SUBSCRIBE for the latest News &
Updates from Rachel Funk Heller

Ten Commandments of Independent Publishing Part Deaux

Aloha friends, I’m back with the next set of commandments for those pursuing independent publishing. Let’s go ahead and jump in at the deep end of the pool.

Thou shalt own “yourname.com” and build your own email list.

 

This falls under the category of learning how to start and manage your author business as an author. Even if you are not ready to publish anything yet, now is the best time to set up  your author website, even if it is just a simple landing page. Jane Friedman tells you what you need. You will want a reliable host. By that I mean someone you can call when you’ve been hacked or hit with a virus.  I recommend TechSurgeons.com. Jay Donovan’s company hosts both this website and writerscoloringbook.com. He is an ex-Black Hat hacker and he is the man when it comes to keeping your website secure. Both of my sites look fantastic thanks to the help of Laird Sapir at MemphisMkay.com Both are entirely reasonable and they understand that your needs will change as you publish more books and grow your site. Look around at other author websites that you like, find features and ideas that you like and find out how much it will cost to incorporate them into your site. Before you begin the conversation with your web professionals, know what you want in terms of style and functionality. This will help them help you.

 

Another reason to do this is because even though you may have established a great platform via your social media engagement, you don’t own Facebook or Twitter. They can change the rules at any moment. But on your site you are the queen or king and what you say goes. So carve out your little bit of digital real estate now, knowing it will grown into your amazing kingdom soon. When you build your site you want to make it really easy for visitors to subscribe to your newsletter. Yes, you also need a newsletter and you need to start building your email list. Ask everyone and they will tell you having your own list of folks who have given you their permission to send you information is still one of the most effective sales tools you can have. And of course the first people on your list will come from your Christmas card email list. You have to start somewhere. (By the way, have you subscribed to this site?!?!?! 😉

 

Thou shalt engage in social media outlets that you enjoy and build your platform.

There are two key words in this commandment: “engage” and “enjoy” If you have been told to by experts to “do” social media so you can market your book– wrong. You “engage” in social media to build relationships. I am not a big social media expert. I bow to my good friend Kristen Lamb. I first became aware of her when I found her book, “We Are Not Alone: A Writer’s Guide to Social Media” In the last four years we have become tremendous friends because of?? You guessed it, social media. I discovered her by accident, and started following her posts. I took one of her classes back in 2011. We met in person at Thrillerfest that year and have been buds ever since. She shows you how to build your brand and how to build your social media platform. Her basic point is that we can’t do this by ourselves, we need friends, we need support. You don’t want to try to build your network with a bunch of anonymous followers. She teaches you how to be of service and build true, long-lasting relationships.

...do as I say, not as I do......(you know where to find me)
…do as I say, not as I do……(you know where to find me)

I don’t have a huge social media following. I am not on Instagram, Reddit, or Google+. I love Pinterest, I still haven’t figured out the best way to use Goodreads. I’m mostly on Facebook and Twitter. They key is that I chose the places I like to hang out because I enjoy it, not because of “the bigger plan.” I follow Kristen’s guidelines: Read your newsfeed and participate in what your friends are posting. If someone just got a great promotion, post a nice “congratulations!” If they ask a question of the hive mind, offer your insight. If you see a great video, or article that they have posted, share it with your followers and include a “thank you” to your friend.

 

Then every now and then, post your stuff. Photos from your recent trip, or interesting things you spot on your morning walk. It’s all small stuff, but isn’t that what life is all about? You don’t have to be on all the time, you just dip your foot in every now and again. I save my social media time for a treat once I’ve done completed my major creative writing. All my peeps are there and it’s nice to know you have a great place to go and take a break. Oh and when I did post that I finally published a book? Holy- flying-bananas! I was showered with congratulations and good wishes because that’s what friends do, help you celebrate those big milestones.

 

If all of that sounds like a chore, I’m sorry but if you want to publish books and create a following, especially if you plan to independently publish, you must have a social media presence. Most traditional publishers are now evaluating writers based on their social media reach. And don’t expect it to happen all at once it is slow going. But all the time you put into it will show a return on investment. Can’t say when, but then again, that is the nature of a work in the creative arts.

 

And no matter where you choose to participate in social media please, please, PLEASE do not become human spam. Do not be “buy my book” 24/7. That is the fastest way to lose friends and un-influence followers. Also, don’t just jump in talk about your book and then jump out. If you don’t have the personality or patience for it start researching other forms of promotion because you will not succeed on social media. I know a published author who had a Facebook account and openly talked about thinking it was a waste of time, that he’d already published with a traditional publisher and he wasn’t going to waste his time anymore. My question to him: what happens when your sales slump? What happens when you come crawling back to Facebook and try to re-establish your account and your following? One of the other benefits of engaging in social media is the opportunity to meet other writers. In fact you should seriously look at becoming part of an online writing community. At a recent writers conference I heard a great truth: we write alone, but we become successful with the help of others. Twitter is a great place to start using hashtags like “#amwriting” “Mywana” or “writetip.” Go out and find your peeps.

 

Thou shalt not covet thy neighbor’s sales stats

 

Now once you’ve found your peeps and you have a circle of writer pals, don’t be discouraged when they are doing much better than you. Again, it takes time to build your brand, learn your craft, and publish your books. I will be honest with you– it takes a really, really, really long time. When you see how well others are doing– and somehow they seem to make it look effortless– go back to their first books, or read their first blog posts when they only had 25 followers. When you are surfing the net and reading all the latest news on what is going on in the publishing world, it’s tempting to get caught up in the latest gimmicks and hacks that some people have created to “game the system” such as offering up free books on the second Tuesday after a full moon as the best way to launch a book. And it’s tempting to click on the link that promises 10,000 new Twitter followers. But they are gimmicks. Let them go.

If you read Stephen Pressfield’s great book, “The War of Art” (which he independently published) he would say that all of this: sales stats, strategies, etc. are part of the Hierarchy. It is all about the pecking order, competition, and “How do I get mine?” It’s an emotional roller coaster of ups and downs based on market trends. Where you rank becomes your total focus and frankly, just writing about it makes me miserable.

yes there are days when the Territory looks like this, but you have to work it.
Yes, there are days when the Territory looks like this, but you have to work it.

Pressfield also says that  an artist should NOT focus on the Hierarchy but “be about your Territory. Your Territory is the work, and the people, and the places that give you sustenance. It’s sitting down and cranking out another 500 words even when you are cranky and miserable. It’s watching that silly movie no one else likes, but that you love and have watched it a hundred times. Pressfield says, “A Territory sustains us without any external input. A Territory is a closed feedback loop. Our role is to put in effort and love; the territory absorbs this and gives it back to us in the form of well-being. ” It is that simple law of “what you get out of this world depends on what you put in to it.” Yes, you do need to spend some time monitoring the latest news, but spend most of your time working your territory. When you do that, I’m convinced your territory will grow and expand organically, the way you want it to, not because anyone told you “this is the right way.” You will find your own way through the wasteland. Carve out your territory, decorate it make it yours, and invite your friends to stop by.

 

That’s what I do with this blog. I’m so glad you chose to stop by. What’s your territory? How does this apply in your working life? I love hearing from you, thanks again for being a part of my Territory.