Keep Your Eye on the (B)-Ball

Anyone who’s tried knows it’s damned hard to self-publish and sell a novel.  Social media tools have enabled free marketing, but it’s tough to seduce a reader who’s never heard of you or your book. You could pay for advertising, but that quickly gets into real money. Most vexing is that a 5-star review doesn’t even guarantee five sales.

So there is a natural temptation to commiserate with others on the bench trying to work their way into the game. I think this is where we should be careful. It’s great to share ideas, swap Twitter follows and massage egos bruised by bad reviews, but all that is time not spent sinking baskets.

Celebrated basketball coach John Wooden said, “You can’t let praise or criticism get to you. It’s a weakness to get caught up in either one.” So true. It’s also true that preaching to the choir doesn’t get you any new singers.

And yet we do it because it’s warm and comfortable inside the community of struggling writers. I joined a new authors’ site on Facebook that has registered 150 members in the time it takes to turn a page. A lot of nurturing goes on, and everyone is following one another’s Facebook page, offering advice and suggesting ways to crack into new markets.

And that’s the thing; when the sun sets each day, I think what we all really want is to be selling more books. Comforting as it is, I try not to spend too much time with other self-publishers. True, they know my pain, but my job is to remember the endgame. To amend another quote from Coach Wooden, “Sports (and writing) do not build character. They reveal it.”

Why do you think Author Central has grown so quickly, and is time there time well spent?

35 Comments so far »

  1. Shawn Lamb said,

    Wrote on July 15, 2011 @ 11:20 pm

    Actually, I think Author Central is one of the more helpful groups I’ve been involved with. Yes, I understand what you’re saying about inter-advertising, but networking is how I look at it. I’m not trying to sell my books to other authors.

    I’ve received leads, suggestions and seek and give advice. And I’ll say again, this is one of the best, most supportive groups I’ve run across.

    It’s a dog-eat-dog world out there. A place of rest and support is good. Just my 2 cents worth, Steve. 🙂

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    I happen to agree, Shawn. You and Nick have described it the best. I guess my concern is that the rest and support might become a bit too comfortable. Then it gets hard to leave. 🙂

    [Reply]

  2. Nick Antinozzi said,

    Wrote on July 15, 2011 @ 11:22 pm

    I enjoy dropping by our site and browsing the posts. I believe that A.C. offers something for all writers, seasoned and novice. A.C. offers a safety zone from harsh critisism and is a site by writers for writers and what could be wrong with that?
    I understand what you mean about singing to the choir and I’ve never tried hawking my wares on our site, but I do understand the thought process behind it. We all all proud of our babies, even the ugly ones.
    I think its great that we stand together, we have enough people out there who have a vested interest in seeing us fail.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Nick, you’re absolutely right, and maybe that’s the best way to look at it — as an oasis where we can stop, catch our breath, and go back into the battle.

    [Reply]

  3. Marie Crist said,

    Wrote on July 15, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

    I have been surfing several author groups just to get insight into what I am to do next.

    Author Central has provided me with more information than any of the others. I have read what others are doing and I have been able to replicate it. I have also been lead to certain book reviewers and bloggers that have interviewed me. All this came from other authors on Author Central. This site is not necessarily for us to sell books to one another. It is about helping one another in an industry that likes to chew up and spit out new authors.
    That is why Author Central has been a blessing to me. That is my opinion anyway and it should be yours too.

    Marie

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Thanks, Marie, you make excellent points. It’s also wonderful that we live in a country where no one can dictate our opinions.

    [Reply]

  4. Daniel L Carter said,

    Wrote on July 15, 2011 @ 11:31 pm

    This is a good question and one that I hear a lot of frustration behind. Sales is the name of the game ultimately when we are getting our books out into the market. We strive to find ways to get people to notice our stories in hopes of increasing sales. It’s frustrating and at times disheartening.

    The market is flooded with new authors daily and many aren’t that good which makes getting readers attention even more of a challenge.

    Ultimately what is going to make us successful is to try different methods, strategies and seek support.

