When we first start down the writing path, our minds are full of story. We focus on characters, their worlds, and the inner and outer journeys taken. We read, write, study, and hone our skills. Our goal is to become strong storytellers who can one day lay claim to that special, coveted title: author.
And then it happens: our book is picked up, or we choose to self-publish. The pure joy of that moment is unparalleled! Then we realize that there’s so much more to Authordom than writing the book. The heady rush wears off and panic sets in.
BUT IT DOESN’T HAVE TO.
Is writing a creative pursuit? Yes. But it’s also a business. If we want to build a career, we need to become okay with everything that comes with it—even if it scares us, makes us uncomfortable, or takes us totally out of our element. We are not the first to take this journey. Others came before us, and we can learn from them.
Becca and I crossed the bridge from writers to authors in 2012, and boy, we had a lot to learn. Here are some of our biggest lessons.
Find Your People
Three groups of people will help you build a sustainable writing career: your readers, your network, and your influencers.
- Your Ideal Readers. These are the people who are most interested in the type of books you write.
- Your Writer’s Network. These are people in the trenches, just like you. Get to know those in your community, especially ones who write similar books. Reach out, support one another, and collaborate on marketing when it’s a good fit.
- Your Influencers. These are people and businesses who have the trust (and attention) of your target audience. Connect with them, help them grow their reach, and win them over so they can help you do the same.
Ideally, you want to start connecting with these groups before you publish. Building relationships with others will naturally allow you to grow your platform at the pre-published stage, and this sets you up well for when you have a book in hand.
As a writer in the process of learning and growing your craft, you can find other writers through critique sites, organizations, and groups. As you settle into a sweet spot in terms of genre and style, look for online reader hubs (groups, blogs, forums, reading clubs, twitter/FB reading fans) that interact with authors and/or books similar to yours. You’ll discover influencers among them (popular authors, community leaders, bloggers, reviewers) and can start building relationships with as well.
Become a Sponge
The business side of writing (marketing, promotion, accounting, business planning, best practices for publishing/self-publishing, copyright, translations, IP Management, etc.) has a learning curve. But if you can make just one important mental shift, everything will get easier. Ready for it?
The publishing industry has long set us up to feel like we’re competing with each other, but the truth is, we’re not. Other authors have a wealth of knowledge. Find the people who have the same values as you, and learn from them. Pay attention to how they market, what practices they adopt for business, where they hang out, how they interact with their audience, and where they turn for information and help, and the learning curve will become MUCH shorter. Become a sponge!
Connect and Contribute
Whether you’re interacting with your audience or writer’s network, or you’re trying to build something with influencers, put them before you. Think about how you can help them, support them, and add to the conversations. Be genuine. Think about what they need and how you can become part of that chain. It’s tempting for authors to get involved with people simply to promote their stories, but don’t fall into this trap. Authors who join a group, community, or conversation with the intent to push their books are not ones people want to be around.
Create a Business Plan
Like everyone, Becca and I started our career with a single book. From there, we felt our way along, going with our gut on most things business-related, choosing what events to take part in, what books to write next, what content to blog about. And then we got serious and created a business plan.
It changed our lives, and it can change yours, too. I know, I know…business plans are hardly sexy. But between us, Becca and I now have 4 businesses, 40+ books between our core volumes and their translations, and we’re closing in on a million books sold. There’s nothing special about us, but learning how to focus on the right things via our business plan greatly helped us. Here’s how to create your own plan using our template.
A common struggle for writers is putting themselves out there. As individuals, we can keep our “who knows us” circle small, but once we set our sights on being authors, that circle widens. We suddenly question ourselves, thinking we’re boring, uninteresting, and decidedly un-special. We’re impostors! Frauds!
Lies, all lies. Guess what? You’re magnificent. Believe in yourself. BE yourself. When you are authentic, it shines through.
Online and off, people are looking for genuine folks to spend their time with. And they can see right through a person who’s trying too hard to be someone they’re not. So when you think about your brand and how you want others to perceive you as an author, make sure it aligns with your truth. This way, you can be yourself, feel comfortable in who you are each and every day, and attract readers, supporters, and influencers who GET you.
Put People Above Dollars
Know what scared the breath right out of Becca and me when we became authors? Promotion. Putting ourselves out there? Shoving our book into the spotlight? YIKES. Social media is filled with enough buy-my-book promo already, thank you very much. And yet…food, shelter, electricity. It’s sort of necessary to keep the lights on.
We weren’t interested in creating more promotional white noise, so instead we focused on our WHY: to help people. We thought about our audience as people, and we did whatever we could to help them. We built relationships, not ads or pitches. We put energy into connecting and enjoying our readers, and you should too. Don’t chase dollars. Invest in people.
Use Your Creative Superpowers
Often, how we look at something can determine our success with it, and I think the same can be said for the business side of writing (especially with marketing and promotion). You are a creative person, so fold this into your bookselling and author visibility strategy. Think about who your readers are and what they want and need. If you’re thinking about doing an event online, then ask yourself why your readers are online – what are they looking for? What entertains them? What do they like, want, and need? Then turn your creative superpowers on and create something just for them. Whether you’re launching a book, raising visibility for yourself, or you’re part of a collaborative event, get creative. Give your readers something that aligns with what they like and are interested in but isn’t the “same-old” thing others do.
We’re well-known for out-of-the-box ideas and events. We get creative, enlist the help of others, and have a lot of fun. You know your audience best, so put yourself in their shoes and think about how you can offer them something that will stand out.
Shorten Your Learning Curve
Audience, Branding & Best Practices:
How to Find Your Ideal Reading Audience
How To Find Influencers, Build A Relationship, & Work Together
Angela’s FAR (Focus, Authenticity, and Relationships) Marketing Method
A Marketing Truth Few Experts Will Admit
How Authenticity Attracts Readers for a Successful Book Launch (Podcast)
Asking Bloggers For Online Exposure: Dos and Don’ts
Author Collaboration & Marketing (a How-To)
How Authors Can Build a Fan Base
6 Smart Ways Authors Can Collaborate When Marketing
Using TikTok to Sell Books
Hand-Selling at Book Conventions
Street Teams & Book Launches:
How to Build a Street Team
Running a Street Team Campaign
Inside Angela & Becca’s Street Team
Marketing Materials Swipe File for a Book Launch
How to Land a Guest Posting Gig
Three Tricks to Surviving a Public Speaking Event
Book Signings that WOW
How We Do It:
The Path To 10K In Sales: Strategy, Luck & Mistakes
Angela’s FAR (Focus, Authenticity, and Relationships) Marketing Method
Pay-It-Forward Marketing Interview with Angela Ackerman
Selling a Million Books: What Worked for Us (& Can Work for You)
Networking & Promo: Getting The Most Out Of Facebook (PDF)
Platform: Getting The Most Out Of Blogging (PDF)
Networking & Promo: Getting The Most Out Of Twitter (PDF)
Social Media Triple-play: Facebook, Twitter & Blogging (PDF)
Creative Book Launch/Event Ideas for Social Media Platforms (PDF)
Influencer Hot Sheet (PDF)