If you’re a writer and a working stiff you know the challenge of going from zero to fan base like I do. No fan base? No one will risk publishing your writing…and certainly not for money.
What I thought was a solution– at the loss of 30% profit margin– was to put my latest creation onto Kindle select. The slogans said that they had millions of people to show my work to which sounded good and is probably true. There are two problems with this I found out later. The first is that they (realistically) do ZERO advertising for you….until you already have a fan base to sell to (and therefore are already successful as a writer). The other problem is that to be on the Kindle Select team, you have to agree that they can give your hard earned writing work away for free. I got over it. I was THAT hungry for feedback at the time. As a result? No one read my work– not even my boss at work who actually did find my story– but only by typing my name directly into the Kindle search engine. To this day she still hasn’t read it that I’m aware of. I got over that too. This is part of the process of becoming a writer. I had to try something else.
I wrote a web site (this one) to get the ball rolling. I certainly didn’t have the money at the time but if I did, then and there would be the time. What the web site does– other than give me a place to “distribute” my writing (translation: again, let people read it for free)– is that it gives me legitimacy in the 21st Century. At the time I think I spent fifty dollars for the year and almost half that was some added security for the hosting itself. If you don’t get lucky and get a sale like I did, you can probably get started for about fifteen dollars, plus five dollars a month after the first. The mechanics of creating a web site for your work I will leave for another blog post.
In phase two, I created a Facebook page for my work as you probably already know– facebook.com/shogrensshelf. Again at the time I started it to help me get started and (more importantly), it was free to create. I created the page, added a picture of myself as suggested annnnnd….nothing happened. It was a humbling experience. Of note, one thing that I did not do was to ask all my FB friends and relatives to like my page (they probably appreciated not being asked a second time for a new page). What I did do was to splurge TEN dollars in advertising (quick tip, if you’re not careful, the default is fifty bucks). As estimated, I got a few likes and learned some things about Facebook. If I had more money I would advertise again to keep the ending going….but I wouldn’t spend more than I could afford to lose. Groceries come first.
Another way to build a fan base is the old fashioned way– face to face– kind of like I did with my boss and other people I meet. There are two ways to do this:
- People you don’t know
- People you already know at least a little more than slightly
If you know someone only slightly, you might as well consider them as if you don’t know them. It will be easier to achieve success that way because you won’t be pushing a relationship with the other person that isn’t there. Should you have business cards? Maybe….if that’s your style. I wouldn’t spend more than $20 per 500 on them and not get more than 500. I bought a thousand cards for around fifty dollars (the going rate at the time) and threw about 700 of them away. One of the things that I learned from that process is that the only business cards that are of any use in someone’s wallet are the owner’s health insurance card, their food cards, and the business card of their mechanic/AAA card.
As a general rule I don’t go around looking for people to talk to my writing about as I do about my day. Most people find it annoying unless you’re standing in the middle of a bookstore/in front of a magazine rack. Oh, and don’t do it in the checkout at the grocery store. I was the guy behind the woman trying to “prospect” the clerk at the register. I stood there and watched (in the 15 item or less lane no less) as she SLOWLY talked to the girl about some vitamin product or something. It was all I could do to keep from publicly humiliating her in front of the clerk.
People that you already know (but not your relatives) are in some ways a little harder to “get the word out to” than a complete stranger. You have to get over/around/through the relationship that you have with them. For example, your relatives are the hardest to procure because– they know you. They knew about you when you were little/when you crashed their car/when you graduated grade school/when you set the living room rug on fire. To be taken seriously, you have to help them get over that. Even then, they’re not going to BUY your copy. A complete waste of time trying to make a side income– let alone a living– on them. To get started– don’t go to the people you know directly. You’re going to see them soon anyway. Engage in conversation as you would normally. Be yourself…most people will know the difference anyway if you don’t. As a starting point I wait until I have the topic for discussion somewhere about the topic of reading. At that point, I don’t just say: “Hey man, wanna read my book?” I ask them what kind of material they like to read. If that doesn’t happen to be my writing genre, then I let it go. The other person wouldn’t have been interested anyway. If they are, then I tell them about my writings (and point them in the direction of my web site.
Building a fan base takes time and effort, but it is worth it. Not everyone is going to like what you write, but the more people who know your writings, the more people you will have that will like them– and that is what builds a fan base.