Are You Selling What I’m Buying?

If you’re an author today (or any sort of entrepreneurial business person) this is truly a wonderful time to be alive.  The freedom and power given by the internet is unprecedented.  But for authors, all that power comes with great responsibility.  How to you make yourself heard, rise above the masses, and sell books without becoming a ‘MY BOOK IS NOW .99 ON AMAZON!!! RT THANKS!’ jerk?  Good question.

For myself, this is the simple formula that seems to work best (inspired by Austin Kleon) —

  • Do good work
  • Make it interesting
  • Put it in front of as many eyeballs as possible

In a moment I’ll explain each of those parts in more detail, but for now let me give an example of how this was recently successful in a RL event.

The Athens Writers Association had its first ‘Writers Read’ event and I wanted it to be a big hit.  So I picked good people and they (and I) practiced our readings and worked hard to bring our best (‘Do good work’).  Then I made flyers, put stuff up on the website, etc — all with the idea to make it alluring and exciting to people (‘Make it interesting’).  Lastly, I contacted local papers, and spent a whole day going to nearly 30 places around town to distribute flyers (‘Eyeballs’).  It was exhausting.

But it was SO worth it.  We had a giant crowd, and everyone who came seemed to love us and wanted to hear more in the future.  The excitement was palatable.

So what does that mean for you (and me) online?  I think the same rules apply.  Allow me to explain —

Do Good Work

People, this is the catch.  Right here, right in the beginning.  You want to put out good work, really good work if possible.  All the other time and effort you put into to advertising and marketing is pointless (in my mind) if you’re not pointing people to something they are going to love.  You’re just the matchmaker — you believe your book and this reader are destined for each other and you just want them to meet.  And just as you wouldn’t set up a good friend with someone you thought was unworthy, don’t set your beloved reader up to fail by giving them a bad book.

‘Bad book?  Wait a minute,’ you say, ’My book’s not bad’.  No, maybe not.  But you want great.  Not flawless, not perfect (because we are human and what have we touched that we could not imagine more perfect somehow?), but great — really fucking great.  As good as we can make it.

 Make It Interesting

This is where some ‘Mad Man’ magic mojo can help (by writing copy, not by sleeping with models BTW).  The simplest way to think about this is just to remember what made you in love with the world of your book, be interested in that character, or want to know more about a topic than you were finding (think: ‘Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex But Were Afraid to Ask’ or Self-Printed: The Sane Person’s Guide to Self-Publishing).  Also check out my Amazon description posts for more suggestions.  It the end of the day, my advice is to spend a medium amount of time (more than five minutes but less than five years) on advertising, make it fun, and be confident.  Since I’ve release my first book, I’ve probably apologized to no less than five people — it’s too short, I usually write fiction, this book is just to ‘test’ self publishing for a future ‘real’ book.  What the hell?  These weren’t people who were unhappy, mind you.  Meanwhile, the people who have read it all love it.  Point is, I need to be more confident, and so do all of you.  If you have made a really good book, your advertising should (honestly) be able to confidently recommend your book to people.  They’ll love it; they’ve been waiting for it.  Now you just need to —

Put it in Front of as Many Eyeballs as Possible  

I’m still working on this part, but I think paid advertisements are one of the least important parts of the puzzle.  Sure, you have to spend money to make money, but be careful how you’re spending money.  To reference back to the title of this piece, I can tell you for a fact that I’ve never bought a book because I saw an ad for it online.  No FB little side ads, no banners, nothing.  Now, I’m sure a lot of people do buy that way, but my audience is probably more people like me, and ads turn me off pretty hard.  So is this the fall of capitalism?  No way; let me tell you how I do buy books (and games, music, etc) —

  • Heard the person speak (either in person or on the radio)
  • Read their blog and loved their ‘voice’
  • Read a review
  • A friend recommended something they love
  • Had met the person in real life
  • Searched Google or Amazon and the key words brought me to the perfect book (i.e. Self-Printed by Catherine Ryan Howard)
  • Was given a gift by someone who loved the author

One of my favorite shops in Athens, GA is The Native American Gallery.  I only go there five or six times a year, but I’ll happily spend a lot (for me) when I do.  I probably just wandered by the first time, looking for presents for others, and just fell in love.

