Month: August 2017

Self-Publishing Part 10: The Launch—How Does One Person Do It At All?

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of

A Perfect Blindness

I’d been working hard following all this advice from people who seemed to know, or certainly gave the impression that they should know. Yet when I looked at what I’d done to actually get people to know the book exists, to entice them, to encourage them to buy, or at least find something out about it, I saw it amounted to, effectively, nothing. Things were sort of in place to give information about the book, along with a couple of items might engage people, but there was no reason for anyone to come to the website to see what I’d built. It was a sandbox for me to play in and build fantasy castles of 5-star reviews and royalty checks that filled my bank account.

            I’d been working up a drenching sweat trying to get across town, while sitting atop a stationary bike, peddling like hell.

I saw the three pads of paper with pages of ideas and things to do, color-coded red to do now, orange to do next, black to move to orange as I could, with to-do reminders on my Apple, chasing me down on all my devices, poking me in the eyes every time I looked, and yet another group of items to do in Evernote where reams of advice, check lists and ideas sat fallow.

Part of the Evernote list included putting a chapter by chapter reminder to revisit the book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World by Michael Hyatt. It speaks of how marketing is different from selling, that it’s about offering excellent content to draw people to you, to let them give you permission to sell to them, directly—because they want you too. How the usual uses of Social Media that are pitched by so many people pundits, talking heads, and advice givers are misguided because they don’t actually understand what it’s good for.

Well, damn it. I was going to get it.

I knew I had to get my stuff straight. For a first act, I began to collect and organize all these ideas into some vague, but cogent, actionable plan, loosely based on the SMART system just about everyone’s heart about, making things Specific, Manageable, Attainable, Realistic and Tied to time.

So, after deciding Evernote was the most flexible platform, I began there, culling the list of actions to take on Evernote. While grouping the ideas into stages, deleting the repeated items and useless junk, I’d stumbled on a link, I believe on Face Book, but it could have been on a website I was browsing. Regardless of how I found the offer, I exchanged my email for a checklist of items to remember for a book launch: it could provide a skeleton of a plan, something to hang all these things on.

As I read that checklist, I realized that this was for the methods Tim Grahl talks about in his Your first 1000 Copies, which I’d read already. What was being offered here though was a practical application of the ideas, including videos, swipe-able text and real world example, broken down in detail. The most important take away from the free part was that one needs a plan. One does not simply grab a tool and start working with whatever one grabbed. Imagine one has to build a house, grabbing a screwdriver to start screwing in screws wherever they happen to be found, into whatever boards wherever they are. This is not likely to lead one to anything resembling a functioning house. Even as a child I knew that if I was to build a tree house, I had to nail steps up onto the tree, and then lay a floor. Half built walls, and a doorframe lying on the ground does not a tree house make.

Which was what I had been doing: grabbing whatever tool I’d most recently read about and screwing, hammering, sawing away without any idea of what I was trying to build. I had piles of partially finished bits of something I sort of imagined would be a working system to promote my book.

Grahl points out that most of this isn’t going to work until you know how it’s supposed to work and work together with all the other parts. In other words, a plan.

First.

Or blueprint in Grahl’s analogy to go along with his tools in a toolbox.

And that one person can’t do it all. Not all at once. Simply not possible.

Hell, I can’t even do most of it in a few of weeks.

Thus, I needed to take a step back and think, just as I had when I got the distressing comments back from the developmental editor saying that I should toss two-thirds of my book as written.

 

 

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Self-Publishing Part 10: The Launch—How Does One Person Do This All?

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

 

I couldn’t shake the thought from my head at first: I’d botched this. Badly.

That everything I’d been doing, including publishing the book in the first place, has been a huge waste of time, effort, and money. My wife had trusted me, and the book and I’d let her down, let us both down.

That—

            Hang on here, man. Look at what you have done.

