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The Author Marketing Journey: An 8-Point Self-Assessment for Writers

Before e-books and the Great Indie Publishing Revolution, things were tough enough for writers trying to break into publishing. But now? There are more options and opportunities, but with them come more choices to be made and more items than ever on the list of “What to do if you want to succeed as an author”.

enders-game-battle-interface02

It’s as if author success has gone from the difficulty level of climbing Mount Everest (with all the planning, training, and expense involved in that) to launching a manned mission to Mars (we’re talking exponential difference here). Or perhaps I should say it’s as complex as fighting a real-time space battle against a formidable alien foe. Congratulations, you’re in Command School now.

Navigating a complex landscape

How do we decide where to spend our time? More than ever, we need to be strategic. Monday’s post talked about accepting where you are in the publishing journey and finding motivation to keep moving forward. Today’s shorter tactical post is all about getting the info to determine the next steps in your author marketing journey.

To use any map effectively, you first need to know where you are.

The 8 points of reference

Spend 5-10 minutes and jot down your answers to the following eight questions.

  1. Publication status – Check all that apply. Are you: unpublished, self-published, indie press published, traditionally published, magazine published, other?
  2. Number of published works – Do you have: 1 published work, 2-5 published works, 6-10 published works, 10+ published works?
  3. Type of work – Your published works are: mostly short stories, mostly novellas, mostly novels, other?
  4. Upcoming releases – Works in progress (list your WIPs, along with estimated completion dates)?
  5. Completed work next steps – So far as completed drafts go, what do you most need right now: a critique partner, an editor, beta readers, a publisher, a book cover, formatting help, a decision regarding where/how to publish it/them?
  6. Overall career next steps – So far as personal career development goes, what do you most need right now: to improve your craft (basic writing skills), to improve your storytelling (advanced plot/structure and developmental story issues), help deciding where/how you want to publish (self, indie, traditional, hybrid), help with marketing/selling your published works, connection with influencers in your selected genre(s), improvement of your online presence and author brand, time to write/finish your current WIPs?
  7. Greatest obstacles – What are the most common pitfalls or challenges that keep you from moving forward right now? List the top 3. Examples: lack of time, feeling overwhelmed, getting distracted, not knowing what to do next, etc.
  8. Greatest assets – Name 3 people or groups who you have in your corner (who inspire, help or encourage you in your writing).

By putting the answers to these questions onto a single sheet of paper, you can get a better view of where you are. This post ties into our series on Brand Essentials. The lists you’ve made if you’ve been doing those assignments will tie in closely with the results of this assessment. The next author marketing lesson will explain how to use these answers to decide your next steps given where you are right now.

Intricate battle interface images via ashthorp.com

Did you know…?

The graphics for this post came from AshThorp.com. Ash is a fan of science fiction and the Ender books, and working on the graphics for this film was a breakthrough project for him. Go, Ash!

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A peek at your future

In Star Wars: Episode V – The Empire Strikes Back, Luke Skywalker sees a vision of his friends in trouble. He asks his mentor Yoda what will happen to them.

Yoda replies: “Difficult to see. Always in motion is the future.”

I have good news for you today — I have seen your future! Yep, let me assure you that if you’re subscribed to this blog and you keep reading it, we’re going to:

  • Clarify your identity as a writer. If you don’t know who you are as a writer, you cannot effectively communicate it to people so they can become your fans.
  • Define where you are in the author process. If you don’t know where you are, you’ll be tempted to waste time working on things that aren’t important instead of doing what you need to do next.
  • Review the basics of current branding concepts and what’s working in today’s saturated Internet market. Branding can begin long before you have anything published and is important at every stage of your publishing quest.
  • Clarify who you are writing for. Knowing your audience will inform your writing, your branding, and much of your marketing efforts.
  • Discover where your readers are and find ways to delight them frequently. You need to be there so they can discover you and your writing!
  • Search out like-minded colleagues who share a similar audience and who are in different stages of the process than you are. There is synergy in collaborative marketing, and you will benefit from partnering with those further along and grow from mentoring those who are still aspiring to get where you are.
  • Identify and connect with the influencers of your readership. These people can get your work in front of many more people than you can.

For each of the items above, we’ll examine in detail at least one essential approach that is working for creative entrepreneurs, so you can try it yourself. It’s overwhelming to try to do everything, so we’ll leverage the Pareto principle and focus exclusively on the 20% that will bring 80% of your results.

Feel better now? Now that you know the future, I hope you breathe a sigh of relief. Our future together is bright!

Inigo Montoya

“Let me explain. No, there is too much. Let me sum up.”

Inigo Montoya is a master of summary. “Buttercup is marry Humperdinck in little less than half an hour. So all we have to do is get in, break up the wedding, steal the princess, make our escape… after I kill Count Rugen.”

Yeah, that’s all. No biggie, right?

Let me sum up: You need to know who you are and where you’re at so you know what to be focused on. Then you need to identify your ideal audience, find them, and become a memorable and enjoyable part of their lives. Write your stories, find creative ways to share them with new readers, and make lifelong fans with the help of your fellow speculative fiction authors.

As Wesley told Inigo, “That doesn’t leave much time for dilly-dallying.”

Action Item

The current plan is to release new posts every Monday and Thursday morning [edited 10/28/15 with current post schedule]. Make a mental note to read the week’s blog post (or subscribe to receive it via email) and comment on the site with how you see it applying to your efforts as a speculative fiction creator. This will begin a habit of doing and not just reading. The #SpecFicCollective will only effect change in your life if you participate!

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