day thirty: adding a touch of humanity to your marketing.

The first time someone I didn't know tweeted about my book I freaked. I remember it so distinctly. I was at a friend's house for dinner and we were about to leave. I pulled out my phone and saw the notifications. It was an amazing compliment, encouraging others to pick up the book and read it. Within minutes, another tweet came from someone who read my book and within 12 hours had a friend confide in her that she'd been raped. Everyone needs to read this book, she said. Because of this book I knew how to respond. 

Immediately, I favorited the tweet and replied through my tears, thanking them for taking the time to read. 

To this day I still have a relationship with both of these readers. One of them I've even met for coffee multiple times. And there are more than a handful of readers I wish I could meet with TODAY because of their support.

When you publish your book, people are going to read it. 

Maybe at first, it'll be just your friends and family. Maybe there will be enough love surrounding your teasers and updates that a few more than just your friends will purchase it within the first week.

Or maybe, you'll find success straight out the gate and hit all types of record-breaking best-seller lists.

Whatever happens, people will begin talking. 

And as an author who knows your way around how words work, you will have the ability to reach for life or reach for death.

What will you choose?

It won't be enough to say you love your readers. How do you show them? It won't be enough to compose some sugary-sweet tweets now and then if your newsletters blast the latest hit within your genre. 

Aim for consistency. Aim for humanity. 

On the other end of these blog posts and reviews and tweets and Facebook statuses rests a soul surrounded by flesh and blood — just like you. Engage with people. Don't just tweet out links to your book. Be yourself. If you need a great example of someone who knows how to build relationships with her readers, check out Susan Dennard

One of the biggest perks of indie publishing is your immediate access to those who've read your book. 

Don't take this for granted. Be creative. Show gratitude. Adding the touch of humanity to your marketing moves mountains because you're not being a robot. And trust me, there are plenty of people in the industry not doing their best on the humanity front that your authenticity will be noticed.

Stay focused. Stay human. Stay grateful. 

The rest will fall into place.


Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 30, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.

day twenty nine: on book-bloggers, the unsung heroes of every novel

I still remember those first moments people started talking about COME ALIVE on their blogs.

It freaked me out at first. A lot of these people were friends of mine or within the network I frequented online. I didn't know how to respond. They didn't have to write about it. There wasn't a sign up or anything. These were just people who loved me and loved my book and wanted to talk about it. Should I respond at all? Should I share the post? Would that seem egotistical? Should I even thank them? 

When EVERY SHATTERED THING released, I signed up for a blog tour through InkSlinger PR. This is where I began to understand the magic of word-of-mouth marketing and how amazing bloggers can be for a book. I had blogs posting about it every day for a little over a week. Some of them were amazing. Some of them were unsure. Some of them were from people who didn't like the book.

All of them were SO NEEDED to get the word out about EVERY SHATTERED THING.

I grew more relaxed. I started answering questions and engaging with the bloggers on social media when they'd chat with me. If they tagged me in a tweet with a link to their review post, I'd thank them for reading + sharing the book and RT their review. I found them on Facebook and made sure to "like" their blog pages so I could keep up with them. If they responded to me consistently on Twitter, I'd make sure to follow them back.

Slowly, over the past fifteen months, I've come to realize something.

I would not be where I'm at today if it weren't for book bloggers taking time out of their schedules to read and talk about my books. Not every review glows with praise. I'm okay with this. There is nothing — nothing — that compares to the community of book bloggers who celebrate and cheer on indie authors. I've learned more about indie publishing through this network than anywhere else. And I've grown to love the people behind some of the blogs that promote books with humility, excitement, and honesty.

A few months ago, I was a table assistant for an author at a local book signing. Before the doors opened, there was a line down the hallway and circling the stairs below the hotel lobby. There were homemade t-shirts. Posters made. Scrapbooks filled with book covers and character names. These bloggers weren't messing around by holding one-or-two books to sign. Nope. They had luggage filled with copies of books. Multiple books per author.

The atmosphere was electric.

They gave gifts to the authors. Bracelets, drawings, flowers — and it wasn't with this "I'm trying to impress you" vibe, either. These were humans legitimately wanting to connect with another human they admire. These were relationships that formed long before the face-to-face interaction. 

One reader came up to the woman I was working with and started crying. 

"You have no idea what your books did for me," she whispered. Laughing, she wiped at her cheeks. "I'm sorry. I told myself I wouldn't cry. But your books....they just got me through a huge rough spot and I'm so thankful. Please don't stop writing." 

If I didn't know it before that event (I did), I definitely knew it after: book bloggers are the lifeblood of your indie release. 

Love them. Care for them. Engage with them. Pay attention to your @ replies on twitter, because sometimes they'll send you questions about your book. Respond to their emails if they take time to shoot you a message. 

Rainbow Rowell does this well. So does Sue Monk Kidd. I've even had John Green reply / favorite / RT a few of my responses to his questions or comments. Cora Carmack and K.A. Tucker and Autumn Doughton are also amazing at engaging with their readers.

