Why You Could be the Next Bestseller
Every writer has his or her own way of carving out their masterpiece. Some sit up in a proper position with their fingers curled just so, like a pianist, to keep from getting a crippling case of carpal tunnel syndrome. Some authors snuggle under their covers, or sit on the porch and let the breeze blow across their face while they create. I like to recline, feet up, head back, with a cup of coffee nearby. I frequently act out my scenes, bringing myself to tears as I feel my characters emotions. And yet with all of these preferences, I’ve wondered what makes my words come out different than the next prolifically fascinating author. How is it, exactly, that my “voice” is unique?
After thinking about this, I’ve come up with a list of reasons why every author has a distinct voice and therefore has a shot at becoming the next best thing because of their uniqueness. As we all know, literature is extremely subjective and trends come and go.
Here's why you could be the next literary lottery winner:
You Have a Unique History. No one has ever lived your life. Your childhood and adolescence and college years have twisted together a very distinct experiential DNA. You cannot avoid the fact that you’ve traveled a road that no one else has dared to explore. It is this voyage that will carry over into your writing, making you different, fresher than the same old authors that the world reads over and over. Use your story to your advantage.
People Bore Easily. As much as I love Lemony Snicket and J.K. Rowling, there will come a time when I get bored with a series and maybe the author as well. When that time comes, I’ll move on to someone new. I might start reading another well-known author, or an unknown literary artist waiting in the shadows
Literature is Subjective. Like I said earlier, one man’s trash is another man’s favorite book. With all the “I’m sorry to inform you” agent form letters I’ve received, you’d think no one would get past the first line of my work, but that’s not the case. All of my books are usually in one or more Amazon bestseller lists, selling thousands of copies. How is that possible when so many agents passed on it.
Being Different is Good. Do you remember the kid in school with the weird haircut? You know, the one who everyone teased but deep inside you wished you could grow a pair as big as his, and do something original. Being different is good. Unfortunately, we live in a world that breeds sameness. In my opinion, the best thing any writer can do is break free from unoriginality, and forge a uniquely crooked trail.
One-hit Wonders Come and Go. If you create something new, that should not be the end of your story. You have to continue writing, creating a list of books for readers to choose from, diversifying your portfolio with as much savvy as a Wall Street whiz kid. Just know that after you make your millions from your upcoming series, we, as in the readers of the world, will start to yawn and begin looking for the next good book that’ll scratch our story-loving itch.
Indie Authorís Guide to The Universe
Why No One is Buying Your Book(s)
“Without social media as part of your author platform, you might as well hope your book sells through unicorn kisses on rainbow dreams. Embrace and learn what you don’t know. If you can write a book, you can write a tweet.”
Have you stared at your book ranking, and sales data, and wondered why no one is reading your work? Are you disappointed that your story hasn't caught fire, or hit USA Today's front page?
If you answered yes, I want to share a secret with you. I want to tell you something, and it might hurt your feelings. I don't mean to be cruel, but I have to be honest.
No one has ever heard of you.
Readers do not know that you exist.
That can change, but for now, you have to know the truth. You have to face the stark reality that you're not famous, you don't have a cult following, and you're not a New York Times bestseller, yet.
One of the biggest obstacles for indie and small press authors to overcome is finding readers. You may have a great book cover, and your prose may be razor sharp, but let's face it, you are one in a million. Hundreds of thousands of books are published every year, and as a new/newer author, it's not likely that readers will search your name or title.
Depressing isn't it? Well, it can be, if you're subject to resignation. But if you are the type of person who sees an obstacle as an opportunity, you may have what it takes to climb out of the literary abyss and into the public arena.
The problem with publishing is that unless you have a platform, or a method to reach out to readers, you are like a grain of sand on the beach. People will walk on you all day long, but never know you're there. If you publish on Amazon, your book is thrown into the ocean of ebooks and will splash around until readers start buying. When they purchase your book, it'll stay close to shore where other readers can see it. But if you don't plan for a beach party upon publication, your book will drift off to sea and eventually end up in the south pacific, stranded on a lifeless island.
If you publish on Barnes & Noble's Pubit!, iTunes, or Smashwords, it's even harder to get noticed because the sheer weight of new books will push you deeper into the water.
So what can you do? What does it take to lift your book above the crowd and get the notoriety you deserve? Good question. When I have the secret formula, I'll bottle it and sell it to ya for a thousand dollars per ounce. Until then, it helps to know that you are not being flat-out rejected by the world, but rather, unseen. Understand that, and embrace it. Knowledge goes a long way when you are problem solving. Don't take it personally. Accept your reality and work to improve your position in the crowd.
You need to figure out how you're going to be an author that readers recognize. You have to build a platform. You have to brand yourself. You have to go into the big world, put on a pair of stilts and start shouting, "Hey, everyone, look over here! I write suspense novels with jaw-dropping twists. Anyone interested?" When you do that, someone will turn around and say yes. If you wrote a good book, they might recommend it to someone else. They could also write a review and encourage others to buy. But don't stop there. You have to keep walking clumsily through the crowd, hand selling your work to readers, bloggers, and reviewers everywhere.
If you're no good with stilts, try the trapeze. If that doesn't work, hop on a unicycle or put on a clown suit. You may not get it right the first time around, but with a little trial and error, you'll discover what works and what doesn't. Just remember, what works for me may not work for you. I'm a lion tamer and that's somewhat daunting to the vast majority, so I wouldn't recommend it. Besides, you could lose your head.
Getting noticed, especially when you only have one book published, can be a slow process, more so if you are not actively building your platform. The truth is, there is no quick answer to growing an audience. Building an author brand/platform takes time, it takes multiple books and it takes creativity. Amazon’s KDP Select program is one tool that can boost an unknown author’s visibility tremendously (more about this next month). However, until your book appears on other book pages and gets serious traction, it will float away from shore until it manages to hit another spike via your marketing efforts or an unknown cause.
If you look at the top right-hand side of my blog, The Writing Bomb, you'll notice that I recently hit four hundred followers. I'm excited about that because several months ago I didn't think I'd reach one hundred. Four hundred looks like a lot, but there are other blogs with a whole lot more subscribers than I have. There is always a bigger duck in the pond.
Don't compare yourself to anyone else. Take an honest assessment of whereyou are and chart a realistic course that will keep the wind to your back, blowing you toward shore where the readers are. You might hit a sand bar on occasion, but that's okay. Authors wearing clown suits, splashing around in the ocean are likely to get a little attention.
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Jeff Bennington, "The Indie from Indy" is the author of Reunion, an Amazon #1 bestselling supernatural thriller, Twisted Vengeance, and Creepy. He blogs at The Writing Bomb and is the founder of The Kindle Book Review. When Jeff isn't writing and blogging, he's busy raising and homeschooling his four children with his wife in Central Indiana.
This article is an excerpt from Jeff's new book, The Indie Author's Guide to the Universe: Motivation, Encouragement & Tips from Bestselling Authors, available on Kindle Feb 21st, and in print on March 1, 2012.