A while back on Patreon, I gave my patrons a patron-first announcement (a perk to being a patron), which was the reveal of the true title of Project Jackass.
Project Jackass was the placeholder title for an upcoming comic strip series from me called Fredrikus.
Fredrikus is that dog you see on the cover of Canister X Comix or throughout my Inktober 2019 sketches. Fred the Dog was a character I created during my time in animation school way back when animation was done on stone tablets that you’d throw past a guy at rapid succession to create the illusion of motion. (Har har.)
Fredrikus is structured as episodic strips, ranging between a single-panel gag and a couple comic pages, and is a mix of humor, heart, and a little bit of social justice with a dose of cynicism.
The plan is for the strips to be collected at some point in comic book format for collectors.
As for how this thing will be published–as in the business model–we’re looking at making it a webcomic (with the aforementioned print version once enough–or close to enough–have aired). The goal of the comic is to simply create an anything-goes comic playground where I can noodle with ideas and styles and experiment with the medium. There’s a general overarching plot to the whole thing, but readers can jump in at any point and will have no trouble piecing it together.
I’ll reveal more of the premise at a different time, but if you like dystopian sci-fi with some of the monster and superhero stuff I normally do, you’ll dig this.
Release is still a ways off, but plenty of strips are written along with some fun side material, and the drawing phase is about half complete in regards to where I want to be before launch.
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.
Aeon Flux (2005) Written by Phil Hay and Matt Manfredi Directed by Karyn Kusama Runtime 93 min. 4 out of 5
In the early twenty-first century, a deadly virus wiped out 99% of the Earth’s population. Now, four hundred years later, all of humanity lives in a walled-in city named Bregna and are led and monitored by a group of scientists. But not all are happy with this arrangement and a rebel group called Monicans have risen to oppose those in charge.
And Aeon is one of them.
At first glance, the main story of this movie is like many others that have come before it: a small band of rebels going up against an oppressive government. But this movie isn’t that simple and the aforementioned plot is just what gets us from Point A to B. There are other factors that play into the story, complicated ones, taking what could have just been a B-sci-fi movie all the way to A-level.
Charlize Theron stars as Aeon, the Monicans’s cold, stick-to-business top assassin. The intensity she brings to the role drags you in and makes you want to discover what makes her tick. Yet she also has a warm side, but one hidden and numbed by years of training and running top secret errands for her team. Theron put on a wonderful show in the lead.
The supporting cast, though they all did a good job and their characters were believable, were just that: a supporting cast. No one’s performance really stood out except maybe Sophie Okonedo as Sithandra (the girl with the hands for feet). She was just plain cold (in that good way).
The special effects are astonishing. There is not a single element in this film that is “everyday.” Everything was built for it, whether physically or via CGI. The action is astounding, part Matrix and part Underworld.
Action and sci-fi fans should really get into this movie.
Riley Connor was one of the best skilled mech-pilots in the war between the Expherions and the Supremechs. Now, with the war over, he serves as a Peacemaker, part military, part law enforcement. When a secret weapon is stolen from the abandoned base Stake 47, he is suddenly thrust into a battle not just for the future security of the planet, but of the war he thought over with.
Teamed with Sophie Jones, another highly trained officer and someone he is close to, they seek to discover precisely what this weapon is and what it can do. Also paired with them is Nick Fox, a seasoned war vet, and Grayson Wilder, a rookie exo-suit warrior. Together, the four must not only locate the weapon, but bring the thieves to justice.
All goes haywire when the weapon is activated and an evil thought vanquished returns. Soon, Riley and Sophie find themselves in a place different from the world they left yet also familiar.
From high flying exo-suit battles to giant mech-bots exchanging missile fire, Mech Apocalypse is an action-packed military sci-fi adventure that will leave you on the edge of your seat!
Mech Apocalypse has hit Kindle and in a few days will be popping up on-line in paperback form. The book is almost out and then I can start marketing it. Now, with that project out of the way, I’m free to focus on other things so this week I came up with a graphic novel concept I’m eager to delve into. I wrote up a treatment for it–basically a story overview sans any specific details–and am about to hunker down and outline the thing scene-by-scene. Once that’s done, I’ll go back over it and expand the scenes by adding in dialogue, captions, camera angles and all the rest. It’s going to be a big book, over a hundred comic pages when done. The plan is to draw it once it’s written. I’ve wanted to get back into comics for a while and this seems like a good opportunity to do so. Don’t worry. It doesn’t mean I’m abandoning prose. Just taking a break from it. The sequel to Mech Apocalypse is half-written so it won’t take long to finish that up and bring it to you guys in the New Year. I’ll follow up with the third volume in the trilogy later on in 2015.
Thing is, I want to do an “in-between” project, something to keep me busy while I let the Mech Apocalypse world of mech-bots and exo-suits percolate in the back of my head. Comics seems a good place to do so. I also plan on doing an in-between project between Mech Apocalypse 2 and Mech Apocalypse 3. I have a book that’s already 3/4 written. The problem is it’s horror and since I don’t do horror anymore, it’d be an awful shame to let so much of an already-written book go to waste. So I’m going to retool it into a sci-fi, which, given the story, would be quite easy to do. More details on that project when the time comes.
In the meantime, I’m going to make some comics.
I plan on giving more details about this graphic novel project, along with its title, once I script the thing. At that point, with the script locked down, it becomes official and I can then start talking it up to get you interested.
Besides, I’ve been itching to draw comics again for a good while now.