Friday, October 2, 2009

The Monkey IS on Your Back!

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If you’re an author, it’s true. We, as writers, have had more than just a monkey jump on our backs. The proverbial eight-hundred pound gorilla has landed with both feet. I’m talking, of course, about how writers are now their own publicity agents, in contrast to the “good ol’ days.”

The antiquated model of an author being picked up by an agent who pitches his book to a publishing house, who in turn gives the author a nice fat check are just about gone. These days, even if the publisher offered an advance, these days a writer can almost be guaranteed less than minimum wage for his efforts. Further, even if you are among the flattered few who sign a contract with a publisher, the odds of him putting some money into marketing your work is nil. What are the net result of these changes in the publishing world? If you want to sell your book, whether represented or not, YOU are your marketing agent.

Many authors can write a wonderful book or novel, but simply don’t have the (M)oney, (T)ime or (P)ersonality, the MTP, to market their work. Those who do have the MTP are fortunate and few, but what are the rest of us writers to do?

Let’s take a quick look at the problems of MTP, money, time and personality. First we’ll touch on the problem of money.

Why is it so many of us write? Of course, the reasons are innumerable, but to those who wish to earn a few bucks the old adage that you must spend money to make money holds true. But, how many of us have the cash lying around to purchase that full-page ad in the Times? We, therefore, must look to other, less expensive, avenues with which to market our books.

And what might those be? The classic and inexpensive method is a web site. Even today it’s necessary, but for writers it has evolved into a static position on the Web from which to sell your books. Sounds okay, but how do we get readers to even find our site? It’s called, “SEO,” search engine optimization. SEO is basically managing your website so others will find it on the web. It does and will work for you, but therein lies another full-time job. Entire companies do nothing but SEO. Now you’re facing both money and time issues. Your answer can be found within other, virtually free, methodologies. I know you don’t want to hear this, but you need to learn how to leverage the Internet and effectively use Twitter, FaceBook, LinkedIn, WordPress and the like. The Internet is your answer, at least early on.

These days you must, and please note the word, “must”, delve into these new technologies to succeed as an author. Even if you have a publisher, he’ll insist you develop what is called a platform and reach out to touch people with these 21st century tools. So, get used to it, face the music and bite that bullet. Pick your cliché, but just do it, jump in with both feet and learn how to reach your buying public with your platform. During later posts, we’ll talk more about how to do this.

Let’s look at Time as a writer’s issue.

Let’s assume you, as a blossoming author, want to try and sell your own books. How would you go about doing so, especially, if you are a working schlep holding down the classic nine-to-fiver? There’s the time-tested and proven method of knocking on the doors of every book store in town to convince them to place your book. Statistically, you’ll find placement in one store of ten. Then there are book signing. Let’s hope you get some, but each one takes hours out of your day. You can join every organization in town even remotely related to the writing industry to see if they open any leads for you. And though joining a writers’ group and a critique group are a good ideas, each organization takes three to five hours a month. Add it all up. It gets to be time consuming. I think you can see where this is going. Even if you’re an experienced or natural salesperson, this route is difficult, trying and time consuming. I’m not saying don’t do these things, for they do work, but again, time is your enemy.

How might you overcome this time obstacle? I recommend you use the Web as your starting point. It’s amazing how many people you can touch with that technique alone. In my case, including writing the articles for my blogs and Twitter and Facebook, it takes a couple of hours a day or ten to twelve hours a week.

Now, let’s take the concept of personality.

The writing business is a lonely one where authors sit at their desk, by themselves, and clatter away on a keyboard for hours on end. Two years later when your novel is complete, you suddenly have to get out of your PJ’s and pound the pavement looking for buyers. Have you ever been a salesperson and faced all that kneejerk rejection? Not a fun thing! The two functions, writing and selling, often take two different personality types. Few of us are both.

How many of us truly have the personality to sell? As a business coach, I keep records and have found less than ten percent are good at sales. The odds are ten to one, therefore, you don’t have that personality, either. However, if you do, you can stop right now and though we’re not supposed to use clichés in our writing, you should hit the bricks ‘cause the ducks are flying as we speak.

If you don’t have the personality to sell, and I suspect most writers do not, how do you overcome that obstacle? You have few options available to you, and they will most assuredly involve time or money and that takes us back to where we started. However, one idea is to hire someone to sell for you. Be careful as to whom this person or organization might be, but if you find the good ones, they’ll earn every penny you pay them. Try to find someone to work on commission, but if you’re unproven as a writer, I wouldn’t bet too many of my hard-earned dollars on that idea. One author I know started her own publishing company. She associated herself with a number of self-published authors who paid her a fee and she hired a sales person. Personally, I think this is a soon-to-crest wave of the future. If you’re looking for a business to start, the timing, I believe, is perfect for a self-published authors’ sales and marketing organization.

If you are the typical author trying to break out from the masses of the unpublished, my recommendation is to learn how to use the Internet and get to work. Learn to leverage Twitter. Learn how to take advantage of Facebook, LinkedIn, the blogosphere and all the other web-based marketing tools. They are not as difficult as you might think, and they are almost no-cost as options. Devote a couple of hours a day to this and regardless the size of your wallet or the time you have available, you’ll be amazed at the huge audience you can develop with the personality you already have.

I’ll follow up soon with more postings to flesh out these ideas, so keep in touch.

Until then, good writing and thanks for your time.

Author of "Born to be Brothers"

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