Building a Foundation (Part One)

I’ve discussed this with my colleagues and friends over the last few weeks, and I considered writing a book about it. Every artist strives to build an audience with their work, so they can generate sales. It took me about five years to finally discover the secret to selling books, and it may not work for everyone, but for me it has. I’m happy with where I’m at in life as far as my writing and production business, but I thought it would be a fantastic idea to share my ideas and how I built the foundation to my brand.

The best way to start this series is by writing the mistakes I’ve made in the past in the book community which have led me here. I remember in February of 2015 I started writing an epic fantasy under a different pen name. I was engrossed in the world building and characters that were coming to life every day. It was probably one of the most enjoyable books I’ve written in a very long time. For the year 2015, this story was my main focus and I wanted it to be the next New York Times Bestseller. The problem was I skipped the fundamentals necessary to promote and market a book. I even forked over $3,500 just to get the book into production and have someone else market it for me. If you look at my earlier post “Working Alone: Part Two”, I discussed all of the struggles and mistakes I made there with this campaign.

When I sat down in my office in May, I had just signed my first contract with a publisher for the book and I was scared to death. I literally signed over the creative rights and my for to a company which was only there to suck royalties from something I already did the leg work for. It’s a failure I have regretted for months now and feel like I’ve learned a valuable lesson about.

I stared at the wall for hours wondering these questions: What are my goals as an author? What audience do I need to write to for me to be able to write full-time? Where should I target my marketing? What voice and persona did I want to portray? 

Well, I decided to go back to my roots. My family and church had taught me to be a good Christian and never let evil consume you. Plus, I was even told to be passionate about my work, but do it for God. This is why I was extremely reserved with my epic fantasies and didn’t try to take the content over the edge with any kind of explicit language, violence, or sex. Now, I’m not saying you should do exactly what I did to become successful as an author. Anyone can do this in any genre. It takes someone with passion, chops, and openness to be able to market themselves. A very frightening thought for many of us authors, especially me.

When I was about to release my erotic horror “Deadly Dominance”, I was scared and nervous about how readers would perceive me as a person. I didn’t want people to think I was some womanizing author that didn’t give a crap about the well being of a woman. No, no, no, I’m nothing like that. I wrote this in the eyes of a character awakening from anger that was building within me everyday. It was all fiction, and I wasn’t doing it for the sake of sales, reviews, or attention. I wrote it because it was therapeutic, just like how fighters go to the gym to punch away at a bag all day to burn off some steam.

I remember that day very well when I released the book though because something terrible and amazing happened. That day, I had booked a cabin in the mountains and decided to take a mini personal retreat from writing and everyday life. It was a beautiful weekend and I spent a lot of time on the river enjoying my weekend. When the book dropped on Amazon, people were storming to their kindles that had pre-ordered it busting it out quicker than I realized. My wall on Facebook was covered with just my cover and my name. I didn’t realize how excited readers were to finally have the book in their hands.

Well, the feeling was short lived when a popular blog, one that was sharing my work like any other website, posted some cruel things about the story. One of the admins had questioned if I was mocking the erotica community with the main character’s thoughts in the book. I wasn’t. When I write, I get lost in my characters and they sometimes speak their mind in questionable ways. I’ll never say that I condone the behavior of my character Nathan because that’s not me as an author. It’s just how the story was supposed to be written.

Anyways, this blog had about 32-40 comments on it within minutes. People wanting to know what the book was, and started joining in the angry mob ready to hang me outside of my cabin. Yup, it was a mess for a few hours, but there were a few other bloggers and readers that had my back with the situation.

I wanted to point this story out because I want all authors to know a thing called “Professionalism”. We all receive criticism and terrible reviews, but we must hold back from arguing with readers. Yes, you threw every ounce of your soul into the book, but not everyone is going to like it or agree with it. I think the best decision I made that night was hold back my tongue and just ignore it. The reason being, it did boost my sales, my attention, and the respect of fellow readers and authors in the community. I’ve had some people tell me I have much more patience with readers and criticism than they could ever have. Well, simply put, negative publicity can be good publicity for your book. It’ll leave the mystery for those readers if you remain silent because they’re going be curious about what you said.

I know I’m giving you guys a lot of my personal experiences in the indie community, but I feel like it’s the only way to really explain how I built a foundation for my work. I literally had to get to the point where I made so many mistakes in the beginning that I needed to refocus my energy in a different direction. Hell, I don’t even read my reviews much anymore because they’re all mixed reviews, and if you want to know the truth, those are the best books to buy. The ones that aren’t oversaturated with five and one star reviews because you know the readers are being honest and not bias.

In conclusion, the only way to learn is to make mistakes and build a thick skin. When you have stories to tell about your own experiences, people will understand that you have been fighting for this dream and have been dragged through the dirt multiple times. Remaining humble in this industry is the only way you’ll survive in it. Once your ego grows too much, you’ll constantly be fighting with yourself and questioning the directions you take with your future books. Always write your books the way they’re suppose to be written, not because someone else told you which direction you should take. People will respect you more for being edgy and controversial without hesitation. Just write and be you.

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