Welcome to Recap Tunnel: 10 Accomplishments from the Past Decade.
Recently, there was a thing going around on-line where you listed or said your accomplishments over the past decade.
Here are ten of mine in no particular order:
1) Published Canister X Comix Nos. 1 – 3 2) Celebrated ten years of Axiom-man with the Axiom-man: Tenth-anniversary Special Edition (which includes a bonus short story, intro by A.P. Fuchs, and an essay) 3) Was obscenely sick and had to go into obscurity for a season before coming back from the dead 4) Co-ran a Kickstarter campaign with Auroraman creator Jeff Burton. This birthed Axiom-man/Auroraman: Frozen Storm in paperback, eBook, and a limited lettered hardcover edition 5) As part of Project Rebirth, I launched a new channel on YouTube 6) Did a whole ton of conventions and book signings 7) Closed down the traditional publishing side of Coscom Entertainment and got back to publishing only my own work through this label (which I invented in the dark ages during high school) 8) Made some massive changes to my personal life and lived to tell the tale 9) Also as part of Project Rebirth, I launched a Patreon page that’s filled with a ton of content like a serial novel, videos, patron-only blog posts, essays, and behind-the-scenes secrets 10) Moved into a new studio space
There was a lot more that went down but I’ve probably talked about some of those things elsewhere on the blog or somewhere online or maybe in an interview. So here we are: Decade done. Time for a new one.
Lots of plans are in place for 2020 and beyond.
Reminder: I’m taking part in Smashwords’s year-end sale, which means my eBooks are 50% off at their site. You can grab one or more of them by going here. Thank you for your support.
The snow that hit earlier this month had melted but this morning the yard is white. It may or may not stick around, but even if it goes away, it’ll be back with a vengeance because snow is what we do six months of the year here in Winnipeg. And while the possibility of doing things outside gets greatly reduced during the winter months, being locked indoors for half a year has its advantages when you make books and comics for a living.
You get to just, simply, work. However, that doesn’t mean you can’t plan for out-of-the-studio excursions in the New Year.
If you go to the Convention and Book Signing Schedule section of this site, you’ll see that I didn’t do events in 2019. There are lots of reasons for this, some of which had to do with being unwell. With the loss of the Central Canada Comic Con–my “default” show for every year except for last year–I have to do some research for local events over the winter so I can book on time for the 2020 season. If I succeed in what I have planned for the winter, then I’ll have a lot of new material for next year’s shows plus any book signings along the way. There has also been talk here at the Central about leaving the province–possibly even the country–for a few events next year. Once dates and locales are locked down, I will announce them here. I’m eager to connect with fans again at these venues. Always a joy to see them.
In the meantime, I’m really looking forward to just working throughout the winter season. It’s been a good long while since I was able to create without hindrances. I can’t wait to get back to it again.
Ps. A new behind-the-scenes entry is scheduled to go on my Patreon page later this week. Join the journey to catch the post plus other behind-the-scenes goodies already on the site. Of course, getting access to a serial novel, essays, patron-only posts and patron-first announcements along with an exclusive membership card isn’t a bad deal either.
This morning I had a wonderful breakfast at Clementine Cafe here in Winnipeg with writer/illustrator G.M.B. Chomichuk and writer/editor Jonathan Ball. And while networking wasn’t the reason I chose to see them, it was something that inevitably happened given that all three of us work in the business.
I usually see these dudes at book signings or on the convention circuit, but since I’ve been away from events for a season, it was a pleasure to have a sit-down with them and talk shop and catch up after so long. It was also an opportunity to share work habits and pick each other’s brains over how we do things and what works and what doesn’t, tell stories, and learn a thing or two.
Today I came away with two wins, and in order of occurrence they were: A dynamite breakfast. Had the Turkish eggs and it was brilliant. The second was a writing gig. I’ll reveal more details about that here on the blog when I’m allowed to.
Most creators would rather be holed up in their studio or office and just work. And while that has its charm and is important in order to get things done, it’s also critical time is spent with those in the business. First and foremost, it’s a chance to simply be friends with like-minded people and realize you’re not alone in the universe regarding your creative quirks. Secondly, it might lead to opportunities to use your craft you might not otherwise have had.