You have the URL aperfectblindness.com. You have the URL wlancehunt.com. You’ve started a blog with admittedly grand ideas of being a new torch bearer for the Enlightenment: you’ve been watching the war on expertise and the rise of ignorance as virtue with growing aggravation and deepening concern for a couple of decades, and damn it, with all you know and all the evidence and facts you’ve carefully curated, you’re going to fight back. You even named the blog “One Candle in the Darkness.” Then, after teaching yourself how to use GIMP (GNU Image Manipulation Program a free, open-source graphics editor), and Canva, very slick and easy to use online graphic design software, you made that nifty logo, chose brand colors and fonts, and did all that stuff you’ve read about that will help with spreading your word on social media.

cropped-Candle-Logo-512x.png

 

That’s something, man.

Taking heart from that, I reminded myself that I’d even begun work on one of the many themes for One Candle in the Darkness: how games can explain what you read in the news. I wrote a post that started carefully building a case about the psychological construct of agency and how that relates to action in life. This to underpin a platform from which I would launch the many ideas I had for using the insights from the book Reality is Broken: Why Games Make Us Better and How They Can Change the World by Jane McGonigal, but in ways she never saw. Powerful, potentially transformative ways.

That post got me a first follower.

At the same time, I built out the A Perfect Blindness site with ideas and rules I tried to remember reading about before, knowing that it exists to sell my book, and so scrambling around to find elements with which to build a sales platform, swiping low resolution copies of the cover from the PDF proofs, slicing them up in Canva, trying to make them look nice in WordPress.com when I had little idea of how it functioned, then starting work on all the ideas I had for stuff I can give away on it, like playlist of songs featured in the book, and interactive maps with photos of all the clubs, and cleaning up the deleted scenes to give away, and the detailed notes to create unique voices for each of the three first person narratives behind the three point of view characters. At least I tried to make them sound different, be different using these notes. I had VOLUMES of stuff to offer, and since the book revolved around a band, I even made a band page, where I could put newspaper clippings from the book, and created some album art and thought about putting bios of the band members and—

What the hell was I doing?

This is all for people who have already read the book and want more. What am I doing to get people to read it in the first place?

            See Lance—all a waste of time.

I was attacking things as if it were a massive brainstorming session, without any real plan of acting on any of it, knowing only I had to get on social media and I’ve gotta create content and have great images, and that I’d collected dozens of articles, highlighting the best bits on Instapaper and sending the highlights to Evernote so I would loose not even a single great idea and—

STOP RIGHT THERE!

Take a deep breath. Think.

            Always remember: Activity does not equal achievement.

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Self-Publishing Part 10: The Last Couple Of Hurtles

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

Before I was able to dive into all these remarkable new ideas about social media, email lists, outreach and the like, the nearly complete book still had growing pains to overcome. Once iUniverse effected the newest round of changes, they sent me another PDF version of the typeset book. I had only to check the few changes I’d last requested, so I attacked that right off. The cover changes looked good, and I had to convince myself, again, that not asking for more changes was the right choice.

Still, it would be more conceptually coherent…

I shut that thought off immediately by turning to the interior changes. Not as pleasing. Why? Allow this excerpt from the email to the production person to explain:

            But in one place, the person corrected the spelling error properly, but for some reason made the word italics.

All we need to do is removed the italics in that one word, and it seems we’re good on the interior.

Another correction sheet was filled out and sent, it was back to waiting for that last change to be made, and so my attention returned to marketing: The Launch.

I had known for a while that the book could launch in April. According to my contacts, traditional publishers like to release new titles in April, and if this last change got make quickly, A Perfect Blindness would sneak in, giving it the whiff of a traditional launch.

Yet, I as assessed all the work I had done, the realization that even if it became available in April, I was utterly unprepared for its launch. Sure, I had done all sorts of things, kept myself terribly busy, doing a hell of a lot that was—now that I culled through it—not going to do the book much good.

A sense of panicked dread, angry frustration, and nauseating disorientation set in, seizing my thoughts into infinite loops: I should do that. Or shouldn’t I do this first? Doesn’t this need to be in place before that? What about this? I can’t forget that. Doing that is only an indulgence, not something that will help.