On the internet, the challenge is that no one in a hundred years is just going to ‘wander by’ a URL.  The great news is that there are billions and billions of paths, leading people from one place to another.  And there are billions of people.  So start making connections — start a blog, guest on others’ blogs, send books out for review, contact sites to do interviews, and even put flyers all over your home town.

I really believe being an author today is summed up thus —

So do the great work I know you are capable of, make it interesting, and start sharing it with the world.  There are readers who just dream of books like yours.

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What I’ve Learn After 50 Blog Posts (Tips & Tricks)

from blog.pinkcakebox.com

TA DA!  (TWEET, TWEET!)  WE MADE IT!

Happy 50th post on this website.  I was kind of surprised that it sneaked up on me.  But I’ve learned a lot since March 2nd, 2013 and I want to share what I have learned with any would-be writers or bloggers —

10 Things I’ve Learned About Blogging

  1. Trust yourself.  People who are meant to find you will find you, so don’t waste time trying to be someone you’re not.  Always be yourself.  Unless you can be Batman, then always be Batman 😉
  2. ‘Tag’ your posts.  The world is wide and tags really help like-minded people find you.  And be open to tagging anything — in the beginning WordPress suggested ‘Mental Health’ for some of my inspiring blogs and that was a great idea I’d never thought of.  I also got a ‘re-blog’ link because I mentioned ‘The Simpsons’ once but I’d added a tag for it.
  3. Stick to a few topics.  Catherine Ryan Howard had that advice in her ‘Self-Printed’ book and it has worked well for me.  It also guarantees that people who like one post will probably like more down the line.
  4. Do your own thing but also find out the needs and desires of your audience.  I write mostly about how to live an inspirational life, writing, and self publishing.  But people really like the inspiring life bit (they like me even more, but that’s just coincidental 😉 ).  So I keep that need in mind and try to help people, even a tiny bit, on their journey toward their dreams.
  5. Post regularly.  If I had one tip, this would be it (along with be yourself, be interesting etc).  The keys to the kingdom.  Catherine Ryan Howard suggested three posts a week but for a long time I was ‘too busy’.  But when I got serious about posting more often (I aim for Monday, Wednesday, and Friday) then people really started getting interested.  I did recently take a ‘birthday week break’ because, well, I’m only human (Skyrim!).
  6. Get great titles.  The number one thing I see when I look at blogs is a lack of inviting titles for posts.  Everything doesn’t have to be ‘How To Make A 10 Tips List To Drive Business’ but I see a lot called ‘Blah Blah, Dreary Day’.  And maybe that’s great and maybe it’s funny, and maybe it’s only meant to be cathartic, but I’m not that interested.  I saw one just called ‘L’ and the first line was ‘I guess this is really happening’, and I had to see the rest of that post.  I lot of times I’d pick a title, write the piece and find a better title in one of my lines, more original, more dramatic, and I’d use that.
  7. Pictures, Links, Ponies — whatever it takes.  People respond to great pictures and quotes (at least I do).  And links not only promote things you love (like my recent Frank Turner post) but they are also added valve/fun for your fans.
  8. If you can, proofread your ‘preview’ before you publish.  I have found seeing the post in its final form makes catching the error easier (warning: you will still find errors).
  9. If you Google something and can’t find the post you wanted — jump on that.  I was looking for a certain kind of list of ‘how to move to the next level as a writer’ for my Athens Writers Association meeting and I couldn’t find it!  So I wrote my own thing to bring to the group and it turned into a very successful post.
  10. Dream (and think) big.  Act successful to be successful.  I had no idea I’d have so many followers by my 50th post but I wasn’t put off when I had just one either.  I just sent my best, most professional work out into the world and hoped to find a few people who liked it.  Thank you all for being so kind as to be part of this wild ride with me.  Onward to 100!
The Amazing Austin Kleon

The Amazing Austin Kleon

How to Move to the Next Level as a Writer — 10 Tips That Could Make You Well-Known and Famous

I consider myself an intermediate writer.  I’ve been writing seriously for fifteen years and am just now moving into the publishing game.  Where ever you are in your writing journey, you probably want to move up to the next rung on the ladder.  Here are ten ideas to get there –

1.  Write More

That’s really the key to anything – do it more.  Everything will improve as you practice and the quality of your writing will springboard you to the next level.