In summary, go have breakfast with other creatives when you can. It yields positive friendships and, sometimes, a job.
All right, let’s talk straight. Specifically, let’s talk author platforms. You’ve read the articles. You’ve been told how important they are. You’ve been given a list of what to include. Heck, you’ve even taken all that information to heart and acted upon it.
And the book sales aren’t happening.
So you keep at it, hoping one day it’ll all pay off. Day in and day out you bust your tail on social media and the Web only to keep missing your goal sales-wise. Or, perhaps, you hit it some months and others you wonder what it’s all for. Frustration sets in and you don’t know what’s going on. You did what Author A said. You got your Facebook page, your Twitter account, your blog, your Instagram and all the others—yet still you’re just another author voice shouting into the storm.
Here’s the issue: you’re following someone else’s advice. Worse, you’re following it to the letter and in the game of publishing, following the author platform advice to a T is a death sentence.
This is why:
▪ Publishing is a giant crapshoot. There is no sure-fire way to do anything. Anyone who tells you otherwise is either lying or trying to sell you something. While true there are basics and groundwork you can lay, that’s all those things are. Yes, your standard author platform recipe should be part of your game plan. That’s no different than saying you want to sell your book but you know you can’t sell your manuscript as is. You need to make it pretty and put it between two covers before you can do so. That’s a given. The basics.
▪ The standard author platform isn’t working for you is because you aren’t making it yours. You’re making it like someone else’s or, simply, following the basic recipe without adding the personal tender loving touch that makes your cookies taste better than the other guy’s.
This is how to fix the issue, written step-by-step, but don’t treat it like an instruction manual. Customization, you know?
Lay down the standard recipe. All good baking has a fairly consistent base across the board. Have your Facebook page, your Twitter, blog, Instagram and all that. Customize each page and make it about you and your books then commit to a Web plan where you’re active on each on a regular basis.
Start adding the TLC. Don’t make your Facebook page like Joe Famous’s. Make it like yours.
I hate the word “brand” when it comes to this author stuff. It turns us into a product and, frankly, art is never about product. It can become a product, but should never be a product. See the difference? This world is sickly loaded with consumerism and people pushing products non-stop twenty-four hours a day. Most of us have tuned out the racket. But what draws us and captures our attention? Unique items and unique people. This so-called “brand” you’re supposed to become? How about voice? After all, your voice is what makes your art what it is to begin with. Why turn that off when sharing it with people?
So . . .
Format and design your pages to reflect you and your books. Don’t be all authorish. Don’t be all bookish. Don’t make people feel like they’re in a stuffy library when they visit you on the Web. In other words, don’t be so professional you come off as cold. Cold people suck.
Into baking or crafts? Build that into your page designs and content.
Into superheroes and comics? Put up some indie superhero character art as part of your banner and pictures.
Into sci-fi and tech? Give your page(s) a mechanical flare and make the electro-junkies squee on the inside when they visit you.
Into horror? Spook it up, man.
Get the idea?
With your on-line base of operations already established, leave it alone for a bit and start playing around with other marketing ideas.
Some items . . .
▪ Set up book signings. Table at conventions. Hook up with some craft shows and flea markets. Arrange a book tour, say, local at first then, depending on success, look at traveling out-of-province/state, even country.
▪ Set yourself up as a unique property at these events. Don’t just have a plain table. Add some posters and signage. Add some props. Display your books in a pyramid-like tower. Stand out. Fool around. Don’t be the lonely author who sits there with a handful of books laid out boring and flat in front of them, longingly gazing at the passersby, your eyes pleading, “Please come talk to me. Please come buy my book.” I mean, you took all this time to personalize your on-line presence, why wouldn’t you do the same for your off-line one?
▪ Casually bring up you’re an author into everyday conversations. You can subtly work your pitch into whatever you’re talking about with someone—choose appropriately, of course—and at a bare minimum leave them with a business card. But have books on-hand or in your car in case a sale is to be made. Trust me, it happens.
▪ Go to open mic nights and share story excerpts or poetry. This is your chance to pimp your work, network and perhaps get hired for new projects.