Round and round these thoughts chased one another, leaving me unable to do anything except look at all I had to do and keep reorganizing it all until finally, I did nothing but stare, stunned by the seriousness of my mistakes and the sheer enormity of the task.

            I’d botched this. Badly.

            And no way out presented itself.

 *   *   *

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Self-Publishing Part 10: The Launch—Social Media and email: A Couple Of More Questions To Ask In A Mirror​

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

 

So, what is social media good for an author if not selling books?

Reframe the approach, and put yourself in the position of the person cruising Face Book. Are you looking to spend money? Looking for a book to read, perhaps? Doubtful. If you wanted to buy, you’d be on the websites of Amazon or Barnes & Nobel or be walking to the local bookstore. Looking for reading recommendations? That’s imaginable, but most people looking for recommendations either ask someone they know, or they go to goodreads.com, Book Bub, Book Shout, or again Amazon, Barnes & Nobel or the local bookstore. If they’re just browsing, they’re looking for something interesting, something that will catch their attention, not something that will demand a credit card number. They want stuff. Good stuff. Free stuff. Twitter, same thing. Think of the platform, and most likely you won’t find people hungry to buy books, clicking away to find the right ad.

Sure an intriguing headline might draw them in. If the copy is good enough, perhaps they will decide they want to get the book the article’s about. They might even click on a link right then and buy it.

Notice: NOT AN AD. Rather, it’s an intriguing headline that drew them to what? Interesting Free Stuff—the article, review, whatever it was.

It would, of course, be fantabulous to have a constant stream of content about your book that is so awesome that people keep buying it as soon as they finished reading, time after time after time. But more likely, there will be some interesting free stuff that intrigues people who like it enough that they want more of the same interesting free stuff, and would be willing to give you an email address to keep getting it.

In Grahl’s and Hyatt’s terms, that’s them giving you permission to talk to them. Directly. In a form they are far, far more likely to see, open and act on than yet another bit of sales copy sprinkled all over Facebook, Twitter, Google+, etc.

But what good is emailing people you don’t know?

Mirror time again: ask yourself about the last time you got an email from someone you don’t personally know but had signed up to get stuff from. Did you open it? Read it? Perhaps act on it? Now, imagine that it’s from you, and the email giving these strangers interesting free stuff includes a couple of blurbs about your book and a link where they can buy it.

Has the answer begun to form?

Keep holding that mirror up, and ask yourself how many times you’ve purchased something through an email you got from a trusted source. Such as Amazon? Or Apple? Or, around NYC, Fresh Direct? The number of times you’ve put in the CVV code for something purchased from a trusted source will likely leap, stratospherically, compared to the number of times you’ve pulled out your credit card after clicking on an ad on FaceBook. I know it does for me.

Not that I came up with this idea. It’s Tim Grahl’s method, spun a bit to fit my experiences. A similar idea is proposed by Michael Hyatt in his book Platform: Get Noticed in a Noisy World, though Hyatt is a generalist, offering advice to anyone looking to sell something on line, and gets rather more deeply into how to craft posts on various sites. Grahl, on the other hand, deals only with selling books: what I’m looking for.

This is all to give a hint as to the direction these posts will turn once A Perfect Blindness got ready to launch.

It had a couple of hurdles to clear, as do I still.

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Self-Publishing Part 10: The Launch—Social Media and Email, w​ith A Couple Of Questions, One To Ask In A Mirror

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

In writing as in life, most of what you do depends on what you know and when you know it. There are luck, circumstance, and people that can help of course. But what you know and when you know it allows you to better take advantage of luck, your circumstance and anyone who can help. At the very least, it can prevent much frustration and head pounding by evading journeys down fruitless trails.

Such as trying to implement tools and advice for Social Media power users before you understand what Social Media is actually useful for. And the first thing it’s not useful for is directly selling books.