    The goal of Author Central on Facebook is to provide support for one another and share our experiences so that we all benefit in the long run. Some are more successful then others. We celebrate each others victories and receive strength in areas where we may be week.

    Is a group going to get you sales…yes and no. The better, we as authors, become at marketing and knowing what readers are looking for then we can be successful. It’s just not going to happen overnight.

    That’s my two and half cents on the subject.

    Blessings,
    Daniel L Carter
    Author of The Unwanted Trilogy

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Dan, you make great points and I don’t disagree except that I don’t think it works to try to tailor your writing to “what readers are looking for.” I think we have to write what we know, telling the story we have inside, and then hope it resonates with an audience.

    [Reply]

  5. Daniel L Carter said,

    Wrote on July 16, 2011 @ 12:53 am

    Hi Steve,

    I may have misunderstood your point then. I didn’t realize you were talking about the manner in which we write. I thought you were wondering if networking with others in the same situation is healthy. I don’t see any mention about conforming how we write mentioned in this post.

    What I’m getting from your post is that you don’t think networking with other authors going through the same challenges is healthy. I would have to disagree with you. If you feel you are somehow negatively affected by a group then I would agree with you that you should get away from that which is making you stumble.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Daniel, I’m a fan of the site. Read my comments and that should be clear. You may recall that I actually congratulated you for starting the site not long ago. My only issue with your first comment was this line: “The better we as authors become at marketing and knowing what readers are looking for then we can be successful.” That to me suggests tailoring your writing for what an audience expects. And with that I disagree. Sorry if I’ve misunderstood.

    [Reply]

  6. Fred Moramarco said,

    Wrote on July 16, 2011 @ 1:38 am

    This is a very good subject Steve and you raise some very interesting questions. What are we doing on these “Author’s Central” type sites? Cheering one another up? Reviewing each others books? Giving tips on how to spread the word? I’m not sure. What I do know is very little talk about actual writing goes on. Someone posted a question about writing and expressed some ideas about it a few days ago–something about all great writers having a world view of some kind that they wanted to express–and I noticed there was not one comment on it. Meanwhile, there are lots of notices about reviews, booksignings, radio interviews, etc. But thus far–and we’re still in the earliest days of social networking–this doesn’t translate into sales. Some really good reviews can sell books, but they need to be in the right place. When I go to an amazon.com page (including mine) and see almost all 5 star reviews, I’m pretty sure most of those are put up by the author’s friends. Of course, some people are better at networking than others and maybe some of these sites are selling books. If you find one, please let me know.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Good points, Fred. Like everything, I think the answer is moderation. It’s fine and even healthy to drop in and trade notes with fellow authors. Reminds me of a visit home, replete with hugs and unconditional love. Thus fortified, we then need to venture back out where the real work of promotion and sales takes place. I also agree we would be wise to include some writing discussions on these sites.

    [Reply]

  7. David Prosser said,

    Wrote on July 16, 2011 @ 4:59 am

    Though AC is good networking, comforting and offers me a hug on the days I sell nothing( most days) I found it’s also great at helping people avoid pitfalls as well as providing good information on things like the best place to do booksignings etc. OK, that info may be more use to US writers but it’s relevance to any writer would in itself make AC worthwhile. The chance to do and show interviews on other sites helps get your name out there to the buying public who may stop by an authors site.
    I can’t actually think of a negative for AC and for me the only thing missing is a list that shows location as well as genre that would make meting up with fellow authors a possibility.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    With you, David, the only thing I’d add is, as Fred suggested, a bit more back and forth on the craft of writing. Daniel and I actually stumbled on one good discussion point. That is, should writers go for what readers seem to want in the hopes of making a big score, or stick to the story and style they most want to tell?