2.  Experience More

Whether it’s reading, watching great shows, seeing concerts, and having adventures – all of these will impact your imagination and writing quality.  Try to step outside of your favorite genres, entertainment types etc. and let Grand Theft Auto 5 influence your romance novel and Jane Eyre inspire your electronica.  You never know.

3.  Seek Help

Find a mentor, read a new book, and just keep looking for others who are where you want to be.

4.  Start Acting Like You’re Already There

Your mind is your most powerful tool.  If you believe you are talented, dedicated, and able – you will be.  So start seeing yourself as the success you want to be.  This both shows others and yourself that you are serious and going places.  Dress like you would when you’ve ‘made it’.  Treat people with the generosity of someone who’s been blessed with success.  Never bad-talk yourself.  You are a star.

5.  Make a Plan

I have a one year plan, broken down into 52 weeks.  If you’re serious about getting better — write down goals and make step-by-step processes to complete them.

6.  Network

Yes, yes, and yes.  For a long time I thought I could ‘go it alone’ but now I believe my success is tied to everyone I interact with.  Scary, no?  So join associations, critique groups, online pages and anywhere else that will help you meet others.  They’ll help you more than you could imagine.

7.  Dream Big

When you’re making those plans, make them giant.  Push yourself.  If you dream of writing the next great HBO series – do it!  “Your playing small does not serve the world.” – Marianne Williamson

8.  Play to Your Strengths

I suggest you read the book ‘Now Discover Your Strengths’ by Buckingham and Clifton.  It changed my life.  We spend more time fixing our weaknesses than embracing our strengths.  You can always pair with someone who’s good at what you’re unsure about (whether you do a trade or for money).  What you want is to spend most of your time doing the thing no one but you can do.

9.  Clear Out the Junk

If you want to be an amazing writer who’s living the life of their dreams, you need to get rid of everything you can that takes time and energy away from your happiness.  Give away items, get fit and healthy, let go of people and situations that drag you down.  If you’re serious about wanting to move to the next level, be ready to leave a lot of this level behind you.

10.  Know You Can Do It

Absolutely, positively.  Where ever you are, whatever you’re doing, know that some of your heroes started with less and overcame more on their way to greatness.  You are special, talented, and have gifts no one else has.  And if you are willing to work hard, you will be unstoppable.

The Post

right

Well, here it is — The Post.  Now, for my part I promise you it is the only one of its kind.  I’m not going to keep harping on this.  But I’m also going to speak very clearly and forcefully right now.

This post is about stealing.  Specifically, illegal steaming and downloading.

For the record, it’s not because I’ve had anything stolen from me or because I am religious.  I haven’t and I’m not.  This is about right and wrong.

Now, I’m sympathetic to how we got here.  Technology has come on so fast (when I was a kid in the 80s there was no internet — gasp!).  And in the ‘old days’ some sharing was allowed, or even encouraged.  You lent out your book or record to a friend so they could experience the same joy you did.  And then there were used book or record stores where you could sell or trade goods and even though the original creators didn’t get money, you were only selling your single copy and others had to be okay with buying used goods.

I also understand that the average household income has been going down since the 70s and corporate profits have been going up.

And lastly, I understand that there’s a certain kind entrepreneurial spirit that is sometimes at play.  I was recently talking to some self-publishing friends and they mentioned you could use Paypal when people bought your books, but to the sure to mark it as a ‘gift of money’ instead of a ‘payment for goods sold’ because Paypal will charge you a fee for the latter.  Now these are good people who didn’t think about it as lying or stealing, but Paypal is a business, and not paying them what they ask when you’re using their service to further your business is stealing.  And to their credit, when we talked about it, my friends agreed.  But as someone who has made signs from trash and done my own editing, I fully understand the ‘smart way’ thinking that led them to that place.