I used to think it was okay to not respond. (And sometimes, it's necessary.) But, then I started noticing how seen I felt when authors took the time to engage with me when I'd tweet about their books or send them a message on social media. I started realizing that the book I loved just turned into a blog post trying to convince everyone else to read it. 

I'm not a book blogger, but I'm more likely to share a work and celebrate its releases and try to get others to purchase a book if I know there's a human and not a robot between the hardback bindings.

So imagine the power of a book blogger. 

By getting bloggers to read and review your book, you're harnessing their platform. Note: harness and don't use. There's a difference. One, there's an exchange that happens. A giving over of sorts. There's no expectation that they will share a certain way and you're thankful regardless. The other? You just want them for their numbers and audience and not because it's one more person reading your words + engaging with you in storytelling.

Word of mouth marketing is huge. Think of the runaway success of FAULT IN OUR STARS or how it wasn't until John Green wrote about ELEANOR AND PARK for NY TIMES that Rowell hit the bestseller list. Book blogging is more than just haphazardly throwing up GIFs to explain the feels involved in a certain novel. Book blogging is spreading the love of good stories.

And you know what? Even if the review lacks the oomph you're hoping for, they're still talking about your book. They're still sharing links. They're still celebrating the fact that one more person pushed a book out into the world. Because of this, bloggers will always be a huge step in my marketing process. Every time someone writes about EVERY SHATTERED THING or SOMEWHERE BETWEEN WATER & SKY, I'm thankful. Every time someone RTs a tweet where I'm sharing about it, I'm encouraged. And every time a reader expresses hope for new books and curiosity about what I will publish next, I'm inspired. 

If you want to feel connected to your readers, find bloggers who will read and write about your book. Love them. Support them. Cheer for them as they hit milestones of their own. When you get down to it, we're all in this together. From my experience, book bloggers are some of my favorite partners in helping me share about my latest characters because they believe in the stories just as much as I do. 

And for an author, this type of relationship is priceless.


Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 29, 2014 and filed under books, indie publishing, writing.

day twenty eight: resources on criticism

The other day, I combed through my email and started laughing. I'm all for sensing a theme within the emails sent to me, but this was exceptional. Email after email, I read what other people are doing to handle criticism in their field. 

And I thought, well why not share these? 

Like this post from Publishing Crawl by Alex Bracken. She talks about a recent situation between an author and reviewer and how to avoid the trap of reading reviews. I love her tips — especially the one about accessibility, which we'll talk about later this week.

I always love Tara Mohr, and this article about learning to write for herself and not the crowd is no exception. 

99u consistently puts out challenging articles + videos on the creative process, and I loved what Gregory Ciotti had to say here about why some people are born haters.

And anytime you find something from Malcolm Gladwell on criticism, you know it's going to be good

What about you? Have you found any really good links lately about how to handle the negativity?


Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 28, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.

day twenty seven: when to respond to the critic

Your book is out and people are reading it. One day, you stumble on a review that misses the point of the story entirely. They're marking you down for clarity and they haven't even read the first book. Or they're misreading a character's place. Or they're reading too much into a scene. You fill in the blank. Whatever it is, they hated your book and they're letting everyone know.

You feel your pulse quicken and you shake your head. They're just mistaken. You come up with a plan to respond to the review (on Amazon or Goodreads or a comment on their blog or — oh! even better! — a post on your blog) and this person will see the light. They'll be so thankful you took the time to respond in order for everyone to reach a deeper understanding.

Right? 

WRONG.

Please don't feed the critic.

I know you want to — they're talking about your baby, after all. I get it. It hurts when someone twists your words and work into something pliable and simple. 

Resist the urge to engage.

Nothing good ever comes of it. Ever. It's why Goodreads includes the following suggestion in their author portal: 

Do you see what they said? Others read your response. Even if you email the critic to engage in a civil discussion, I guarantee there will be forwards and screenshots and private messages. Regardless of how you approach this person, there will be someone who sees it as hostile.

Listen. There will always be critics. Always. And critics are not horrible people. I'm even going to go so far as say a huge majority of them really do know what they're talking about when they read a book. They know what they like. If they didn't like your book, there won't be much that will change their mind.

And that's okay.

Because you have a group of people who do like your book. Focus on them. Build relationships and conversations with them. 

Don't be the cocksure author who assumes everyone will know and love you, even if it takes a few conversations explaining WHY your book is so amazing. Be a human who understands that not everyone will get why you're doing something and that's okay because you're gonna do it anyway. You know what you love. You know what story is burning in those bones of yours. You spent weeks and months and maybe even years getting it out on paper.

Listening (and engaging) with critics will cause you to doubt that story. It will anger you, frustrate you and belittle you. Why? 

Because if someone doesn't like your work, they're not going to suddenly like your work after you comment about their criticism. It will be the circle of doom trying to figure out why someone doesn't like your art.