I hear all the howls of derision pouring at the screens upon which those words were just read, the same as I blurted when I first read them. Yet this time I know to hold up a mirror to that scorn, and ask its makers “How many times have you seen an ad on social media, clicked on it, and then actually paid for something?” 

I’m not talking about ads that made me aware of something that I later went off to buy, but seeing a link, clicking right then, immediately feeding my credit card number or PayPal information in, and pressing “buy now.”

The difference between these might seem trivial, but it makes all the difference between success and failure of using social media to reach readers.

I only asked myself this question after having read Tim Grahl’s Your First 1000 Copies. < https://outthinkgroup.com/first-1000-copies/ >

Once asked, that question made me realize I’d only actually purchased two things directly through an ad on social media in the past 10 or so years, and one was for a coat that my wife shared the website for on my FB timeline.

It also means that almost all the money, time and effort spent by all the myriad people who have tried to entice me to buy things directly through links in social media has been wasted. As was all my time trying to get my “buy my book” posts in front of people’s eyes. They probably won’t buy, and instead, pass right by yet another sales pitch, if they even see it in the first place: More on that later.

First of all, people want to get stuff. Free stuff. Further, they, like I and probably you, have become inured to the vast majority of advertisements. Especially if the adverts are for yet another book to join the 30 or 40, I already have to read right now.

So then, what use is social media for an author if not selling books?

 

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Self-Publishing Part 10: The Launch—Awaiting a Metamorphosis

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

The last changes sent, the manuscript now started forming its chrysalis.

Now all I have to do is make sure nothing breaks before it emerges as a fully formed book, such as checking the changes once effected. Protect yes, but also work on getting people to notice it exists once its pages can be touch or swiped: Major shifts, yet the transforming manuscript weighs on my mind still. These last changes don’t nettle me as much as the lyrics I used or transformed, and that because of silence: Neither an “okay, you’re good,” nor a “look, you can’t use this, so change it.” Simply nothing.

I soothed these troubling thoughts by reminding myself of two things. First, that I’d altered some cases, introducing minor mistakes imitating how an actual person remembers songs’ lyrics—a few details mixed up, absented or added—make them more like the way I remember lyrics, sort of right, but rarely verbatim. Second, by remembering one of the very first steps in the process is a content evaluation during which they examine a manuscript for violations of the terms of service, such as plagiarism and “un”-fair use.

This freed space in my thoughts for marketing, what that means and requires. First, it doesn’t mean what I had thought it did for most of the last two years: blasting away on as many social media accounts as I could wrap my head around, creating content and then hunting down alluring images for that. I signed up for Canva, a simple, easy to use online design application, which, in spite of my impending illumination, I continue to use—for far more than merely social media.

Dutifully, I copy out on a pad of paper all the great advice Guy Kawasaki, and Peg Fitzpatrick gave in The Art of Social Media, organizing each piece by priority, and if the item was a one time idea (using the same image on all sites) or an on going one (things to check before each post). Pages of things to do. Felt good. The higher priority one-time items made it into my Mac reminders I could see what to do next, then I attacked them full force, getting a new headshot with an eye at a 1/3 mark horizontally), and rewriting a master biography to use on all sites, and then creating an Editorial Calendar featuring all the platforms, deciding what to post where, on what day, with quotas for the number of posts each day or week as appropriate.

That will take a lot of content fulfill, including reposts and original work, which sent me off to start writing this blog, as well as finally building a website for the book. I’d had the aperfectblindness.com URL, for some time using Weebly, but after reading about blogs, I put wlancehunt.com on WordPress.com, and then realized I should have both the book and my sites in the same place, so forwarded the URL to my brand new page for the book on wlancehunt.com. What to do with the money already spend on Weebly, I’ve yet to decide. I told myself this is the kind of waste to expect when one does not have a plan.