Now the fun part, where I tell you you rock and to stop making your grandmother cry

Bart: Uh, say, are you guys crooks?

Fat Tony: Bart, is it wrong to steal a loaf of bread to feed your starving family?

Bart: No.

Fat Tony: Well, suppose you got a large starving family. Is it wrong to steal a truckload of bread to feed them?

Bart: Uh uh.

Fat Tony: And, what if your family don’t like bread? They like… cigarettes?

Bart: I guess that’s okay.

Fat Tony: Now, what if instead of giving them away, you sold them at a price that was practically giving them away. Would that be a crime, Bart?

Bart: Hell, no.

— The Simpsons, ‘Bart the Murderer’ written by John Swartzwelder

Ah, the slippery slope of rationalization.  Now, I know you are a good person.  You have people you love, things that mean something to you.  You have a heart.  And as a good person you are going to have to give up stealing.  There is no justification.  People I’ve talked to who illegally download are almost always trying to justify it.  If you’re a thief, a criminal, and don’t mind that — at least you’re honest.  This post is for everyone who still believes stealing online is different than stuffing a CD down your pants and sneaking past the security guard at the local mall.

Below are the excuses / rationalzations I’ve heard:

The artists don’t get the money anyway.  Why should I give my money to a big corporation?

First of all, because it’s their property.  The same as a physical CD, they spent the time and money, took the risk, and produced a product — you take that product without paying, then you’re a thief.  Secondly, because the artists do get some of it.  They wouldn’t be doing this otherwise.  And they are getting enough to follow their dreams, and make more music, TV shows, and games you love.  And if their product doesn’t make money, guess what?  Your favorite artist would have to go and work at McDonalds.

The artists are millionaires.  And I don’t like some of them.  They don’t need my eight bucks.

 First of all, that’s still their work and effort you’re enjoying and they do deserve compensation.  And a lot of artists go through years and years of struggle to even get out there on the national stage; so just because you don’t think they deserve it doesn’t mean you get be cheap.  You would seem a millionaire to many in third world countries — can they come take your TV and wallet because you don’t deserve it?  You worked for your money and you should get to use it as you see fit — and so should every band, singer, game creator, writer, and TV producer.

Singers can do live shows for money.

Uh . . .  This one blows my mind every time.  Yes, and you can come listen to them.  But what you are suggesting is the end of every entertainment medium you love.  If illegal downloading was wide enough spread (if I couldn’t support the people you steal from) then there would be no cable TV (Do you know how much those HBO shows cost?), no professional quality CDs, no New York Times Bestsellers.  If event venues and artists who don’t mind working two jobs and releasing free content to you were the whole of entertainment, it would be a very sad shell of itself.  Your illegal downloading is killing the shows and singers you love most.

I just wanted to try it.  And after ten album listens (40 gameplay hours, etc) I didn’t like it that much.

Oh no, you don’t.  You got to experience a thing — that’s what you’re paying for.  Don’t think you’d like that album?  Then wait till it’s on Spotify, or listen to the singles on Youtube.  Rent that game instead of buying it, or only buy six-month-old games that have tons of reviews, walkthoughs, and are now half price.

I’m not stealing a physical item — it costs them nothing.

All the effort that went into creating something is not nothing.  For a CD — the case, burned CD, and paper cost about 50 cents.  That’s all.  The thousands and sometimes millions, go into the music itself — and that’s what you are stealing.  The same way when you gave a physical copy of a book to your buddy, that was maybe one sale they would miss out on as you shared your copy — but if you ‘share’ online you are taking away thousands, millions of sales.  If the artist or company made it, then they deserve payment — whether or not it’s in a 20 cent plastic jewel case.  If you wouldn’t steal from a store, you shouldn’t steal online.  It’s like that old joke —

He: Would you sleep with any man for a million dollars?
She: Well…I guess so.
He: How about sleeping with me for ten dollars?
She: (angrily) What do you think I am?
He: Oh, I know what you are.  Now we are only haggling over the price.

And lastly —

I don’t have any money.