And that will drive anyone crazy. When we're driven crazy, we do crazy things

Remember: focus on those who are with you in the arena. Focus on those who want to hear more of your work. Forget the rest. Not because they aren't important, they are — their thoughts and feelings are valid. Forget them because focusing on them will cause you to doubt your core. 


Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 27, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.

day twenty six: critic's math

Sometimes, creativity and desperation drives us to do things we wouldn't normally do.

A few years ago, breathing in the fumes from a publishing relationship gone sour, I partnered with a service that would offer my book for free in exchange for reviews. That wasn't the mistake. 

The mistake came when I made the decision to take back my content and revise Come Alive. I would retitle it, recover it, re-release it. 

Blank slate. 

Have I mentioned how much I love new beginnings and blank slates? The possibilities are endless. I had a few hundred emails from people who downloaded the original book for free and I decided to make new out of the mess I was left with when my publisher shut down and my agent dropped the contract. 

I turned the mailing list into beta readers.

"You get to help with the rewrites!" I said, full of naïvety and hope. "As you read through the book, let me know your thoughts. What do you want to see developed? What pieces of the plot didn't make sense?"

And the big question — the one that kicked me in the pants before I even knew what was happening: 

"How can I make it better?" 

The emails were almost immediate, some good — some okay — others rather opinionated. But it was one email that nearly knocked me off my feet. 

I was at a local coffee shop when I got the email. Outside in the cold February air, I scrolled through the words and felt the immediate sting of tears against my cheeks. 

No wonder you're editing it, the email said. I couldn't even get past the first two chapters. Horrible book. Waste of my time. So glad you're fixing it.

There were other words, each more hostile than the first. I didn't know this person. I had no idea why she felt the need to attack me. I backed out of the inbox as quick as I could and fought to breathe as the gremlins made their case. 

She's right, you know. Why do you think the publisher closed? Why do you think your agent left you? You're no good. Your writing is stupid. Horrible, even. You shouldn't even try and edit because it would be a waste of your time....

I didn't write for weeks, and I didn't really jump into editing Come Alive (now Every Shattered Thing) until that summer. 

.::.

A few months ago, I was introduced to Critics Math. Basically, critics math does not care about the glowing reviews. You can receive 100 5-stars and one 1-star and what will you remember? 

The one star. 

When I sent out the email, I wasn't expecting everyone to love the book. I wasn't even expecting all good things waiting for me in my inbox. I knew there would be some criticism, because I knew the story had work that needed to be done to make it great.

I did get good things. I have plenty of emails with responses that included phrases like it's the best book I've read in a long time and I couldn't go to sleep until I finished it and thank you for being brave enough to write this story.

But once I received the email that hit me in the gut, it was the only email I remembered for a long time and it would reappear in my mind when I considered what to write. 

Maybe I should just dabble in nonfiction. Forget the whole literature thing. 

You know. Doubt. 

But there are two things I missed in this situation that I cling to now. 

You Get to Choose Who Will Keep Your Attention 

Brene Brown keeps a list of names in her pocket. These are the people she'll receive criticism from — they're her people. The ones she knows she can trust. Anybody else? It's not that they don't matter, because they do — it's just that the weight of their opinion is minuscule compared to the ones who have her back and are fighting alongside her. 

My friend Kathleen won't read any reviews under 4-stars. She only reads the good ones. This isn't because she isn't willing to know her weaknesses. She has editors and beta readers and critique partners for that and they are not slow in challenging her to become a better writer. She writes to the 4 and 5 star reviewers. She writes for the ones who know her and love her stories. 

You know the people who have your back. Keep them. Listen to them. 

Not Everyone Deserves Your Story

In an attempt to connect with readers, I opened up a very wide net of trust. I believed that because they downloaded my book off a site, they would take care with my words and offer criticism and suggestions with the same amount of care. 

Nothing gets the doubt gremlins going more than when I overshoot boundaries and share deeply when the story will not be met with care and gratitude. Not everyone on that list deserved my time and attention. And yet, by emailing them my intent to listen, I unlocked the door and the crazies came a-knockin. 

Doubt will try every which way to knock you down. Resistance is real and most days we feel him breathing down our neck, working hard to stifle the story that is building in our chest.

Don't let it happen. Don't let the critics win. You know the story you're meant to tell. Cling to the ones who will hold your hand while you get the words out and challenge you to find the language to tell it well. They're the ones who matter. 

And when the critics come knocking, point them to the stands. You're too busy getting dirty in the middle of the arena to pay attention to them anyhow.


Need more inspiration? Introducing Hustle & Flow: a weekly letter with artistic visioning for the everyday creative. I would love it if you signed up, and I won't ever spam you. Promise. 

You'll get hints and anecdotes about getting unstuck and living your most artistic life within the midst of your every day poetics. AND, if you sign up during October, you'll get some special extras dealing with indie-publishing.

Posted on October 26, 2014 and filed under indie publishing, writing.