    [Reply]

  8. Barbara Briggs Ward said,

    Wrote on July 16, 2011 @ 11:16 am

    Working full-time and having an adult disabled son at home and an old farmhouse to tend to and now gardens overflowing the time I have left to actually write is limited. I’ve learned to pull back on social media because I found I’d get lost wandering from site to site, losing time I really didn’t have. I look at AC as a family-a port in the storm. I go to AC seeking what other’s have experienced; how other’s have promoted or dealt with a situation. As far as writing what’s selling I can’t do that. It doesn’t feel comfortable. The writing is jagged and doesn’t flow. I’ve tried writing to early teens but I can’t do it so I continue to write from within and what comes out is genuine.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Port in a storm. Well said, Barbara!

    [Reply]

  9. Deb Hockenberry said,

    Wrote on July 16, 2011 @ 12:55 pm

    Hi Steve,
    I just read your post. I thought it was very insiteful. You’re right the end game for us is to sell our books.I think Author Central is one of the best groups to come into being in a long time! The support and advice we get from the other members is invaluable to a writer!

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Right, Deb, that’s a great way to look at it – take ammunition away from our fellow writers and then march off to battle!

    [Reply]

  10. Ilil Arbel said,

    Wrote on July 16, 2011 @ 3:25 pm

    The stark truth is that if you want to make a living in this trade,your only chance to do it is if you succumb to the demands of the market. The great publishing houses know that and promote only the books whose subject is in demand. Self publishing authors are a new breed, and they don’t really know what kind of marketing and promotions is going to work. Socializing in the Author Central and other such “clubs” is very nice — and worth it for what it is, a comfort zone — but none of the reviews that are done for each other, or the interviews, or anything, really, is going to make you a best seller. If you are unwilling to write what other people want to read, and you write just to express yourself, well then, why are you surprised that they don’t buy it? Why should a bunch of strangers want to support you by reading things that do not interest them?

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    I guess another way to look at it is to write something so compelling, it creates a new market. That’s tricky, but not impossible. I just learned, for instance, about a book by Stephanie Alexander, who has taken on the subject of, what happens at the end of Cinderella? How cool! We always think of the fairy tale ending, but of course Cinderella was an orphaned, abused teenager about to marry a man she barely knew. Now there’s no demand for a book like that, but what a terrific imagination to come up with the premise! I truly hope Stephanie does well. The site, btw, is: http://www.thecrackedslipper.com/

    [Reply]

  11. Ilil Arbel said,

    Wrote on July 16, 2011 @ 4:24 pm

    I hope her book does well, but the subject is not new. It was done in “Into the Woods.” But, to come back to the previous question, just read what you said: There is no demand for the old style Cinderella, so she wrote this cool new book about what really happens — which is what the reading public would be interested in. You are proving my point…

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Then maybe we agree and are saying it a little differently. I just think that if the public wants paranormal sex and the subject makes your skin crawl, you’re probably going to fall flat if you try to fake it. (no pun)

    [Reply]

  12. Ellen said,

    Wrote on July 17, 2011 @ 11:58 pm

    First, I’m not a member of AC. So from an outside POV and a member of two other FB groups, I totally agree with your analysis. Yes, these are marvelous communities of support. I can’t spend too much time on all the groups, sites, blogs, etc. I want questions and an exchange of ideas and technique. Otherwise, my precious free time is spent socializing and not learning or writing. So I agree, we can play too long in the sandbox with like minded newbies.

    Good for you for stirring the pot. You’re not saying these groups are bad, or a waste of time. We just need to be conscious of how we spend our time as writers.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Thanks for your comment, Ellen, and for reading it exactly as the post was intended!

    [Reply]

  13. Elena said,

    Wrote on July 18, 2011 @ 11:46 am

    Hi, Steve!

    Everything you said is true and I believe it is not what we all do but HOW.

    The focus of any writer/author shoud be on the readers at all time and not on marketing process. This what many self-published writers refused to accept.
    You can blame the traditional publishers of many things but you cannot be blind to their ability to provide marketing easy; staying on their heads.

    Therefore, I believe self-published authors have to take big breath and concentrate on professional groups where they share but not preach and criticise.

    I am glad a group was created with clear knowledge of real game in writing and publishing and I am happily joining today.

