“Thou must be Found for success to come thine way!” Goes the cry. “Thou must have traffic and, verily, it needs must be organic and regular!”
Yes, I know that last part sounds like a diet tip but I didn’t invent the terminology.
This Writer’s Journey.
I have pretty much followed three primary Rules in my journey to date;
The Rule of Pocket; or what said pocket contained at the time, what I could afford. I started with what was free and what I could do myself.
The Rule of Discovery; I researched as extensively as I have for my books. I read blog articles, professional circulars, investigated my competitors.
The Rule of Adaptation; I tried everything and altered anything that didn’t seem to work. I improvised often as necessitated by the First Rule, but I put in the work.
That is the secret, by the way. There is no magical formula, only a lot of work which is tedious and feels deeply unrewarding at the time. It is hard and mind numbing work a lot of the time but, once it’s done, some of it is fairly self sustaining.
Let me lay it out, one step at a time, showing the mistakes I made and lessons I learned along the way;
Social Media. Obviously you need a way to communicate with fans and peers, to get known, as it were. Now, of course, the majority of people you will find, initially, are fellow struggling artists but relax. I set up my Facebook Pages, first for my Author persona and then for my books. Twitter, Instagram, Pinterest, YouTube, etc. are the go-to basics you need.
Web Brand Presence. I began on wix.com with their free package and built my website myself. My first attempt was…well, a website. It had everything a website needed except presence which we’ll get to later. My website, for which I have now purchased domains on GoDaddy.com , has seen four complete re-designs and numerous less comprehensive tweaks in order to reach its current form. It is not a masterpiece but you can check out the url at the end to see what I mean.
Product Presence. My wise friend, Syl Sebastian, calls this “the cine” of your art; the overriding theme. Others call it the brand. You can look at a cover, a web page, a piece of artwork and know that it belongs to a certain brand. You see a red soda can with a certain logo and can make an educated guess to what is inside of it. Your writing embodies your style, right? So too must everything you produce. Decide on a style and keep it. The last major re-design of The Chronicles of Enoch took place for that very reason.
Regular ‘Customer’ Interaction. You need a blog. You need to maintain an online presence. Retweet writer’s lifts, comment on content you like but do it daily. You need one to two blog posts a day, every day. You need to keep engagement and listen to those you engage with; you’d be surprised how far a good listen goes, it makes people feel important . I recommend a good Social Media Management tool here. I use Crowdfire currently but am shopping for alternatives.
Ways to Monitor and Influence Traffic. Here is where owning your domain comes in handy. You can use things such as Google Search Console and Analytics when you own your domain. You can see who visits, from where, and when and tailor your posts and interactions accordingly. Use your Social Media Manager to queue posts for peak times, cater to your audience demographics, etc.
Devotion of Time and Attention. As I have said, time is your most vital resource and largest investment. You must post to your blog, interact on social media, encourage people to interact with you, every single day. There are days – I know all about these – when you don’t feel like it or inspiration appears to desert you. You know a trick I learned? I wrote about that! Nobody is going to do it if you don’t. Making sure you give the time is the surest measure of how badly you want this.
Sisyphus Had it Easy
Our friend, the Titan punished with the interminable bolder-pushing task at least had no need to adapt, to learn; he simply has to repeat or stop.
In part it’s like that for us but not always.
Let me take you through my journey in more detail, warts and all;
1. I put together and edited the then known as “Alexander Collections” from old short stories, book idea fragments, and poetry. I designed my own covers when I disliked Amazon and CreateSpace’s templates and fought every self-publisher’s hardest battle; the formatting war! It took me many hours, filled with horrible expletives, to make my manuscript files work for my chosen paperback format. My wife found these times hilarious.
2. I added an Author Page to my Facebook account. This advertising took a lot of trial and error; which groups liked and accepted what, what I could post and when. You have been There, you know the pain. I spent a lot of time in Facebook Jail and became frustrated with low engagement, with negative comments. My first efforts were, of course, fragmentary and needed a bit of work.
3. Used Wix.com to create and design my rather generic author webpage. Used my half decent graphic design skills to make it look somewhat professional. This was before I realised that my website is my public face as an author, the first thing most potential readers will see. Still, I was proud of it and excited so I shared the url extensively and added to the content and blog often. I created my Twitter and Instagram for sharing too.
4. Over the course of two weeks, I wrote five novellas and designed covers for them. I uploaded each to Amazon and decided upon a rebrand; retroactively editing the Collection stories to fit the expanded narrative universe I saw emerging. This was, perhaps my first big mistake. I was a new father of twins and they, combined with work, took up a lot of my time, obviously and as it should be. I tended to rush my writing responsibilities. I heavily advertised these works and, I am ashamed to admit, they were riddled with errors of grammar and spelling. I have since pulled them from Amazon but copies were purchased. That stigma will remain.
5. I launched my YouTube Channel and devoted an hour each Sunday to my video blog. This turned out to a good decision. My poor decision was not being able to maintain that commitment. You see, there lies the greatest danger we will face; commitment. We can take on too much, promise too much, and come up with great ideas we utterly fail to deliver on. Our excitement and passion needs to be restrained at times. You’re trying to build a reputation in a very competitive market.
