I keep thinking about that Seneca quote “Luck is what happens when preparation meets opportunity.” This totally applies to almost all of the authors I talk to—they are repeatedly disappointed with their book sales because they have the opportunities (i.e. a book coming out), but they have not put in the preparation (i.e. getting their website in shape, building their mailing list, getting their social media in order). Authors often come up to me (or email me) frazzled and bent out of shape, arguing that they’ve “tried everything” and “nothing has worked for them,” and yet, when I later visit their website, I find nowhere to sign up for their mailing list, and more often than not, not a single link to buy a book. I wish I could say this is not the norm, but it really is.
If you fall into this category, I would say that you need to have a “come to Jesus” moment with yourself where you come to peace with the fact that books are a business, and you need to build your business infrastructure accordingly. By this I mean the following (this is by no means an exhaustive list):
n Are you able to update your website? If the answer is “I have to get my login info from my designer,” then this is one thing you’ll need to get under your control. WordPress (.org) is a great platform, and even if you can’t afford a full-on redesign (or design, if you currently have nothing), you have to start somewhere. Do not bury your head in the sand any longer. Your website is the hub of your business. If you take nothing else from this “talking to,” please go and find out how to make updates to your website.
n Do you know how to use social media? Do you have THOSE passwords readily available? Twitter is a great example of “preparation meeting opportunity.” You might be the world’s most clever one-liner thrower outer, but that’s not going to do you any good at all if you “just don’t understand how Twitter works” or you haven’t logged into your account in six months. This is an anecdotal example, but it’s based on a real author that I know who really should be using her Twitter account, because she really has a book of quippy one-liners.
n What About Your Mailing List? If you are collecting the emails of people who are interested in your work (please say you are), are you staying in touch with them? I participated in a Twitter chat for Bibiliocrunch a few weeks back, and some of the authors on there were downright defensive about email marketing. Note, I never once said “spam people until they hate you” or “send out meaningless nonsense,” but this is what they think email marketing is, so they are actively NOT building up their lists (or not emailing them regularly if they do have them). This is crazy to me. Someone gave you their email address because they wanted to hear what you had to say. SAY SOMETHING TO THOSE PEOPLE. Add value to their lives. Tell them about your day. Engage them. I promise you, when the time comes, they will be rooting for you and will want to buy your books, but not if “Buy My Book!” is the only thing they ever hear from you.
I can go on and on about this kind of stuff, but these three topics are the ones where I think authors can get the most “bang for their buck,” so I will stop here for today. Right now, if you do nothing else, take the first step to streamlining your digital life. This kind of preparedness is good for your mind, good for your career, and will probably give you the opportunity to be lucky sooner than you think.
Go forth and organize!!