I feel for you.  But in this day and age most people reading this have internet access.  And even if you don’t, there are a ton of events, libraries, and other public freebies.  And online you have Spotify, Pandora, Hulu, Youtube, and TONS of songs, shows, and games put up for free by their creators.  Maybe you are buying too much; try buying half as many things and wait for the ones you want most, or wait for price drops and sales.  Just because it’s new doesn’t mean it’s any better than the best of last year.

THERE IS A BRIGHT SHINY FUTURE OF PLENTY AHEAD OF YOU

. . . let go of the past.

You are a wonderful person.  You have big dreams and you want to live in a world of abundance.  That means supporting others’ dreams and works and helping make the world a more just, happier place.  You can do it.  Just stop stealing today (your grandmother would be proud) and start supporting the dreamers, the doers, and the creative freaks.  Because behind everything you steal, there’s a person like me, a nice, hardworking creator who only wants to make a living while entertaining the pants off you.

Are You Ready To Be the Best?

BELL-CURVE-300x194

So you have a dream.  A dream people tell you is unlikely to come true, BUT it is a dream some people make a living doing — maybe a really good living.  So, there’s only really one question left — how much do you want it?

There’s Always Room at the Top

I was talking to a friend about their college degree and what they were going to do with it.  He said, “I like writing screenplays, but everybody’s writing screenplays,” and the words out of my mouth, before I even thought, were,  “Then why don’t you write a better one than their’s”.  I meant it honestly.  You can be the best — it’s just really hard.  The good news is most people can’t be that bothered to work really hard, even if they’re getting paid for it.

FIVE RULES FOR BEING THE BEST

Find the one thing you love doing more than anything else in the world.  This is really key.  You can’t ‘kind of like it’, or dislike it but think it’s a good way to make money and have it work out.  You can do it as a job, but you’ll absolutely never be the best at it.  The good news is the thing you were made to do is out there.  Just keep looking for it.  Remember — ‘You have to sniff out joy. Keep your nose to the joy trail.’ ~ Buffy St. Marie.

Make sure it’s something you want to do every day and night for as long as you live.  If you can’t stop doing it, thinking about it, or returning to it again and again, you will make it.

Hard work is the ticket to everywhere you want to be.  Now a lot of people have lost the idea that hard work can be a joy.  From our schools to a lot of our jobs, hating hard work is now a national pastime.  But it’s a pastime you don’t want in your life.  Step away from talking about work in those ways.  Instead remember the times work was a joy — spending all day building a fort as a kid, helping your own child with a scrapbook, or building a Habitat House.  Reclaim hard work as the key to every door you want to walk through and every dream you have.  And, when you come to terms with hard work as the price of greatness, a funny thing will happen — once you stop complaining about it, you’ll find it’s not really that hard after all.

Help other people, or at least, don’t hurt them.  Helping others succeed is one of the best ways to find success yourself, but it’s not mandatory.  What is mandatory in my book is not fucking with other people’s dreams, hopes, and happiness.  Every minute you spend putting down people (even those you don’t know and will never meet) is a minute you aren’t helping yourself become a better person, a better artist.  Like with hard work, break the cycle of talking about others in a negative way.  The world is filled with joy and abundance, but a lot of your success is contingent on you meeting the world with a positive, happy heart.  Don’t waste your precious time on haters, or being a hater.

Be only satisfied with your ABSOLUTE best work.  Compare yourself to the all-time greats — Gandhi, da Vinci, Fitzgerald.  Whatever you’re doing, never settle for good enough.  In fact, the words ‘good enough’ should make you want to puke.  A real mistake people make is to look at the lowest rung of anything and think, ‘If I could do that, I could make it.’  Now, if that inspires you to start, great, but what you really want is to WAY overshoot that.  My goal would be to have one of the top 5% best-written books of the year my novel comes out, really more like best 2%.  Audacious?  Sure.  But believe you me, it definitely keeps me out of the bottom 2%.

In the end, luck will play a role in any success.  But deep, soulful love of what you do and a willingness to work hard to rise up to the top of your powers in the thing you were born to do plays a much greater role.  So what are you waiting for?  Go out there and be the best!  I know you’ve got it in you.