Saturday, June 13, 2015

When Is It Time To Give Back?

I recently lunched with a Young Eager Author (YEA) who'd just published her first novel and should have been riding high on the excitement of her achievement. Instead, she bemoaned the fact that sales were disappointing, less than she expected after all her hard work.

Being a Weathered Older Writer (WOW), I was sorry she didn't have a clearer grasp beforehand of the profession she was entering. She certainly studied up on grammar and spelling, sentence structure and punctuation, she had a story to tell and told it well. Shouldn't that have been enough? Where were those readers with outstretched hands rewarding her work with $$$$?

I responded by asking about her marketing efforts. She assured me she had everything in place: a website, Face Book page, newsletter, Twitter account and blog. Not that anyone was commenting on her blogs or replying to her posts. I discovered that she didn't attend to anyone else's FB page, respond to the blogs of others, tweet back or read newsletters. She “didn't have the time.”

This is the point where I should have smiled, backed off and ordered dessert. Instead, I said, “How much interest do you have in the people you want to become your fans? You're asking them to pay attention to you and buy your books, but you're telling me you don't have time for them.”

I shouldn't have to explain Social Media to her. It's been around for over a decade, long enough for us to unravel the mysteries. I call it a two-lane highway but too many authors continue to see it as a one-way road. They are so busy shoveling promotion out that they don't realize they've come to a dead-end street.

Mixing metaphors, let's pretend this author “friended” a stranger and invited the person to dinner. Over appetizers she extolled the excellent prose of her novel, even read a few passages to her captive listener. Throughout the meal, the author gave out her opinions on a wide range of subjects, never allowing her guest a chance to contribute to the conversation. She showed photos on her IPhone of herself at her recent booksigning and gave her new BFF a list of places she would be appearing next. Then she stuck her companion with the bill and ran off saying she had more important things to do.

This is what I see authors do on Face Book.

I don't know, maybe it's me being a WOW. I've learned to be realistic about my status in the marketplace. I make more sales than I expect, less than I want but enough to be grateful to every person who spent money for a book. They had choices and they chose mine.

And maybe because I live in a small town and my world has become even smaller due to medical problems tethering me close to home, I have time to learn all about those new friends on Face Book who communicate with me. I click on their pages and look at photos of their pets, pictures of weddings, grandkids, funny jokes. Rob's recovering nicely from surgery, Kathy K. seems taken with rhubarb (250 recipes? Really?), Linda S. has a thing for owls. Every time we post back and forth, I learn a bit more. I've also learned I'm not the most interesting person in the room and the only one worth listening to. We all have incredible stories; only some of us get to write them.


I hope the YEA realizes how scarce and valuable fans are and begins to cherish them. Right now she's focused on the upward trajectory of her career and has little time. I can't guarantee investing in others will result in sales but she could make a difference in their lives. And, if she allows it, they could make a difference in hers.                     

17 comments:

C.L. Swinney said...

Well at least some of us still understand the marketing portion of being a writer. If you consider the fact authors such as Patterson, King, Silva, and others interact with their fans (and potential fans) on social media, it makes complete sense that newbies should be doing the same.

The real problem is saturation. Almost 11 million books are available on Amazon. If you don't find a way to "meet" new people you'll NEVER make it in the business.

Great information Sunny.

Thanks,

Chris

Liane Spicer said...

As always, thank you for the clarity, Sunny. The household names still have to get out there and do promo, so who are we to moan and complain?

Morgan St. James said...

Excellent post, Sunny. As an author you definitely can't be totally self-focused. You said it all.

Patricia Gligor said...

Fantastic post, Sunny. Great advice for newbies and something we all need to remember. BTW, Happy Birthday!

jenny milchman said...

I love this post, Sunny, because it shows this isn't a have-to...it's a joy and a privilege to be let into people's lives. You put the social back into this business. It's not marketing, it's relationship building. How lucky is that.

Lorraine Devon Wilke said...

EXCELLENT advice...not only for writers, but for anyone choosing to engage in social media. Being authentically interested in other people generates a lot of good-will and that is, after all, the point of being on social media. It's not a billboard, it's a coffee shop!

Thanks for a great post!

Charles Gramlich said...

I certainly cherish my few fans. I better. :)

Jami Gray said...

Brava, Sunny. I'm with you. We can't expect our readers to want to visit with us, if we don't take time to show them how valuable they are to us.

Linda Thorne said...

Most of us figured out the money part early-on and are not relying on the writing to pay our bills. But there's always some chance. If you don't put yourself out there, then that small chance is probably a goner. A guy I know in one of my Writers Meetup critique groups was manning the Writers Meetup tent at the Southern Festival of Books (Nashville) last fall and some sort of talent scout walked up and asked him questions about his book, bought it and read it. He returned the next day and talked to my friend about a contract for an HBO movie. It took a few months dealing with them, but he got it and some good bucks to go along. This lucky author has a full-time job and is very busy, but he stays active in the writing community and takes the time on social media. I'm sure the talent scout looked at some of his 5 star ratings online too and the fact that the author had established a following.

Kathleen Kaska said...

Thanks for the reminder, Sunny. I do a lot, but I can always do more! So, I'm off to share this on my social networks.

Sunny Frazier said...

Kathleen, thank you for the share!

Veronica Marie Lewis-Shaw said...

Wonderful essay, Sunny! There is a symbiosis between writer and reader that is undeniable. We cannot survive without readers and readers cannot.... well, I suppose readers could survive without books, but let's be honest. What kind of life would it be without books. We need each other. Writer writes... writer interacts with reader... reader reads... reader interacts with writer. And so it goes.

To date, I have been published in several anthologies and I have a memoir and fiction novel in progress. I have learned, and continue to learn, how important relationships with both readers and other writers are. That there can't be only take... there must be give as well.

Sandra Gardner said...

good post, Sunny!
sandy gardner
sgardner2@hvc.rr.com

Nancy LiPetri said...

Love this post. As Lorraine says, not only for authors but for anyone on social media. If you aren't interested in other people and don't enjoy two-way communication then you're not being social.

Linda Thorne said...

I agree with Kathleen Kaska's comment. Reminders are often helpful, at least they help me. I need a "kick" once in awhile to step up my pace. Thanks Sunny.

Jewel Amethyst said...

AS usual, great advice that every writer, YEA or WOW can use. Never quite thought of it in that way (inviting a guest to dinner and yapping all the time), but that's what many writers, including me, are guilty of. Thanks Sunny.

C. L. Swinney, you are absolutely right about the market saturation. In trying to find books on Amazon, it's easier for readers to do a search by author's name, rather than genre or topic because we get inundated with millions of books in the searches. That means the chance of a reader discovering a "new" author is very diminished.

Earl Staggs said...


Well said, Sunny. Great advice and a good kick in the seat for all of us.