When I wrote that title up there I realized that many of us have various “monsters” in our lives as authors. The silent muse, the hyperactive muse, the unsupportive family members, the bruised and battered ego, the self-deprecation, the dreaded day job, the dogs that need walking, the house that requires cleaning, the meals that must be prepared. All manner of things can insert themselves between you and Your Destiny as The Next Big Thing, literarily speaking.
But the monster I wish to address today, dear, gentle and no doubt salivating for more pearls of wisdom Liz Acolyte, is The Fan.
It’s a tough subject and one that, for many of you, may seem a little hypothetical I am certain.
“But Liz,” you moan as you mainline your caffeine for the day’s worth of prep for NaNoWriMo or whatever. “We don’t even have any fans yet. We want them so we can know how to treat them.”
“Au contraire, dear heart,” I say. “If you are interacting with people online about your craft, be it written, almost written or dying to be written, you have “fans.’”
So, to get right down to it, you have to realize that once you put yourself “out there” as an “author,” be you agent repped or paying your teenager to help you round up a dozen or so review blogs to beg to give your latest book some ARC review love, you have a public persona. People are watching you, listening to what you say, some are even tossing out the odd “like” of your post featuring your sleepy kittens or commenting when you do what all the pros tell you to do and “ask questions on facebook so you get interaction and not just likes.”
(Did you see how I tossed that little advice nugget in there? Hmm?)
Once you amass a dozen or so of these “regulars” you can consider yourself as “having fans.”
I’ll take a second and let you roll around in that in private…
All right, now, you must remember something about these people: They want something from you. They want you to provide them with entertainment in the form of your books. They want your cops & robbers, your haunted mansions, your unicorns dancing around the fairy fire, your take on the “hot dude in a kilt,” your wounded, widowed fireman with the sixpack abs, your tattooed rocker chick with a deep dark secret, your vampires (sparkly or blood thirsty), your wizarding world, your hot hookup, your wounded billionaire with a bullwhip in his closet….you get me. In short, they require your ideas, ripped out of your soul and poured onto the page/e-reader screen, subjected to editors and trolls and the whims of the best seller list algorithm in order to remain “your fan.”
There are several ways to handle this dilemma.
- Write more books that you want to sell. I am trying this method myself. I have over 20 books in my backlist, at least 4 planned for 2015 release in varying stages of ‘getting ready’ for said release. Drawbacks here: no time/creative energy to do anything online but bitch and moan about the process, which is a drain. It’s the most vicious circle out there IF you are doing your due diligence with your craft that is to say: writing and revising and editing properly.
- Write books to give away. I have one of these going now but have dropped it in favor of option #1. The “serialized novel” is fun and I plan to pick mine up again soon. It allows you to free-think (i.e. “Pants”) your way through the creative process by either writing something and posting it a chapter at a time on your blog or by writing it a chapter at a time (like I’m doing) as a sort of creative relief valve. You could even try a new genre this way, test the waters on your blog, see if they’re warm enough to warrant total submersion.
- Write “bonus” or “extra scenes” from your existing books. This was suggested to me a few years ago when I was thrashing about (online) for “book tour blog post ideas.” My Stewart Realty series spans 9 books and nearly 3 decades which gives me a ton of space in between to concoct scenes, some funny, some poignant, some so hot you’d best read them with your significant other or battery powered device nearby. They are a blast, to be honest and keep your characters and plots lingering in your mind but more importantly remind your “fans” how much and why they love you. You can post these anywhere but I’ve been keeping them exclusive to my “facebook fan page.” I plan to add a bunch of them to a new tab on my website labeled “Liz Extras For Her Fans.”
- Give away free things. I do this off and on in my fan group to keep that base of about 345 people give or take, engaged with me. When it doubt, toss ‘em a $5 or $10 card to the ‘Zon or Starbucks or whatever by running a “caption this” or “what’s your favorite sex position” contest (I joke. But only a little). I just got an email from Amazon saying they now offer email delivery of gift cards to all sorts of stores, restaurants and movie theaters. Treat your fans to something special every other month or so. They deserve it. Build it into your marketing budget.
- Make them a part of your process. I tried this with my upcoming new series The Love Brothers. After careful consideration of the comments and posts and whatnot some of my fans had been doing on my behalf, I posted a “call for readers” in my fan group and have rounded up 8-10 (only a few of them budding authors) as “early readers and reviewers.” This is something that can go bad on you though so tread carefully, more on that later.
The most important thing to realize here is that these folks are not necessarily your “friends.” Your “friends” will allow you to call them up and vent your guts out about how much harder you work than all the lame “best selling authors” out there, and will then treat you to a bottle of wine and maybe a massage without getting their noses bent out of joint. Your “fans” are less inclined to listen to you bleat for very long. I’ve addressed this before. It messes with their ideal of you as a public persona/author sitting around in your nightie getting foot massages while you “work.” Watch yourself with the over sharing. It can bite you in the butt if one of the “fans” gets sick of all your jealous BS and starts talking about you to her other networks.
