About Getting Started. Due to many requests, I’m revisiting ‘getting started with marketing’. After the first three posts, several readers said: I don’t have any fans, I don’t have any followers, I’m not known in any reader-forums, how do I start? I breezed past some basics in the last post Part 3 by saying that your blog should reflect “the intersection of: your writing, your interests, and your readers.” But I left out how to find out who your readers are. This post will back up and dig into that a little deeper.
Sorry about the abnormally long gap between posts, but I put my latest book out and ended up doing more polishing and editing than I expected.
Ideally, you know your typical reader’s profile: a 38-yr-old male who shops at Target not Walmart, is married with 2.3 kids, drives a pickup, and owns a Taser. That kind of profile is gold. But if you’re new, how do you know what your fans look like? Where do you start?
Sometime ago, I noticed the marketing behavior of a debut writer named Xander Weaver. His first book will come out in the next few weeks (keep your eyes open, it’s excellent) but he began marketing a long time ago. I first ran across him in reader-forums where he often promoted indie authors in his favorite genres. I began noticing his posts on social media and around the cyber-world. He was building relationships with established authors. Once in a blue moon he would mention his WIP. It was obvious he was building IOU’s across the internet, but he did it in exemplary fashion.
Every week I field several requests for reviews, promotion, help, etc from people I’ve never heard of and am not connected to in any way. Two or three times a year, if the first page is exceptionally promising* (Lance Charnes, Louis Kirby, Bill Davis to name a few), I’ll engage. I reserve my energy for those who helped me.
Many indie authors will take a minor annoyance as an inexcusable sin and refuse to work with you. I once had a writer tell me she couldn’t help someone who used the word “that” in sentences and bailed on my third page. (Shakespeare and I are okay with”‘that”.) Another author refused to reciprocate because my hero used darts (the CIA used dart back in 1972) and claimed they were unrealistic despite the author being a fan of James Rollins who wrote about telepathic marsupials. Go figure. If a writer won’t reciprocate—I forget about them. No hard feelings, just no further interaction required.
So the day came when Xander Weaver mentioned his book was in the final stages. Because he’d done so much for me without asking, I begged to beta-read his book. It was far better than I expected. Despite being a couple of years ahead of him in writing, I could only offer a few structural pointers in what was otherwise an exciting and well written thriller. When he releases it, you will hear from me. He earned my help** and I will not hold back.
Mr. Weaver’s diligence in helping others will earn him some of my fans. I’m not worried. There are 7 billion people in the world and I’ve not broken into the first million yet. There are plenty of readers to go around. Besides, my fans (and you both know who you are) read 50-100 books a year. I’m not writing that many. So I’m sharing my platform with Mr. Weaver as I have with Messrs. Charnes, Kirby, and others.
Mr. Weaver’s method worked for me early on as well. I’ve been a huge fan of Zoë Sharp’s Charlie Fox series. I raved about her books in reviews, recommended them whenever possible, and so on. The day came when more than one reader told me I was getting boring. But I still recommend Ms. Sharp—read her work. You’ll love it.
When I released my first novel, I bit my nails for a long time then finally broke down and asked her for a blurb. She was incredibly gracious and kind. She even helped brace the readers for the rough opening (I still plan to rewrite the opening someday).
In short: you start by helping others. Call it karma, the golden rule–whatever–it works.
* Yes, I look at the first page or two of every request. You’d be surprised by how many good books I have to ignore just to get work done.
** infinitesimal as that help might be…