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Building a fanbase before your first book is published

Discussion in 'Marketing' started by PaulineMRoss, Jun 6, 2013.

  1. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Lindsay Buroker (author of the Emperor's Edge series of steampunk fantasy) is a great source of information for authors, especially for self-publishers, but often in broader terms as well.

    She has a post up about how to build up a fanbase before your first book is published (whether indie or trad) which might be of interest to some of you:

    How Do You Establish a Fan Base *Before* You Launch Your Book? | Lindsay Buroker
     
  2. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    !! - This site gives me a phising warning leading to aweber.com, a blocked site on Google.
     
  3. Draco99

    Draco99 Scribe

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    Thanks for the link to the site, very helpful!
     
  4. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Graylorne, there's nothing fishy about Lindsay Buroker's site. She's my role model for self publishing. :)
     
  5. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    I'm quite sure she is a paragon :)

    But I am getting a phishing warning every time I click on the link. I use G Data, which is a very strick internet security programme. Am I really the only one who gets a warning?
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  6. Black Dragon

    Black Dragon Staff Administrator

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    That's odd. Are you sure that aweber.com is blocked?

    Aweber is a very reputable company that provides email management software. We've been using it on Mythic Scribes since day one, and never had a problem with it. A lot of big companies rely on it.
     
  7. danr62

    danr62 Sage

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    Yeah, if your thing is blocking aweber you might want to look into a different filter.
     
  8. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    To get back on topic,

    I've got mixed feelings about the blog post because it echoes some of the things I've been talking about in this forum, but I think it underplays the main point. More than anything, you need a strategy for turning your social media into sales, and a lot of people don't realize that. They think it's enough to go out, post and attract whoever they can, and when they reach some thousands of followers they'll have a book that sells.

    But I think following the advice in the post and trying to target your social network to readers, before you have a book on the market, is a huge time investment that won't pay out. Readers are fickle, but you would somehow have to find enough raw content to attract thousands of them and hold their attention.

    The approach I've been advocating is to build a comparatively smaller social network, even if it's just other writers, and build a bit of a reputation to rely on when you approach other bloggers asking for a review. Getting other sites to post reviews amplifies the small size of your network a lot faster than anything you can do to expand your reach directly. You don't even have to do that alone - find a couple of other authors at a similar skill level and work on building a social network together.

    But I think a good review appeals a lot more to readers than writing samples, especially if you're publishing lower quality material trying to keep up with the regular demands of a readership. That isn't to say don't publish writing samples - I just wouldn't try and use them as the main thrust of a social media network. There's other ways of using them more effectively.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  9. Graylorne

    Graylorne Archmage

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    I phoned GData helpdesk and they told me to add aweber.com to my exceptions list and that was it. No more virus warning. Must have been a hiccup somewhere. Sorry for the bother :)

    ----

    To the business at hand, I'm not really handy at blogging, Twitter, etc. I have a website with excerpts of my books, but I've no idea how much good it will do. Still, the url is in my books. Also, I added half the first chapter of another book to the end of the one I just published, plus a letter to the reader about 'please write a review'.

    I made a list of some smaller bookblogs, to ask them for a review, the moment my Kindle version has gone live.

    I have some €75 free Google Adwords to try, but I don't really believe in it having effect.

    Actually, I focus primarily on getting as many books out as I can. My 2nd Shardheld book is at the editor, my first two Revenaunt books are being beta-read and my 3rd I'm translating.

    I don't know what more I can do.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  10. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Well, it should be noted that in the introduction to this piece Lindsay said she thinks it's a better idea to just focus on writing and getting books up for sale than on "marketing" but since people who ask her about the subject don't want to hear that, she listed the things that she thinks are more positive than not. The people who appear, to me, to be the smartest and most experienced on the subject tend to advocate just writing and publishing and not worrying about marketing. I agree with them.
     
  11. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    But you probably read that in a blog or interview designed to market them.

    It's easy to take things out of context. There's so many people who completely botch their marketing and do nothing but waste time developing their social media. They would be better off skipping it all together. But advocating "not worrying" about marketing isn't the same as telling people not to do it.

    The marketing big publishers do for all of their books is to contact their network of columnists and ask for reviews. That's what works, but indies don't have a network of reviewers. Many reviewers don't even want to hear from them. If you want to promote your work, breaking that barrier and getting people to give you reviews is the challenge you need to overcome.

    The best way to do that is to reach out to them with a social media network designed to get their attention.

    While of course you should keep writing, it's very possible to do well with a first book, if you know what to do.
     
  12. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Nope. Not all blogs are meant to market an author's work. There's a huge difference between "online presence" and "marketing". In particular, there are a couple of author's blogs I read who write a lot of posts written to help other writers that are not in anyway marketing. And these authors, who both have tons of experience, both say don't spend lots of time marketing. Write, produce lots of work and get it for sale everywhere. Having an online presence is good, so that readers can find you, but most marketing is a waste of time.

    Social media doesn't work unless you're good at it. And it doesn't work sometimes even then. Basically, the ONLY thing that works is word of mouth. Social media is a word of mouth tool. An author's social media efforts CAN help the word of mouth getting started, but that's by no means a guarantee. Social media only works for sure when it's the readers doing it.
     
  13. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Mythopoet, I was explaining why a social media network can help you when you ask a reviewer to write a review. That's business-to-business marketing. Why are you comparing that to word-of-mouth, which is a whole different ballpark?