I’m lucky at this stage of my career in that I feel like I can spot a “collector fan” a mile away. I spent a ton of emotional energy a few years ago trying to make a few of these folks love me. These fans are many times (but not always) bloggers with large followings and whose attention via reviews or recommendations is highly coveted for reasons that seem magical—or at least not entirely logical. They have their Super Favorite Authors and if you watch carefully, you will note that those Super Favs spend a ton of time coddling those fans.
That’s cool, but I assure you that it is harder to break onto those lists of super favs than it is to coax your toddler into his Sunday clothes. Don’t get caught up in the scrum of authors jumping up and down in the collector’s virtual space begging for attention. If it is your turn to be “collected” by a reviewer/blogger you will know it.
Which brings me to my next-to final point:
Don’t ever discount the “one fan at a time” philosophy. Any person who contacts you via facebook, twitter, or the virtual smoke signal known as “e-mail” to tell you they loved your book and hope you write more is someone you have to pay attention to, immediately. You MUST respond to them as quickly as you can with your heartfelt thanks for their time (not just reading but seeking you out and talking to you, which, for many readers, is a HUGE leap of confidence) and ask for their continued support. Who knows? That one communication could lead to a lot more…more fans, more exposure, more reviews.
You do not have to offer them anything more than your thanks but it’s always a good rule of thumb to ask: “would you like a free book in exchange for another review?”
Every person who reads your book, loves it and takes the time to tell you so is your fan. What you do with them after that is up to you, but realize you are sharing them with other authors so resist the urge to badmouth ANYONE who has written the most god-awful, time traveling, shape shifting, Martian-porn, space soap opera you have ever laid eyes on because sure as you do, that new fan will say, “Oh, uh, well, that was my second favorite book, after yours.”
And one last note on the “new author fan.” I have a bunch of these and my feelings about them at times are mixed. These are the folks who say to you “Oh Em Gee Liz you are so amazing and I love your books so much…I’m gonna write one of my own” and then they just…sorta…disappear. I get it and admire them for taking the time to use their pent up creative energy to write the Next Gigantic Best Seller but sometimes I’m all “but…but…wait…don’t go! I need your, you know, undivided attention to my books!”
Never fear, for the most part, these “Inspiree fans” are still out there for you and you really need to support them as much as you can. Consider it a compliment and, stopping short of wherever you feel comfortable (I don’t read manuscripts. I barely even read my own kids’ college entrance essays though so don’t feel too bad) offer comfort, advice, and solace. We are all readers, first and foremost. Don’t let your insecurities over the thought that one of “your fans” might write better than you poison your attitude. I’ve seen it happen and it’s ugly. Wish everyone well in your own way (if you don’t “squee” then don’t start now, if you know what I mean) and concentrate on your next book, your next extra scene, your next chapter and capturing your next fan.
Best of luck to you all!
Amazon best-selling author, beer blogger and beer marketing expert, mom of three, and soccer fan, Liz Crowe lives in Ann Arbor. She has decades of experience in sales and fund raising, plus an eight-year stint as a three-continent, ex-pat trailing spouse.
Her early forays into the publishing world led to a groundbreaking fiction subgenre, “Romance for Real Life,” which has gained thousands of fans and followers interested less in the “HEA” and more in the “WHA” (“What Happens After?”). More recently she is garnering even more fans across genres with her latest novels, which are more character-driven fiction, while remaining very much “real life.”
With stories set in the not-so-common worlds of breweries, on the soccer pitch, in successful real estate offices and at times in exotic locales like Istanbul, Turkey, her books are unique and told with a fresh voice. The Liz Crowe backlist has something for any reader seeking complex storylines with humor and complete casts of characters that will delight, frustrate and linger in the imagination long after the book is finished.
Contemporary challenges facing close-knit families form the crucible that forges a new generation.
Brandis, Gabriel, Blair and Lillian emerge from the entanglement of their parents’ longstanding emotional connections, but one’s star will burn brighter – and hotter – than the others.
With a personality that consumes everyone and everything in its path, Brandis Gordon struggles to maintain control as he ricochets between wild success and miserable failure. His life proves how even the strongest relationships can be strangled by the ties that bind.
Brandis and Gabe Frietag are as close as any brothers, bound by both loyalty and fierce rivalry. The strength of their ultimate alliance is tested time and again by Brandis’ choices.
Companions from birth, Blair Frietag and Lillian Robinson share loner tendencies, but come to rely on each other through adolescence. As they mature, both are forced to confront their feelings for the men they knew as boys.
Somewhere between the tangle of good memories and bad, independence and addiction, optimism and despair, the intertwined destinies of the new generation finally collide, leaving some stronger, others broken, but none unscathed.
As a chronicle of three families navigating the minefields of teen years into the turbulence of young adulthood, Good Faith holds up a literary mirror to contemporary life with joys and temptations unflinchingly reflected. Its fresh, real-life voice portrays the sheer volatility of human nature, complete with the hopes, dreams, and unexpected setbacks of marriage, parenthood and “coming of age.”