a newsletter?
If you are fairly sure of your product and want other answers, then I highly recommend THIS SATURDAY’S class (3:00-5:00 P.M. EST) Making Money with FREE. I am team-teaching with Jack Patterson who has sold over 150,000 books in less than four years.
We are going to talk about when and how and where to use free and address why sales might be going nowhere. Also, Jack is a master at the effective newsletter which is largely why I asked him to join me and as always, the recording is FREE.
#5 Do I have a brand? How can I build one?
I have a Branding for Authors class Monday, May 16 7:00-9:00 P.M. EST to help you learn how your name alone can drive sales. Again, only $35. Spend more time writing and less time marketing. This class is all about doing more with less. As always the recording it automatically included.
Thanks for spending time with me and letting me share that and now I love hearing from YOU! Where have you been stuck? Have you been hiding under the covers instead of focusing on a plan? Have you had no idea where to start? Do you think the vastness of the internet is making writers even MORE neurotic?
I love hearing from you!
To prove it and show my love, for the month of APRIL, everyone who leaves a comment I will put your name in a hat. If you comment and link back to my blog on your blog, you get your name in the hat twice. What do you win? The unvarnished truth from yours truly. I will pick a winner once a month and it will be a critique of the first 20 pages of your novel, or your query letter, or your synopsis (5 pages or less).
For those who need help building a platform and keeping it SIMPLE, pick up a copy of my latest social media/branding book Rise of the Machines—Human Authors in a Digital World on AMAZON, iBooks, or Nook.