    As you've suggested, Social Media is a communications tool. Things don't go viral and achieve "word of mouth" from nowhere. You would still need a starting platform from which to launch your word of mouth content. But it would be extremely difficult to produce enough content through social media to appeal to consumers directly. At that level of content, you would be talking about producing a franchise instead of promoting a novel.

    But if you make a few blog posts, hop onto Twitter and share the follows of a few major reviewers, you may reach a point where you can submit a guest post, ask for a review, or do an interview with some of the bloggers who do a better job of reaching your audience than you can online. The guest post, book review, or interview is then subjected to their social media network, where it would then have a chance of developing the word of mouth you're suggesting might work.

    That quickly amplifies the reach of whatever small social network you could develop on your own. And that's basically what the traditional publishers do, but with bigger outlets.
     
  14. Mythopoet

    Mythopoet Auror

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    Actually, you weren't. There was nothing in your post that explained "why" about anything. And you seem now to be suggesting that authors can just reach out to reviewers through social media as if that sort of thing just... happens.

    I maintain that social media does not work for any purpose if the author is not good at it. For instance, I wouldn't be good at it at all, because I don't suffer fools gladly.
     
  15. PaulineMRoss

    PaulineMRoss Inkling

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    Connecting with other writers and bloggers is nice, but I honestly don't think it should be your main objective. I can't tell you how many authors' blogs I've checked out, only to find that they're entirely focused on other writers, so the blog is full of writerly advice about passive voice and adverbs and all the usual stuff. It's natural, because that's what pre-published writers are thinking about, but it's not helpful to potential readers.

    By contrast, I had an approach from an author yesterday asking if I'd be interested in reviewing her debut book, released a week or two ago. When I checked out her blog [*], I found it chock full of good information about the book - maps, character information, an entire cosmology/history of the world, details about the magic, a glossary... Lots of wonderful stuff. That's exactly what a potential reader wants to find - not just a picture of the cover and an extract from chapter one, not a discussion on the merits of showing or telling, but genuine added value for anyone who purchases the book.

    The bottom line is this: if you are serious about selling your book, you need to connect directly with your potential readers. Some of those might be other writers, true, but most won't be. Writers make a great support group (as this forum proves) but ultimately it's the readers you need to reach out to.

    [*] Footnote: for anyone interested, the blog I'm talking about is The War of Memory Project | Project diary for a fantasy series in the works.

    [Edited for greater clarity]
     
    Weaver and Devor like this.
  16. Devor

    Devor Fiery Keeper of the Hat Moderator

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    Thanks for perspective, Pauline. And, don't get me wrong, if I see another conversation about Showing and Telling or Passive Voice I'm going to break my computer, I hate those topics so much.

    There's no way to say everything in one post, so I probably sound more skewed than I mean to. But I don't believe readers usually want to follow blogs and check up on daily tweets, and that's usually what we mean by social media - building a following. You only need readers to visit your website once, if they buy the book. So I think it's better to appeal to readers with more of a fixed website that makes a good presentation, and I don't know that many first-time authors are ready to invest that kind of effort in their first book, before they even have readers to visit it. I think your marketing should sort of progress to that stage of development as you build a readership.

    One of the reasons I talk about using social media to reach reviewers is to give people a good benchmark as to when they're wasting time. I think that's the saddest part of all this. People go about this aimlessly, seeing everyone as readers, and spending a lot of time building up their numbers with people who just aren't going to buy the book. At least if we say, "You need to find people you can ask to review your book," you start to see a clear, measurable purpose to what you're doing.

    I mean, there's a lot of marketing concepts that I find myself wanting to talk about but holding back on, like sales or targeting your audience or making your release into an event. But marketing includes your product, and it gets to be a red herring when you still need to make that book into something worth marketing.
     
    Last edited: Jun 7, 2013
  17. BWFoster78

    BWFoster78 Myth Weaver

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    Awesome discussion.

    As an author who runs a blog that tries to attract other authors, I do agree with Pauline. If I had my choice, I'd much rather have a blog that attracted readers. I put a lot of thought into how to do that, and I came up with diddly. I couldn't figure out what I could possibly do that would attract readers in the way I wanted.

    In the end, I went with my strength, and I'm doing my best to make that work for me, and, I have to say, I'm pretty pleased with my blog. I'm not sure it'll ever pay for the amount of time I've put into it, but I've got 87 followers and, today, I surpassed 5000 page views. I feel that's not bad for less than a year.

    More importantly, I think it's helped me establish a relationship with other bloggers. My (admittedly pie in the sky) goal is that, when I finally do launch my book, I can get it mentioned on 100 blogs and generate a lot of reviews on Amazon.

    Maybe that will happen and maybe it won't, but, given my skill set, it was the only solution I saw. I'm not a world builder. I have no interest in generating endless maps and histories, and, frankly, find it hard to believe that such an endeavor would attract much notice. What I am doing, though it's not attracting readers, is giving me some kind of base.

    My advice is to figure out what you can do and do your best to make that work for you.

    Thanks.

    Brian

    EDIT: Truthfully though, I think it unlikely I'm going to be a huge success based on a single book. The plan is to build an audience for the long haul. Every book I release is a chance to find more customers, and, if those readers are anything like me, once they find me, they'll check out my other stuff. For example, until a couple of months ago, I had never heard of Cidney Swanson. I've now read 6 of her books, and, truthfully, though her writing is engaging, she's not exactly the best writer I've ever come across. The fact is that it is so hard to find halfway decent stuff out there that, when I do, I'll take all of it that I can get.
     
    Last edited: Jun 8, 2013
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