This current blog “One Candle in the Darkness” has it’s own page too, and I imagined a grand mission of reviving Enlightenment style thinking as expertise and facts have been so denigrated recently and damn if it didn’t feel good to be so busy and to have so much to do. So much, I’ll never get it all done, but I’ll never want for something to do.

This book launch will kill.

Or so I thought until I discovered I had this all bass ackwards.

 

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Self-Publishing Part 9: The Galley Proof—Do Changes Ever End or Have I Lost it?

Going it Mostly Alone: the Publishing Path of A Perfect Blindness

The latest round of changes sent, I returned to a holding pattern, and it remained hard to relish how near to publication my first novel was. After twenty-two months of work, from initial contact and submission in May 2015 to waiting on the second round of updates in March 2017, the work on the book itself is not yet done. I cannot recall my exact expectations of how long it should take from submission to book in hand, but probably 4, perhaps 5 months. Perhaps I never had a specific number, but nearly two years is much longer than whatever notion I might have had.

Granted, much of this expanding time line rests upon my shoulders, my life and my decisions about how to spend my time. That and the complete rehabilitation of the book after the developmental edit, which took time, generating many notes, outlines, and guides.

Still, just as it had seemed when I neared the submission of the final version for typesetting, after many rounds of edits and corrections, it felt as if I were pulling the manuscript atop a sled over rough ground, and the closer I got to the finish, the heavier the sled grew until it became infinitely heavy and impossible to move, inches from the end.

Oh, sure, there was much busy-ness, doing this or that thing, which  seemed relevant to publishing the work, or marketing it, or somehow, in some way, to be helpful, including reading about yet more things I need to do to make it successful, until the pages holding these notes ached from the sheer mass and mess of great ideas and things that must be done first, or next, or now, or then.

Such as collecting pages of notes about how to use social media effectively, and then gathering notes how social media is all but useless for actually selling a book, but useful for drawing attention to me, and then still more pages of notes and links on describing how very complex each of the platforms are, then decoding them, all the while having no clear map for approaching it all: so very many great ideas that I put into action, so very many things to learn. I probably spent two days simply organizing and prioritizing and then reprioritizing the myriad to-dos.

It seemed like the ground I drug the sled over kept getting steeper, and steeper until I faced dragging a near infinite weight to up a wall that went straight up as far as I could see. It would be easier to say to hell with it all, even after I put all this work in. What’s the point in pouring good time and money down the toilet of an impossible task?

Stunned to near inaction, I kept forcing myself to at least feel like I was doing something, pretending if I had to. My wife tried to help, but she couldn’t see the totality of the problem, and I suck at delegation: A leader I am not. Another thing I could distract myself with and work on—becoming a good leader and learning to delegate. Instead, I tried to get a handle on my platform, but mostly I chased my tail appearing busy, with things occasional getting accomplish, much to my surprise.

Then the latest typeset version arrived in PDF, cover included.

And no, the wall was not then surmounted. In fact, someone started pour grease down its sheer sides, and I slipped backward again: I found an error on the cover, and nine additional mistakes on the interior, both newly introduced errors and a couple of requested corrections not implemented. As the weight of the manuscript yanked me back down, preventing me from forcing it to see print, to transform into a book, new questions piled their weight on to me as I crashed to the ground at the bottom of the wall.

Why not? It’s not like it will ever get done, so what’s a few more changes?

I mean, I’ve been thinking about the cover, and conceptually, moving the notes up to the title would suggest music is connected to the story more than me, and that would sell better.

            Right? 

And, alternating the red and white elements would look better, and so it would sell better.

            Right?

            Or have I simply lost it?

            I asked my Rising Star contact, and the person in charge of production, and my wife about these ideas.

They all said no.

So, I concluded that I’d actually lost it and should correct the 9 new errors and hurl this manuscript over the goal line, no matter if it must smash through that sheer cliff to do so.

I pushed send. The last “Publisher Error” changes, one to a line, flew back and I ducked, hoping that manuscript finally crossed the line into becoming a book without bouncing back and crushing me.

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