Welcome to an entire month of Top 5 Tips for Authors!
Every day this month my friends and I will bring you a new set of Top 5 Tips to help you along on your author journey. 2017 was a year of change in the Indie author world for sure. So many happenings. So many new things to learn. So many old things that didn’t quite do what you’d hoped. Well, every day is a new day. And every year is a new year. So we hope that this month’s worth of tips will get you the kick start you need to make 2018 your best yet and please feel free to ask questions and leave comments.
JA Huss is the sweetest bitch (said no one ever.) She writes books about crazy men and fearless women who like to shoot guns, challenge everything, and have a lot of dirty sex. When she’s not perfecting the art of being reclusive on her Colorado ranch, she’s usually going boring places like the Big R to buy hay for her two dumb asses. She hates mailing things but somehow this became a major part of her job, so she warns her giveaways winners their prize might take six months to arrive and makes her kids deal with it. Writing books keeps her from turning into one of those weird “prepper” people who lock themselves in an old nuclear silo with a shitload of guns and MRE’s, so she figures she should probably keep doing it. She asked Santa for a pair of night-vision binoculars this year, so the fat man had better put that shit under the tree.
Look, this might be the most important takeaway this whole damn month so I’m just gonna be blunt. You need fans. As in you NEED fuckin’ fans, OK? Readers can make a writing career but fans sustain a writing career. So if you want to understand the psychology of finding fans, keep reading, bitches. I’ve got shit to say.
DO NOT mistake a reader for a fan
Sure, you can get fifty thousand people to download your freebie. It feels kinda awesome to get to #5 in the Free Amazon Store. Cool. But those downloaders aren’t readers. And those readers aren’t fans. Fans need to be cultivated like a plant. You need to feed and water them. They need some sunshine. They need good quality soil. You can’t just throw some seeds out into the backyard and expect to have a garden. If you don’t cultivate those seeds they’re just gonna get overrun by weeds and shit. (I’ve got a black thumb. I can’t grow anything. So if you can’t grow shit either, no worries. People and seeds are totally different. It’s just a fuckin’ analogy.)
So let’s say you get a downloader to read your freebie. Very cool. You’re almost never gonna know they did this, so eh. Not a lot to celebrate here. But let’s say that reader likes your book well enough to go actually BUY one. Now you can do a little fist pump. Not a big one, just a little one. Because while turning a downloader into a reader is a feat, it’s not worth clinking champagne glasses.
Downloaders and readers are invisible to you. You can’t see them, talk to them, nothing. They’re just out there chillin’ in the nether, doing their thing.
But one day you get a message like this on Facebook:
Ok, so I just finished wasted lust and realize that every single time I finish one of your books, and I have read them all, I say Wow. So I am going to review the book but I need to get more original, figure out how to tell everyone that reading your books puts me through it. My emotions are all over the place and I’m crying like a baby and all I want to do is thank you Julie. Thank you for all of it. I don’t have a lot in my life but when I escape into your stories I feel rich with characters that I think about afterwards. You enrich my life…and I have to find a way for the Amazon readers to understand this is like nothing you have read from an author that is like no other. I am going to re-read some of it now. It will all find its place in the puzzle.
I don’t know when this person first picked up my books but the first message I got from her was during the Meet Me In The Dark release, which was April 2015. This last message that I posted above was about six weeks later.
THIS IS A FAN.
A fan is a person who reaches out to you because you “did something” to them. You made them cry, or you made them laugh, or you made their day with your words. You affected them and so they feel compelled to reach out.
And if you’re coming from a more “traditional publishing world” you will have a hard time wrapping your head around this. But here in the Indie world, readers love the fact that authors are now approachable. To them you’re their rock star. They can see you on social media. They can comment on a post or a tweet and fantasize that you might read their heartfelt words.
Now listen, unless you’re never on social media you should really try and interact with these people. I cannot tell you how many times a new fan will come into my group, make a post to say hi to the fans already there, and then get all excited when I say, “Hey, welcome to the group! Glad you have you here!” Because while I don’t comment on every post in my fan group, I do, at the very least, go through and read EVERY single one of them and click that “like” button to let them know I’m around and if they have a question or comment for me, they can post it and know that I’ll see it.
Because the people who take time out of their day to let you know you’re important to them deserve to be told the same thing back.