6. I became rather active on Facebook and was often sought out for advice (my channel was quite popular). One such advice seeker was my friend Joe. Together, to cut a long story short, we came up with what was to become the force that dominates my life; The Chronicles of Enoch. Joe has since handed to torch entire to me as he had other priorities and projects he wants to work on. I decided, as I started work on The Chronicles and, with sterling advice from Syl, to use my creative surge to start from scratch.
7. It started with an extensive redesign of the website and ended with the purchase of the chroniclesofenoch.com domain. I decided to build, from the ground up, a new website, Facebook Page, everything for The Chronicles and, with much experimentation, cement a definite “cine” or brand. The artworks I first created we’re, in all honesty, amateurish and awful but I persevered and I realised that there was a clear and obviously persistent style throughout them all. I had to find a way to make people say “Oh! That’s definitely CoE, that is!”…So I fiddled, tried, and mucked about until I found it and translated that style; one that matched that of the writing too, into a consistent image. I made the site mobile friendly too…that’s important.
8. I brought my WordPress, Medium, and Pinterest back to life. I experimented with Metatags and Keywords, I learned how to embed them in my site and so began the Golden Age, I thought…
9. Facebook, it turned out, had other ideas. I detail the struggle in other articles but, in essence, Zuckerberg and I had a falling out and decided to go our separate ways. Take this as the most valuable lesson I am going to reach today; perseverance.
You see, before that…difficulty…I was getting traffic of 50-100 visitors a day to my website and blog, things were taking off but 75% of that traffic came from a source that was, abruptly, cut off.
I had a choice, surrender or adapt. I chose the latter and am gone from Facebook, probably forever. Instead of surrendering, I found other ways, other sources and social media.
That is the lesson; it doesn’t matter of you get panned by a bad review; learn, adapt, move on. Come up against an insurmountable barrier; be as the river and patiently find a way. Never. Ever. Give. Up.
This is your dream and only you can take it away.
So, What Does That Mean?
You have my experiences, my mistakes, my challenges, and my lessons learned. You may have found hints in there but you need, I think, a boiled down and well-presented version to tie it all together, right?
Your wish is my command;
Decide your “cine” or brand early. As you write look at your themes, research any ‘competitors’ and work on the look you want. If you have that talent, look at creating a consistent look in your Social Media presence. You only get one chance to make a first impression.
You’re going to need; Twitter, Instagram, Tumbl (you’d be surprised), Reddit, Pinterest and maybe Wattpad. Look at what you’re going to use each for. I use Twitter for chat and networking (I have a few famous ‘friend’s even), Pintrest for covers and art, Tumbl and Reddit for sharing blog posts, Wattpad for posting excerpts. I duplicate my blog in WordPress and Medium.
You need a website. There are a lot of free hosting services out there but I like Wix. I went for their cheapest hosting package and bought my domain myself. They use a visual ‘drag and drop’ interface which is great for those of us that don’t code. I designed my own but you can find people on Fiverr for that.
You need to learn SEO and web marketing. Search ‘Chronicles of Enoch’s on Google and most of the results will be mine. Add your url on everything you use. Smashwords is a great alternative to Amazon and gets you lots of exposure. I could produce an SEO or web marketing guide but there are already dozens out there. Use your Google, read them all and filter out the bits that don’t fit your needs, time, or budget.
Having decided your look and brand, you can work on keywords. Wix helps you a lot with SEO and Metatags. I followed their SEO Wizard and recommend any of you that decide to use them do that same. Key words determine what kinds of search your page is found under. Metatags hide these inside the code of your website so when Google and the others “crawl” your code, they index these search terms against it.
Google AdWords. You set a budget, create your ad and pay only for clicks. If it gets too expensive (download the app to monitor that) you’re not tied to a commitment so pay off and disable your ad. I reasoned it like this; if Google stands to make money from your website getting clicks, they’re going to help that happen, right?
Blog every day. Use your book title and name (or pen name) as a hastag and include these in every post. I even use those popular inspirational memes as a vehicle. I share it using Crowdfire on Twitter and Instagram with my hastags hidden in the ones it came with. It gets shared and so do my tags = free advertising.
Find your niche. Your book is probably going to fall inside a certain genre (top tip: do NOT make it fit a genre or to a genre that sells, that’ll hurt you long term). You need to allow the same and appropriate voice fill your posts. Post topics your audience will like. Research and find your niche. I have taken the role of ‘O Great Writing Guru and Know-it-all’ because it appears to suit both me and my style. When my YouTube vlog comes back, it’ll be purely about writing.
Work hard. Learn. Adapt. Most importantly; Do. Not. Give. Up..
It is almost impossible to produce an absolute ‘one size fits all’ guide, as I have discovered. I have read dozens and find lots that does not suit my style, my audience, my pocket, or fit into my available time.
I tried to do everything and produced inferior results. I got myself banned from Facebook for not fragmenting my posts and content well enough. I had to pull 9 books down after trying to push too hard, too fast.
I’ve learned a lot of lessons the hard way and wasted time, work and, ultimately, my hard-won reputation on it. I’ve had to evaluate and rebuild.
Perhaps by reading this article, you can save yourself some trouble and avoid the biggest ones.