    My warmest regards,
    Publisher and writer – Elena Ornig.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Terrific, Elena, you will be a valuable addition to the group!

    [Reply]

  14. Janet Beasley said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2011 @ 2:29 am

    Coming from a novice novelist (wow – say that 5 times fast!) POV, I find that AC has opened my eyes to a wide spectrum of useful information. From the very highest highs – to the lowest of lows. All of this has helped not make me just a better author, but a better person in general understanding the drastic ends on the meter and everything in between when it comes to the world of writing. AC has actually given me the boost I’ve needed in learning things I never would have because the group makes me comfortable enough to ask the novice questions. If I hadn’t found such a great group of willing authors with hearts to help the newbies I would still be struggling, trying to figure out how to pull my next 5 novels in my series together. Has it taken away from my writing time? I’d have to say no – for me, it’s added to it! It inspires me when I read the posts and when I’m done, I usually end up writing an extra chapter or two for the day. But there’s always different ways that work for different people when it comes to promotion, writing, networking, etc. – none are right or wrong in my eyes – each of us needs to do what works best for us. I think being connected in so many ways with each other brings the much needed encouragement to keep going as authors. No matter how harsh the rejection or review, or how over the top wonderful it is – to know there are others out there who share the same passion that you can count on to share your joys and sorrows is a cool thing.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Hey, Janet, I couldn’t agree more, and will be creating a new document soon that will provide everyone on the site a chance to offer practical, as well as emotional, support!

    [Reply]

  15. niamh clune said,

    Wrote on July 21, 2011 @ 11:08 am

    Steve, I write this in complete frustration and sympathy with all the sentiments expressed here. I cannot even GIVE my book away. So few people respond. I have always responded in spades to the campaigns of others and believe in helping each other out. What does it take to CLICK and download for free? It’s my only way as an unknown author to send my little tome out into the world. Even if people aren’t in love with the genre, they don’t HAVE to read it. Just the free download will help me so much. By the way, thank you to those few who have responded.

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    I feel for you, Niamh. This is something we’ve all experienced at some level. The best advice I’ve received is to try and enjoy the process. Steinbeck said, “A journey is a person in itself; no two are alike. And all plans, safeguards, policing and coercion are fruitless. We find that after of struggle that we do not take a trip; a trip takes us.”

    [Reply]

  16. Diedre said,

    Wrote on August 5, 2011 @ 6:11 pm

    Hey Niamh,

    I understand your frustration. When I click on your name however, I get a warning message that you likely have a physhing site. That doesn’t help. You might need to try something new. Like Steve said, “Keep your eye on the (b) ball.”

    [Reply]

  17. Diedre said,

    Wrote on August 5, 2011 @ 6:13 pm

    On second thought, that may just be a glitch on this site as the same thing happened to my name just now. Hmmm. Anyway, please let me know they name of your book. I was surprised to see that the name isn’t as rare as I anticipated.

    Best,

    Diedre
    bookblogette@gmail.com

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    I think the site is up and running ok. Please let me know if any problems.

    [Reply]

  18. Zee said,

    Wrote on August 9, 2011 @ 2:23 am

    Hi all! It’s good to meet my friends from Author Central, CreateSpace, Novel Publicity, Twitterverse, Facebook, and wherever I’ve known you from! Big Hi and Cyberhug to you all 🙂

    It will take a book to share my self-publishing pains, tears, joys, depression, disappointment…with you all. All I can say is: Steve, good insight! I can’t disagree… I don’t disagree…I whole-heartedly agree!

    That’s why right now, my goal is to simply write what I want to write and to hell with it all. After I complete my first trilogy, I will write something that the readers cannot resist. Something that as soon as they read the first line, they go: OH yeah I’m gonna read this. And they won’t stop turning those pages until they get to the end, and then they write angry emails to ask why my next book isn’t there waiting for them.

    If nothing else, I’m good at dreaming 🙂

    [Reply]

    stevepiacente Reply:

    Zee, I have no doubt you will achieve your goals! Good luck and thanks for stopping by the blog!

    [Reply]

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