▪ Do workshops.
And a thousand other things. These examples are to make this point: lay your groundwork—that author platform—then play around with other marketing avenues. You’ll be surprised what works. You’ll also be surprised at what doesn’t because what works for Author A doesn’t always work for Author B.
Book marketing is all about customization. It’s about finding what works for you and putting energy into those things while discarding the things that don’t after you’ve given them a fair chance (i.e. six months to a year or something). And you know what? Even that thing you did that didn’t work for your first novel might be the goldmine that works for your second one. Each book is different. Even each book in a series is different.
Authors want the easy way out. “I just want to write,” they say. Well, if that were really true, you wouldn’t be publishing as well, right?
Or they want to be told what to do: that standard author platform recipe. Come on. How can you be so creative in fiction then totally useless outside of it? Don’t you know your life is a story and so is your book career? That creative flare that you put on the page can be used off of it, too. Stop thinking inside of your book and start thinking outside of it.
After this article is drafted, my plan for the day is to revisit my platform, one that I’ve already customized to me over the years—self-publishing since 2004—and take inventory on what’s working and what isn’t. I’m going to make some changes and try new things. Going to add my own TLC instead of relying on the standard Author Platform recipe.
I’m eager to see how these cookies turn out. I already know my zombie chocolate chip ones are dead ringers for a win and my Axiom-man cookies are super.
Screw the standard author platform. It’s boring and useless. But your own? The one with your personal touch?
With so many writers these days focusing all their marketing efforts on-line, they’re putting themselves in a corner and limiting their exposure. Off-line sales are where the bread and butter is at if you play your cards right.
I’m talking conventions, which are basically glorified book signings.
Since 2007, I’ve been tabling at Central Canada Comic Con here in Winnipeg, a giant comic book convention. This show is also a big part of my paycheck, and my books fit right in because I write nerdy stuff like monster stories, superhero fiction and sci-fi.
A lot has been learned about having a successful show over the years. Here are some basics to get you started:
Have an eye-catching display. When competing against so many other booths and tables, you need to stand out. Bring a tablecloth because not all shows provide them. Use signage, big ones, like 11”x17” set up on stands so folks catch sight of your book’s cover or what the deal of the day is. Want to really stand out? Get a big banner printed up, one you can put behind you. This can display your name and what you do. It can feature your book covers, a web address. Lots of options.
By all means, lay your books flat if you want, but if you prop them up on book stands, all the better. It raises them above the table and draws the eye. Simple picture frame stands work fine. I use iPad ones because they compact better for transport.
Have a series? Lay them out in order of reading.
Write in multiple genres? Organize them as such on the table. Makes it easier to direct the customer to what’s what.
Big sales point. Offer convention-only pricing. I do ten dollars a novel, five bucks a novella. I make sure the customer knows the convention is the only place to get the deal. Get my stuff at a store or on-line and you’ll pay more. Everyone likes saving money.
You can also bundle your books. Have a series? Instead of three books at ten beans each, how about three for twenty-five? You can also do a buy-two-get-one-free thing. Whatever works for you provided you come out in the black all things considered.
3. Book Stock
Better to bring more books than necessary. Nothing worse than selling out and having someone want something. With time and experience, you’ll learn your top sellers and will stock up accordingly. For a first-time show, I recommend at least fifteen copies of each title. If you only have one book out, bring at least twenty.
4. Miscellaneous Items
Scatter bookmarks and business cards around your table. If someone doesn’t buy something, at least you can send them off with a card for a potential after sale.
Be courteous, be nice, give the customer the time of day. Don’t be a fake. Answer their questions honestly. Be active. Don’t squirrel yourself away behind your table. Say hi to people as they walk past. Smile. And, please, don’t do the lonely-author thing where you sit there staring at folks, the look in your eyes saying, “Please come talk to me.” Just be cool. Relax. With time and experience, you’ll find what works for you in your personable approach. Ultimately, be yourself. This isn’t a show.
There’s so much to expand on regarding the above, but space doesn’t allow it. Why not sound off in the comments below and exchange tips and tricks with your fellow authors? I’ll tune in when I can and do the same.