WRITER ADVICE: Things I’ve Learned the Hard Way, Part 1

posted in: Uncategorized, Various Musings | 0

Jade provides tips and advice for writers on Saturdays.

 

I might sometimes be dumb as sh*t, but one thing is for certain—I will (eventually) learn from my mistakes, and I will share what I’ve learned in hopes of preventing you from having to make the same mistakes.

Today, I’m going to talk about the perennial maxim: If it sounds too good to be true, it probably is. But, first, a little background is in order…and my apologies if you’ve heard my story before. When I started out as an indie author, I didn’t even think about marketing or promotion. All I thought about was writing. I figured the selling part was up to the sites where I published (Amazon, Barnes & Noble, etc.). I did a little promotion on social media sites once I obtained a few followers, people who found me after reading and liking my books. So, yes, it was slow going, but I didn’t know any better, and I didn’t care. I was slowly but surely gaining a following of readers, and that made me happy.

Thanks mainly to Facebook (their algorithms worked a lot differently back then), I managed to gather enough followers (about 70 or 80 at the time) who got so excited about what I shared about my upcoming release Bullet that they spread the word like wildfire and I had a bestseller on my hands when I published it. It was amazing! The problem, though, is that I still know nothing about marketing and promoting. Okay, so that’s not true. I actually have been learning a lot—reading up on the topic and trying new things constantly. I am still not an expert by any stretch of the imagination. But guess what? I can tell you what definitely does not work and what will drain your pockets of any hard-earned writer cash you’ve made thus far…because I have done it! Let me tell you what has not worked for me. These things might work for you—but I am a skeptic, and I wouldn’t advise you to do it!

Once Facebook (and Amazon too) began changing its algorithms, I had no idea how to market myself (and that was why I knew I had to try something different). I hadn’t been writing a newsletter (I do now) and I didn’t regularly post on my blog/website…so I had no idea how to stop sliding down the slope of declining book sales. I’ve tried so many things since—especially resorting to the advice of people who just wanted my money. Other authors in my genre were still being read, still selling plenty of books, so I knew they were probably doing something different from what I’d been doing, but no one was talking. I and several of my close writer friends talked about the problem but we weren’t sure how to get over that hurdle either–I just knew what wasn’t working.

Anyway, I’m talking in circles. Here, without further ado, are things writers in need of promotion should avoid:

  1. The free “instructional” webinar. Actually, don’t avoid the webinar. If it’s instructional, you’ll probably learn something. I know I have. That said, many of these webinars are myopic and focus on one thing that particular author managed to do to become successful. Again, you might learn something from the webinar, but beware the end when the sales pitch starts. And, make no mistake, these people are good at marketing—and they hit you where you live. I’ve spent more money than I care to admit on these things. One thing I have learned, though…if there’s a timer involved, that’s their way of putting on the pressure. I walk away now—no matter how good it sounds. Why? Because out of all the advice I’ve bought from these webinars, I can tell you this: their advice might work up to a point, but never enough that I’ve recouped the money I’ve spent. Lesson learned: High-pressure pitches are not worth it.
    The Sales Pitch Timer
    The Sales Pitch Timer
  2. What I call the aha! ad. I call it that because what they have to say seems so logical to me. I think, “Oh, so that’s what I need to do.” You have an ad—maybe you found it on Facebook or Twitter or maybe a company you’ve worked with before is emailing it to you—but it makes claims that make the author in you sit up and say, “Oh, this is amazing. I need to do this.” I had one of these moments recently (meaning, I’m a little wiser about the whole process now). It was a Facebook ad, obviously targeted to me because I’m an author, and it said that this company’s service was guaranteed to sell more of my books. In fact, they went on to say, most authors “recovered” the fee spent for the service just hours after the company started doing its thing. I did a little research, checking out their website. It sounded great, so good that I almost did my old kneejerk reaction of “Where do I pay?” But skeptical me said, “Waitaminute. Sounds too good to be true!” I looked at some of the authors they’d recently promoted, because if the company’s claims were accurate, at least a few of these authors’ books would be doing well on Amazon (sorry, but a book in the top 200,000 doesn’t impress me) and they would have a lot of reviews (again, I can get four reviews simply by asking some of my beloved readers nicely). I wasn’t impressed. That said, I wasn’t ready to give up. Maybe the recent ones just hadn’t had that “time to recover” their payment, right? So I actually contacted the company and asked them if they had any author testimonials. The response I got back said something to this effect: “We don’t share testimonials, because what we would share might not be true. Please check out the post pinned to the top of our Facebook page for social proof that it works.” I was a little irritated and put off (and more skeptical than ever), but I really wanted it to be true, so I popped on over to their Facebook page. The post pinned to the top had lots of authors asking questions…but I didn’t see one author say, “Oh, thank you for your service. My book is now an Amazon #1 bestseller in its category!” I actually didn’t see any testimonials at all, not even an author thanking them for the service. I just saw lots and lots of authors with tons of questions. Now, if you’re a newbie author, a service like that one (they write honest reviews and promote the book on their website if they think it’s truly a good read and they do it in exchange for a fee; that said, if they don’t like your book, they will refund your money) might be worth it. It was not worth it to me, especially not seeing results. Their customer service seemed decent, meaning the guy got back to me pretty much immediately, but not having what I asked for—testimonials from authors (that I could then verify on my own by checking out Amazon and other booksellers)—lost me. It would have been another place to blow my money. Frankly, I’d rather go spend all that money on lottery tickets, because I’d probably have a better chance of “recovering” that money by scratching a winner. I am done blowing my money on services that don’t work. Beware claims and hype. Lesson learned: Ask for proof. Don’t believe empty promises.  And conduct your own research–don’t believe their claims.

Here’s the bottom line—salespeople pitch to desperate people (there’s actually a website devoted to this topic–how to make your buyers feel desperate enough that they want to buy your product). They know what you want and they know how to exploit that need inside you. Find a way to protect yourself and learn to truly evaluate their pitch without emotion. Your budget will thank you. If there is a magic way out there to sell books, I haven’t found it yet. I keep writing and my faithful readers keep reading. That’s all I know and all I know that works. If I’m going to blow money on my writing, it’s going to be for book covers and swag, not some shyster.

 

Got a writing question for me? Post below and I’ll be happy to answer it either here or in a future Saturday blog post!

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