Wanna hear something cool? Shadows on Snow is still ranking, 10 days after release, in three different categories on Amazon. While that’s not long-term results, it’s a big thing for me. To date, my new releases have gotten a big bump on release day, then tend to fall away after three days or so. Yay for progress!
But that’s not really what this post is about, although it is related. How? I’m getting there.
I’m firmly convinced that the only reason this book has done so much is because of the people around me that have supported, shared, or otherwise helped out with Shadows on Snow. Today, I’m going to talk about that a little.
Starting out as an author is hard. You feel like you’re sort of flailing in the dark without any clue if there’s anyone anywhere nearby that can hear you. Somewhere along the line, you might stumble across a flashlight and find other people flailing with you. Sometimes, they’re flailing harder than you are, but sometimes…
Sometimes those people have learned how to flail in a calm, rational voice and get other people to listen. Sometimes, those people might look at you with a grin, note your flailing, and then, they do something incredible…
They offer you their hand.
This is how community begins. Specifically, how some of us go from lone wolves howling into the great void of uncertainty, to finding our feet and finally seeing other wolves for the first time. What’s even more incredible? Those outstretched hands offering an invitation aren’t as rare as you fear they are.
What I’ve discovered in the last few years is that going it alone is stupid. Sure, there are some things I can do by myself that I’d rather not hand over to another person, but since writing is already a pretty lonely profession, why would you make it more so? Fact: you won’t get anywhere without other people on your “team” to help other people see you. This goes as much for indie publishing as it does for traditional publishing. Trad publishing has the advantage of an army of paid professionals working on your books, developing the content, having a personal connection to the success of your work. Indies don’t necessarily have that, but it’s possible to get with some hard work and genuine relationships. (note the stress on that word)
An example: Lately, there’s been a lot of hemming and hawing in the indie author community about whether or not blog tours work. The opinions on this vary, but, for me, I would definitely say they do. It’s all in what you’re looking to get out of the tour. My primary reason for continuing to do tours is that, with every one, I pick up a handful of new-to-me bloggers (who are READERS, most importantly), who become fans. However, I would also state that I make a concerted effort to make those bloggers-turned-fans into friends I have a personal connection with. My reach isn’t huge by any stretch of the imagination, but I try to make sure I bring these new folks into my circle of friends. The key in all of this is personal connection. I remember who flailed over what. I remember who went the extra mile and posted their blog review on Goodreads and/or Amazon. I try to connect Facebook friends with their blogs. If I know what these people like to read, what they have an interest in, I’ll know if my next book might appeal to them. Also: they’re generally pretty great people and make social media a much more fun place to be. And guess what? The people who like you, who engage with you regularly, who are your friends, guess who’s boosting the signal for your new book? These people are awesome. I cannot state enough how amazing and important they are to me.
Example the second: My release day party for Shadows on Snow was pretty much epic and overwhelming and a total blast. Want to know why? One, because of the really fun people that showed up, and two, because of the fantastic authors that participated in that event. It was entirely about the people who were there, and not nearly as much about my book. This is a GOOD thing. People asked questions, I answered. I engaged with them about their opinions while sharing some of my own. I want to know who my readers are, and what speaks to them.
The authors that signed up to be guest hosts were all wonderful. As an indie, it can get really tiring to be constantly bombarded with requests for donations to giveaway, so I really wanted to offer more than that to the people that were helping me. I will never run an event where I am the solo host. Whatever readership I have, I want to share with other indie authors. You never, ever know who’ll be the Next Big Thing, so never, ever discount anyone. Ever. Also: that’s really just a good way to live life in general. Be nice to people. Bring something to the table to help them, even if you don’t get anything out of it yourself. The people you help will hopefully remember you down the line, and, if nothing else, they’ll have a good impression of you. Do good things. Help each other. Period. Prize donations are awesome, but instead of just flinging a book at one single person, sharing the entirety of your audience with an author is far more rewarding in the long run, for you and them. It builds your community because those authors have readers of their own as well. Readers get to discover new authors, authors get to discover new readers. I actually had two readers connect with each other during the party that night, living in the same town! I felt like BFF-Love Connection. It was awesome. LOL
That’s two examples of how building community (or, if you want to get ew-skeevy-business-speak about it, “networking”), is infinitely helpful. But how do you do that? How do you find these people in the dark when you’re stumbling around?
Let me loan you my flashlight for a second.
I first started with podcasting. Even then, I knew how crucial it would be for me to get other people involved if I wanted any kind of play for The Dreamer’s Thread podiobook. I started researching, finding voices for my characters, emailing other podcasters to ask for help… and you know what? A lot of those people are still my friends. They help spread news about my releases or design work, and I try to boost their signal some from my end. I’ve met a lot of them at Balticon and gotten to see them in person, which was amazing. I <3 my first community from Podiobooks.com so very much!
My second big breakthrough was with the indie publishing community, but in two places. The first was in finding the Science Fiction Romance Brigade . It’s an incredibly supportive community if you make an effort to get involved in what they do and who the other members are. Before I stumbled on them, I didn’t even know that SFR was a thing, never mind that I was writing it at the time. I learned (and continue to!) a lot from these authors. I’ve made sure to give back when I can to them as well. Cross-promotion FTW!
The next came with Misty Provencher‘s strongarm tactics in convincing me to go to UtopYA in 2013. I met some incredible people there (including the Fierce 4!), bloggers, authors, and readers alike, and those connections have proved INVALUABLE to me. Whenever I need anything, these folks are on point, and within hours of my call for help, I have answers and volunteers. And so, that community has become a huge reason my books ever do anything at all. Some of them are even my clients now, which is way cool because that’s another way I can help THEM succeed. With their help and participation, I’ve got something really neat planned for December.
So there’s a few places where I’ve found my flailing-compatriots. There are endless places to look for other people to help and be helped. Goodreads forums, Kindle Boards, Facebook groups and pages, Twitter hashtags (#NALitChat and #YALitChat are both awesome things), Wattpad, book conventions where readers, bloggers, and writers gather… All it takes is for you to shine your flashlight in the nooks and crannies of the internet and you’ll find endless places with endless hands reaching out in invitation. Just to illustrate that this actually works, take a look at the Shadows on Snow page on Amazon and scroll to the “customers also bought” section. There isn’t a single book on the first 5 pages of those listings (as of this posting) that I don’t have a personal or professional connection to, and only 5 books in the first 12 pages that I’m unrelated to outside of Amazon algorithms. This is proof that community works. Those are my compatriots and colleagues and clients. Most of the authors there I consider friends. My book is helping boost their signal, and that, truly, is a very awesome thing to know.
Because no matter how much success I have, it’s only important to me if I can use it to help others.
Thank you all for your support. <3