When I like a post in my fan group or make a comment on a tweet someone sent, it’s me saying, “If I’m important to you, then you’re important to me.” And that’s not really a hard thing to do, ya know. It’s free. So…
When a reader tells you nice things, tell them thank you.
It’s the least you can do. It’s free. Costs you nada to say thank you. Plus, it forms a relationship with this reader and maybe, if you keep writing books they enjoy, they will become a fan. But that’s not really why you say thank you. You say thank you because that makes you a decent human being. And people respond to decency.
Now, being nice is great and all, but being nice isn’t enough to find a fan. Because readers are readers because they like to read books. And they gave your book a shot, and hopefully they like it, and maybe you actually touched something inside them and they balled their eyes our, or laughed their asses off, or just flipped that final page and let out a long sigh of satisfaction. So the next thing you gotta remember is that….
Fans want a good story and if it comes from you, all the better. But if it doesn’t, there’s enough love to go around, so yeah…
You gotta fuckin’ deliver the good words. You gotta look back at what your fans responded to the most—and that might be the book that sold the most or it might not. Doesn’t matter. If you analyze the books that touched people the most, take that premise, rework it with new characters, in a new world, with new conflicts and then deliver that again—chances are they’re gonna love it as well.
I’m not saying write the same book over and over again. But listen, I have very particular tastes in books. I like what I like. And I don’t think I’m unusual in this respect. So when I find a great story I go looking for more great stories from that author.
When a reader decides to become your fan that’s what they do too. So give them more of what they want.
Writing more of the same, but different isn’t easy. It might be the hardest thing about being a long-term successful writer. So don’t just say, “Yeah, OK. Got it.” Because you don’t. If you did you probably wouldn’t be here reading this advice. So really THINK about what you did well, then try and do it again.
You want to deliver something FAMILIAR, BUT UNEXPECTED.
I think that’s the best way to put it. They want more, but they want to be surprised too. Make sure you remember to surprise them. Which leads me to…
Don’t let them down
Do not cheat and write shit and then try and pass it off as the best shit ever. Shit is still shit. Do not hire ghostwriters that pretend to be you just so you can make money off your fans. Or if you do, at least have the decency to tell them THOSE WORDS AREN’T YOURS. Don’t miss your deadlines. And if you do, figure that shit out so it never happens again. Don’t try and trick readers into buying your high fantasy book by telling them it’s a romance. Sure, you might sell a few more books but it’ll cost you more than money if you do shit like this. You’re only as good as your word.
Some authors are here for the money. Let me tell you, as someone who “made it” and got the money, it’s nice. Yup. But the money isn’t enough for me. I work sixteen hour days because I love telling stories, I love my fans, and I don’t want to disappoint them. So there’s never going to be a time when I hire a ghostwriter to fake my words for me just to make money.
I think my fans would know, anyway. I think my voice is hard to copy. (Unless your name is Johnathan McClain. He’s pretty close!)
Just don’t let them down. And that doesn’t mean you gotta write the perfect book, it just means you gotta do your best. Fans don’t love my books because they’re perfect. They love them for the characters, and the world, and the love story… it’s got nothing to do with perfection.
Put your heart and soul into it. Write something that “gets to people”. Changes their lives. Makes them feel better. Makes them thankful. Or jealous. Or whatever. Because the pages you write are more than a book. They’re a world of people, and events, and conflicts, and endings that give creedence to what we call “The Human Experience”.
Give your readers an experience they never want to stop living and you’ve got a fan.
Don’t disappoint them.
Find the parts of your stories that make people feel. Hone those parts. Refine them and make them better. Come up with new original ideas. Be decent to your fans. Say thank you. Write with your heart and not your fantasy bank account.
Dollars can’t sustain a career you guys. Only fans can do that.
HERE’S THE OTHER TIPS IF YOU MISSED THEM!
SET GOALS TO WIN (Viv Arend)
BE MORE CREATIVE (Violet Vaughn)
WRITE MORE BOOKS (JA Huss)
CREATE GREAT CHARACTERS (Brenna Aubrey)
BUILDING WORLDS (Blair Babylon)
BUILD A STRONG BRAND (Cora Seton)
WRITING FOR TV & FILM (Johnathan McClain)